Thursday’s special session will be the first of many as lawmakers deal with coronavirus pandemic

Utah Capitol 06

Thursday’s special legislative session to deal with the coronavirus pandemic will likely be just the first of several special sessions between now and June.

“There are a number of things we have to get done by the end of this fiscal year, or before the next fiscal year starts, so I know we’ll have at least one more special session,” said House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, during a Tuesday interview with

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a couple before then,” he continued.

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, agreed that this won’t be the last time lawmakers have to meet this year under emergency circumstances. He likens the current financial trouble to what lawmakers faced during the economic downturn in 2001.

“It was my first year in the House and we had either seven or eight special sessions that year. It seems like we were always in a special session all summer long,” he said.

Lawmakers have to make changes to the state budget for the rest of this fiscal year as well as next year as the state has moved the tax filing deadline from April to July. That necessitates the shift of about $800 million in tax revenue from this fiscal year to next as the new filing deadline comes after the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

While there won’t be much cutting of the budget during this session because of the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers are bracing for things to get choppy over the next few months. Rep. Jefferson Moss, R-Saratoga Springs, is backing a resolution urging state agencies to practice fiscal responsibility as they navigate their budgets for the coming year. 

“The concern is we have people going about business as usual and not preparing for a downturn in the economy,” said Moss. “This is a clear heads up that things are going to be choppy, so you should make adjustments for your budget this year because there could be some tough times ahead,” said Moss.

Near the top of the list for lawmakers is how best to restart the state’s economy to help end the economic toll from the pandemic. It could be months before workers are able to return to work and businesses can open because of the risk posed by the coronavirus. Wilson thinks the state can start making some moves toward returning to normalcy soon.

“I believe you’ll see us starting to dial some knobs around certain segments of the economy much sooner than June or July. Do I think that we’re going to be business as usual by July 1st and we’re going to have forgotten this? No, I don’t think that’s likely, but there are a lot of measures we can take right now, but we probably need to start slowly,” he said.

“For me, it’s the number one priority,” added Adams. “It’s time to talk about how we can move forward and get business back in business.”

Adams disagreed with some projections that it could be the end of the summer before the economy begins to rebound.

“I think we might be able to put some things in place by the end of the month,” he added.

Adams says kickstarting the economy will be slow and require patience.

“It’s going to take a very sophisticated model, and take people who are responsible. If we use data and are able to find a way to identify those who are showing signs of coronavirus, then we can get businesses up and running again,” he said.

Wilson agreed but cautioned that Utahns need to temper their expectations about when life will begin to show some semblance of normalcy.

“There are things we know we’re not going to be doing anytime soon. I think large group gatherings are probably unlikely to happen over the course of the summer. We’re all hoping and praying for a vaccine or some miracle drug that will make this go away tomorrow. Absent that, we’re going to have to ease into this,” he said.