2020 Utah Legislative Session

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UPR's reporting on the 2020 Utah State Legislative Session. 

Utah Stories

Today on Access Utah, a look at state air quality legislation. This episode was first broadcast in March during the final week of the 2020 session of the Utah Legislature.

Robert Cutts


Two bills improving services to people with mental illness were signed into Utah law this week, allocating $24 million for the first year and $17 million in ongoing funds. These bills seek to keep people out of the hospital if possible, and also to make sure that if a person in crisis needs hospitalization, there’s a bed available.  

Harvard Health

The Utah Legislature concluded its 2020 session on Thursday. We’ll recap the session on Monday, with a special focus on issues important to people in rural Utah. We’ll also talk about COVID-19 and Coronavirus.


“It's taken a lot of work kind of behind the scenes to move it from where it was to where it is now,” said Representative Dan Johnson of Logan. 

On Monday, Johnson had a second chance to move his bill that would expand the school lunch program in Utah along to the Senate floor for a vote. 


Abortion clinics would be required to cremate or bury fetal remains and women would have to get an ultrasound before the procedure under proposals approved by lawmakers in Utah this week, over objections that the new rules would erode access to abortion. The Legislature passed the bill regulating the disposal of fetal remains after an abortion or miscarriage Friday. Another bill requiring a provider to display ultrasound images and make the fetal heartbeat audible passed the House on Thursday. It now goes to the Senate.

Micah Sheldon, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

As Utah’s population increases, so do the housing prices. Senate Bill 39 is part of an effort to help more Utahns access housing.

Poll: Utahns Don't Want More Restrictions On Abortion Rights

Mar 6, 2020
Robert Cutts

Members of the Utah Legislature have proposed a significant number of bills this session to restrict women's reproductive rights. However, a recent poll shows that a majority of Utahns disagree with their elected officials. The poll asked about 800 Utah citizens about issues such as sex education, contraceptive access, abortion and Roe v. Wade.

Utah is poised to study the disproportionate violence inflicted against Native American women and girls after the Utah Legislature voted to create a task force. The Deseret News reports indigenous communities gathered at the Utah Capitol to celebrate Tuesday after the proposal passed the Senate unanimously. It now heads to Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk. Democratic state Rep. Angela Romero’s plan would bring together a nine-member task force of lawmakers, researchers, tribes, law enforcement and an advocate for victims.

A Utah bill that would require doctors to show a woman an ultrasound before performing an abortion has passed a House committee vote. The passage through the Judiciary Committee Tuesday moves the measure to the full House. Republican Rep. Steve Christiansen's bill would require a physician or technician performing a mandated ultrasound to describe the presence and location of an unborn child in the uterus, display images and make the fetal heartbeat audible for each woman.

Utah Online Public Library

An important dinosaur site in Utah is unlikely to become a state park after a measure proposed in the state Legislature was denied. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that a bill to create Utahraptor State Park failed Monday in the Senate Natural Resources Committee over funding issues. Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Steve Eliason says the legislation would have established the state park near Arches National Park to develop and preserve a dinosaur quarry and surrounding area. The estimated $10 million cost of establishing the state park held up the approval process.

Utah voters are headed to the polls to cast their votes in the state's first presidential primary held on Super Tuesday, the high-profile series of contests held in delegate-rich states. The Democratic front-runner is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, though Utah voters have also been courted by moderates in the weeks leading up to the contest.

Utah would ban most abortions if the U.S. legal landscape changes under a proposal that has been passed by the Utah Senate. The Salt Lake Tribune reports it was approved on a party-line vote after Democrats argued against the plan to make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It has exceptions for cases of rape, incest or serious threat to the health of the mother. The measure to ban most abortions contains a so-called trigger clause and  wouldn’t go into effect unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion.

A Utah state Senate committee has approved a bill with changes to a voter-approved initiative creating an independent voting redistricting commission. The Salt Lake Tribune reports the Proposition 4 initiative passed by voters in 2018 is aimed at curbing gerrymandering. Members of the Senate Business and Labor Committee voted unanimously for the bill, which loosens the initiative’s legal restrictions on the redistricting process. The bill sponsored by Republican Sen.

Lawmakers in Utah have passed a tighter ban on personalized license plates that have disparaging words or messages after a plate spelling out ‘deport them' sparked debate on social media. The Salt Lake Tribune reports the Friday vote sends the bill to Republican Gov. Gary Herbert. It would ban plates that disparage anyone based on race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, citizenship status or a physical or mental disability.

Polygamy wouldn't be a felony crime in Utah for the first time in 85 years under a bill that passed the Legislature and appears to be supported by the governor. Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly for the proposal that supporters said will allow the 30,000 people living in the state’s polygamous communities to come out of the shadows and report abuses such as underage marriage by other polygamists without fear of prosecution.  Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has indicated he will likely sign the proposal.

