These are the biggest outstanding issues as Utah lawmakers enter the final week of the session

By | February 25, 2024

Utah lawmakers have just five days to pass hundreds of bills before time runs out for the legislative session at midnight on March 1.

Lawmakers passed a record number of bills this past legislative session and still managed to delay legislation with a few hours to spare — a rarity that rarely replaces the struggle to pass as many bills as possible before the clock strikes midnight — but this time they have to do their job. year.

The 2024 session got off to a slower start than normal through the first five weeks, according to Adam Brown, a political scientist at Brigham Young University who has tracked lawmakers’ workloads since 2007. Lawmakers have picked up the pace over the past week. , and the House of Representatives worked until nearly 10 p.m. Thursday to vote on dozens of bills.

Nearly 180 bills passed both chambers on Wednesday, and lawmakers are likely to approve more than 500 of the nearly 1,000 numbered bills by the time the dust settles.

Here are a few key proposals still on the table that we can look at in the coming week:

Tax cuts?

Republican legislative leaders have consistently touted large tax cuts passed in recent sessions, and have long had their eye on another tax cut in 2024. Lawmakers are considering lowering the state’s income tax rate from 4.65% to 4.55 %, amounting to almost $170 million. .

“I’m calling it a tax cut again, again, again and again,” Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said Thursday. “Some of us think it’s a really good idea.”

SB69, Income Tax Changes, passed the Senate on January 31 and received approval from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Friday morning. We are now waiting for a vote in the House of Representatives.

Major League Baseball, hockey stadiums

Now that state leaders have begun luring potential Major League Baseball and National Hockey League franchises to the Beehive State, a key question is whether tax dollars will be used to build new stadiums. Lawmakers recently unveiled proposals to fund half of an estimated $1.8 billion baseball stadium and reallocate about $1 billion over the next three decades for a sports complex with a hockey arena in downtown Salt Lake City.

HB562 creates a framework for a potential baseball stadium, while SB272 would create a sports and entertainment project area to house a potential hockey team. HB562 was approved by the House Government Operations Committee on Friday, while SB272 awaits a vote in the Senate.

Social media regulations

If Utah lawmakers going after major social media platforms in an effort to protect children online feels like deja vu, you’re not alone. Utah passed the nation’s first social media regulations last year and plans significant revisions to those laws after legal challenges from the tech industry and residents.

In a nutshell, lawmakers this year are targeting so-called “engagement-driven designs,” such as infinitely scrolling feeds and algorithm-driven content, by making it easier for parents to sue companies that use these features for allegedly harming minors. Platforms that restrict the use of such features for accounts owned by minors will receive safe harbor from presumption of harm in lawsuits.

SB194 passed the Senate on Wednesday, while its companion bill, HB464, passed the House late Thursday.

Changes in suffrage

When it comes to election law, some lawmakers want to end the state’s municipal experiment with ranked-choice voting a year early. Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in 2018 to give cities the option of ranked choice voting, but six years later, some say it has run its course.

HB290 would end the ranked choice voting pilot program on May 1, instead of the original repeal date of January 1, 2026. The bill passed the House on Thursday.

Lawmakers are also considering raising the threshold to 60% of voters to approve ballot initiatives that raise taxes. Voters in 2018 approved a Medicaid expansion that would have fallen short of the proposed threshold.

The proposal would require a constitutional amendment to be approved by voters this fall. HB284 has been approved by the House of Representatives and a Senate committee and is awaiting consideration in the Senate, along with the accompanying proposed constitutional amendment, HJR14.

Affordable housing and homelessness

Utah Governor Spencer Cox focused on affordable housing and homelessness in his annual budget proposal, but it remains to be seen whether lawmakers will approve his $193 million request for emergency shelter space and affordable housing.

Representatives on Thursday approved a pair of bills to address barriers to affordable housing and increase the number of owner-occupied homes, and a bill to allow cities to create zoning for affordable owner-occupied housing was approved by a Senate committee on Friday.

HB465 and HB476 now head to the Senate for consideration, while SB268 will have to pass through both chambers next week.

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