Passed, failed legislation of 2023 general session

State representatives chat in the capitol building in Salt Lake City. The 2023 general legislative session came to a close on Friday, March 3. (Dani Jardine)

The general session of the Utah Legislature came to a close Friday evening as legislators addressed the remaining bills up for discussion.

As of Thursday morning, roughly 390 bills had been passed. By the end of the session Friday evening, 575 bills had been passed. The session boasted the most pieces of legislation passed in a Utah general session since 1998 when the legislature began to record how many items of legislation are passed per session.

Social media, education, tax cuts, abortion and transgender healthcare were among the most discussed topics in this session. For the first time in decades, the session ended several hours before midnight.

Tweet from BYU associate professor Adam Brown on March 2 shows number of bills passed by the Utah Legislature. Utah passed an unusually high amount of bills toward the end of the legislative session last week. (@poliARB via Twitter)

SB152 and HB311 — Social Media

Both social media targeted bills were passed toward the end of the session after weeks of discussion and substitutions to the original drafts. Together they create the Utah Social Media Regulation Act.

SB152, sponsored by Governor Cox’s brother-in-law, Senator Michael McKell, enacts provisions related to the regulation of social media companies and social media platforms. The bill requires social media companies to verify the age of a Utah resident seeking to maintain or open a social media account and requires a social media company to obtain parental consent before a Utah resident under the age of 18 opens a social media account.

The bill also requires certain social media companies to enact regulations and limitations for the accounts of minors and prohibits minors from accessing social media between the hours of 10:30 pm to 6:30 am.

HB311, sponsored by SB152’s floor sponsor, Representative Jordan Teuscher, will regulate social media companies and the use and design of social media platforms.

HB311 will prohibit social media companies from using designs or features that cause a minor to have an addiction to the company’s social media platform and allows the Division of Consumer Protection enforcement and auditing authority to enforce requirements under the act.

Both are awaiting the Governor’s signature.

HB215 — Education

Coined as the “Utah Fits All Scholarship” bill, HB215 allocates $42 million tax dollars to fund services such as tutoring, test preparation, or tuition and fees for alternative schooling such as private school, charter school or homeschooling. This would amount to $8,000 per student voucher or scholarship.

The bill also annually sets aside money for educator salary adjustments, subject to future budget constraints, and awards full-time educators an $8,400 salary adjustment if the Utah Fits All Scholarship is funded.

The Utah State Board of Education voiced their opposition to the bill in a statement on Jan. 23, saying board members were worried about a lack of student data privacy, had questions about program oversight and were concerned about the process of drafting and debating the bill.

The statement also mentioned that many members of the board recognized frustration from educators and schools for not separating educator salary increases from the scholarship program.

The bill faced opposition from other organizations such as Utah PTA and the Utah Education Association, but ultimately passed and was signed by Governor Cox on Jan. 28.

HB467 and HB297 — Abortion

HB467, from Representative Karianne Lisonbee, requires abortions to be performed in hospitals and modifies what constitutes a medical emergency in relation to abortion and under what conditions an abortion may be performed to protect the life or health of the mother.

The bill also prohibits victims of rape or incest from receiving an abortion after 18 weeks. The bill was passed on March 3, the last day of the session.

Representative Kera Birkeland’s HB297 modifies provisions related to certain victims of sexual crimes including an abortion based upon rape or incest. This bill, passed on March 1, would provide victim reparations for victims of sexual assault who become pregnant from the assault.

These reparations would take the form of health care for the victim during the duration of the victim’s pregnancy and for the victim and the victim’s child for one year after the child is born.

It also requires a law enforcement officer’s annual training to include instruction on how to respond to sexual trauma and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to inform victims of sexual assault how they may access contraceptives.

Merrilee Boyack, chairman of the Abortion Free Utah Coalition, spoke in favor of the bill while it was in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Feb. 22, and said HB297 supports women and provides greater protection for women who have been sexually assaulted.

The Planned Parenthood Action Council of Utah opposed the bill and said in an online statement that requiring abortions to take place in hospitals is unnecessary and makes it more difficult and costly for pregnant people to get the care they need.

SB3 and HB54 — Money

The proposed 2024 Utah budget of $29 billion dollars was passed in SB3 in conjunction with HB54, a $400 million dollar tax cut package. HB54 reduces all Utahns’ income tax rate from 4.85% to 4.65% and expands social security tax credit eligibility to individuals earning up to $75,000 per year.

The lengthy SB3 details the modifications from the state’s budget for the previous fiscal year.

In a statement released on Feb. 24, Senate co-chair of the Executive Appropriation Committee and SB3 sponsor Jerry Stevenson said the finalized budget reflects Utah’s values and prioritizes future growth.

“Each year, we are presented with new challenges and opportunities when it comes to the state budget.” Stevenson said. “We are making historic investments focused on state and regional projects, which will continue to solidity Utah’s ranking as the state with the best economic outlook.”

SB16 and HB228 — LGBTQ

Senator Michael Kennedy’s SB16 prohibits doctors from performing gender-transitioning surgical procedures on a minor. It also prohibits minors from receiving hormone blockers and hormonal treatments.

In a statement shared on Twitter on Jan. 28, the day he signed it into law, Gov. Cox said while SB16 is not a perfect bill, he is grateful for its more nuanced and thoughtful approach to a terribly divisive issue.

“More and more experts, states and countries around the world are pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences,” Governor Cox said.

Tweet shows Governor Spencer Cox’s statement after signing SB16. SB16 prohibits doctors from performing gender-transitioning surgical procedures on a minor. (@GovCox via Twitter)

HB228, which passed mid-February, prohibits certain healthcare professionals from providing conversion therapy to a minor and clarifies what a therapist is allowed to discuss with a minor.

Daily Universe Updates

The Daily Universe covered various bills throughout the legislative session. Here is how they fared:

HB115, HB212 and SB72, which pushed to modify clergy reporting exemptions, did not pass.

HB177, proposing the creation of the State Mental Health System Commission, was not passed.

HB40, related to the fostering and adopting of Native children, was not passed.

SB117, requiring police to take a lethality assessment when responding to a domestic abuse report, was passed.

HB286, which would have provided for sales and use tax revenue to be used to manage the water levels at the Great Salt Lake, did not pass.

HB18, which would require online dating apps based in Utah to include helpful safety tips and reminders, passed.

HB78, which would allow health care providers in Utah to receive behavioral health services in different facilities from where they work, passed.

SB283, seeking to investigate diversity, equity and inclusion committees in Utah institutions of higher education, failed to pass.

As the session came to a close Friday evening, Representative Brad Wilson, Speaker of the House, said this session was one of the “most consequential and impactful” in the history of the state.

Brad Wilson, Speaker of the House, tweets about on the last day of the legislative session. The 2023 Utah general legislative session ended Friday, March 3. (@BradWilsonGOP via Twitter)
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