Democratic presidential candidates like to boast about their ability to lure away disaffected Republican voters. If there’s a place to test their skills it’s Utah. The deep red state is a bastion of conservative resistance to President Donald Trump. While the president has conquered virtually every other corner of the GOP landscape, his powers just don’t work as well in Utah. The state’s polite conservatism clashes hard with Trump’s take-no-prisoners approach.

Utah would ban most abortions if the U.S. legal landscape changes under a proposal that has gotten an early nod of approval at the Legislature. A panel of lawmakers on Wednesday approved the plan to make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It has exceptions for cases of rape, incest or serious threat to the health of the mother. Four Republican men voted for it, and two Democratic women opposed it. It now moves to the Senate floor. It wouldn’t go into effect unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v.

A bill to make daylight saving time permanent has passed the Utah House of Representatives and will go the governor for his signature. The Deseret News reports the House passed the legislation Wednesday with only one dissenting vote. Despite the passage of the bill supporting a permanent change from standard time to daylight saving time, the measure requires further action before implementation. If Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signs the legislation, Congress and at least four Western states would need to take action in order for the bill to take effect.

wikimedia commons

The state of Utah could be given more control gun-control policies under a bill limiting legislative power at the county and city levels. Currently, anyone who attempts to buy a firearm at a private gun show in the state must undergo a federal background check, but that could change. Republican Rep. Cory Maloy says the intent is to prevent local governments from enacting regulations that might confuse and potentially endanger gun owners.

A proposal to require labels on some pornography in Utah is one step closer to becoming law. Another panel of lawmakers approved it Tuesday. The Daily Herald in Provo reports that a Republican lawmaker has narrowed his proposal to require the labels only on material declared legally obscene, a relatively small slice of hardcore pornographic material. A trade group for the porn industry has said it nevertheless presents serious concerns because the definition of obscenity is open to interpretation.

The Utah House of Representatives has passed a bill reduce the prosecution and incarceration of young children and instead connect them with counseling. The House passed the legislation Tuesday that would end prosecution of children younger than 12 and direct them into mental health treatment, parental counseling and other services. The measure is intended at keeping the children engaged with their families and lower state costs by reducing the number of incarcerations.

Ongoing Funding For Utah's ROI Program

Feb 26, 2020
Women codiing, Rural Online Initiative training program funding helps Utahns in remote areas gain skills to work from home.

At a time when general fund money is stretched thin, House Representative Val Potter said ongoing funding will be used to continue to grow the Rural Online Initiative program

Increased Cougar sightings in Utah; House BIll 228
skeeze / Pixabay.com

In December, a pair of mountain lions was caught on a doorbell camera in Bountiful. While viral videos and urban sightings can be rare and exciting, House Representative Casey Snider, from District 5, said it can be a regular occurrence in rural parts of the state — like down the road from his house in southern Cache County.

Bill To Decriminalize Polygamy Passes Utah Senate

Feb 26, 2020
Pablo, creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Senate bill 102 would decriminalize the practice of polygamy in Utah. The bill’s sponsor said it will help people who want to leave polygamy, but advocates for those seeking to escape the lifestyle have said it would allow abusers to operate with impunity. 

Bill H.B 58, sponsored by Rep. Susan Pulsipher, pushes to align vaping policies in all Utah schools and provides more resources for educating students. The bill has three parts, including enforcing clear vaping policies and enabling administrators and teachers to confiscate e-cigarettes. 

Lawmakers Address Discipline, Education Needs

Feb 20, 2020
Nearly half of Utah's teachers are quitting within five years of starting their careers. Rep. Dan Johnson said, "We need to keep our great teachers," and said addressing school disciplinary tactics will be critical in the discussion.
Beth Hollliker / Air National Guard

According to Utah State Senator Lyle Hillyard, there is currently a 40% turnover rate for public safety workers and a nurse shortage of about 25,000 positions. 

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers have voted to put new regulations on pornography and remove some on polygamy in separate proposals moving quickly through the Legislature. Senators voted Tuesday to remove the threat of jail time for consenting adult polygamists. Supporters argue the step would allow people in communities that practice plural marriage to report abuses without fear of prosecution. Later, House lawmakers approved a proposal to require warning labels on pornography.

PROVO, Utah (The Daily Herald) — The Utah County clerk's office has announced it expects to use a mobile voting application in elections this year despite concerns raised by cybersecurity researchers. The Daily Herald reported Monday that Voatz utilizes blockchain and facial recognition technology to enable certain residents to vote without having to submit a ballot by mail or in person. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say the application is vulnerable to attacks that could violate election integrity.

Bill Would Create New State Park In Utah

Feb 19, 2020
Ken Lund, commons.wikimedia.com

A bill recently introduced to the Utah statehouse revealed more details on a new state park proposal in the Moab area. The legislation would appropriate $10 million for the creation of Utahraptor State Park, roughly 15 miles north of Arches National Park.  

Salt Lake City, Utah, Utah Capitol, in winter
Brian / Wikimedia Commons

The time for appropriations is coming to a close in the 2020 Legislative Session, and according to district 3’s House Representative Val Potter, the general fund is “challenged.”