Utah legislature extends state of emergency to tackle flooding

The floor of the Utah House of Representatives meets during the Utah legislative special session in Salt Lake City. The special session extended the state of emergency to Aug. 15. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Utah legislature concluded a special session on Wednesday, May 17 with a resolution extending the state of emergency until Aug. 15 to manage ongoing flooding.

House Joint Resolution 101 gave recognition to Governor Cox’s executive order declaring a state of emergency on April 18.

Additionally, extra funding has been approved for flood response, as well as new bills passed on guns and firefighter benefits.

The resolution also requires the governor to give a status report every 30 days to the speaker of the house and president of the senate.

The resolution cites potential avalanches, mudslides and rockslides as reasons to continue the state of emergency. Under the bill, provisions will be put in place for flood damage mitigation and infrastructure rehabilitation.

The resolution, which passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, was sponsored by Representative Mike Schultz.

Majority leader and floor sponsor Senator Evan J. Vickers explained the reasoning behind the length of the emergency.

“There were multiple choices there … we felt like 30 days was probably too short because we’ll still be in flooding stages, and that was the termination why we chose August 15 … that should be passed the flood stage,” Vickers said.

Senator Vickers also explained why a state of emergency is so important when dealing with flood issues.

“There are certain funds and money that are set aside for emergency use; you have to actually be in a declaration of emergency to use those,” Vickers said.

HB1001 acts as a companion bill to the resolution, allocating funds for flood fallout, with $20 million going toward snow removal, avalanche control and slide mitigation.

The bill, also passed unanimously, was sponsored on the floor by Senator Jerry W. Stevenson.

“HB1001 Emergency Response Funding provides financial support to Utah’s cities and towns to help mitigate flooding and provide relief from spring runoff,” Senator Stevenson said.

Senator Stevenson credits Utah’s flood response readiness to the state’s financial stability.

“Utah’s fiscally responsible planning has made it possible for our state to quickly respond to the ongoing flood risks,” Senator Stevenson said.

Senator Vickers also explained that additional funds in the bill will go toward agriculture, to support ranchers who lost animals.

Also passed in the session was HB1002, allowing foreign students and workers to possess firearms, and HB1003 which amends a 2018 bill, allowing firefighters not participating in social security to receive death benefits.

Floor sponsor Senator Wayne A. Harper explained this further.

“This bill took effect immediately and will help affected families … those families can receive full retirement benefits now. It was a good clarification and remedy,” Harper said.

More information on the bills can be found on the legislature website.

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