Lawmakers still have some big issues to tackle in the 2019 session


Utah Capitol 04

As of Monday morning, there will be a little less than 90 hours left in the 2019 Utah Legislature. As lawmakers move into crunch time ahead of Thursday night’s adjournment there are still a number of big issues still to be decided.

Budget negotiations first reported on Friday that House Republicans were pitching a “skinny” budget to their Senate counterparts, arguing that the legislature should only fund the essential parts of government until they sort out the massive tax reform package they will consider later this year. As part of that pared-down spending, the proposal reportedly includes a modest increase for public education and a cost of living raise for state employees.

Legislative sources indicated that talks between House and Senate Republicans continued over the weekend, and will likely stretch into the first part of the week unless they are able to strike a deal before Monday. An early Monday morning Executive Appropriations Committee meeting was abruptly canceled on Sunday, indicating no deal had been reached.

Hate crimes

Sen. Daniel Thatcher’s SB103 is in the House ready for a final vote. The bill would allow a judge to add an additional sentence on an already-convicted criminal based on how the criminal targeted a protected class of people, which includes for the first time LGBTQ individuals.

Inland port

House Majority Leader Frances Gibson has a bill, now moving to the Senate, that will allow smaller communities to be a “satellite” of the huge inland port now being planned in northwest Salt Lake City, and thus benefit for customs special treatment of goods.

Heavy beer

It appears Utah liquor law will not be changed to allow higher-content beer – up to 4.8 percent alcohol instead of just 3.2 percent – to be sold in retail stories. But the Senate bill is still alive in the House.

Banning so-called conversion therapy

A House bill was gutted in committee so that the practitioners of a discredited therapy aimed at making gay people – usually teenagers – stop being gay and become heterosexual could still be in business. But supporters of the ban may make amendments to stop the practice.

Changes to the initiative process

Voters approved three ballot initiatives in 2016. Legislators are still considering bills that could make it more difficult for backers to qualify for ballots in the future. There’s also a proposal still in play that would delay the implementation of any initiative that includes a tax increase so that the legislature can make changes to the proposal if necessary.

Air quality bills

Gov. Gary Herbert proposed $100 million in spending for projects to improve air quality in Utah. Lawmakers won’t come anywhere near that lofty sum given the tax reform imbroglio. Advocates are still hoping they’ll see some funding come their way once a budget is finalized.

School safety

A stripped down version of legislation to protect students from shootings was revived after hitting a stalemate in committee, but most of the provisions were excised from the bill. Advocates were asking for approximately $100 million to improve school safety at the beginning of this session, but it’s clear they won’t come anywhere near that now.

Lawmakers have to finish their work by midnight on Thursday.