The Utah State Legislature


Photo by Andrew Smith

Britney Chen, Online Editor

The Utah State Legislature 2018 general session ended on March 8. According to the Utah State Legislature official website, Utah lawmakers passed 534 bills. Here are some of the notable bills that passed and failed.

Increased School Funding: A compromise was reached between the legislature and Our Schools Now, an initiative to increase sales and income tax to create $700 million for school funding. According to Our Schools Now, “This initiative would allow Utahns to vote on a ballot measure to increase funding for education.” Instead of Our Schools Now initiative, the new bill HB293 will include a 5-year property tax freeze and HB491 will ask a non-binding question to voters about increasing gas taxes by ten cents per gallon. This new tax would generate $375 million for schools.

Budget Bill: The Utah State Legislature passed a $17 billion budget. According to Ballotpedia, a nonpartisan online political encyclopedia, this budget proposed $124 million for public education and $23 million for higher education. The budget also included $10.5 million for Operation Rio Grande to help combat Utah’s homelessness problem by providing job training, drug treatment, and three new homeless shelters.

Assisted Suicide: HB86 made it illegal to assist someone in suicide. This means that providing someone the means to commit suicide is now considered manslaughter. This also includes physicians who give medication to ill patients while knowing they will use it to commit suicide. This bill was made in response to a case where an 18-year-old was charged with murder after being accused of helping a 16-year-old girl commit suicide.

Rename the UTA: The House passed a transportation bill to reorganize and rename the Utah Transit Authority. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the bill changes how the UTA is governed, including replacing “UTA’s current part-time, 16-member board with a full-time, three-member commission.” The funding will come from an increased registration fee for electric cars. The bill will also rename the UTA to the Transit District of Utah.

Ban on Abortions because of Down Syndrome: A bill to criminalize doctors for performing abortions because the fetus would develop Down syndrome failed. It failed because it was deemed unconstitutional. Proponents said the bill was proposed to protect people from discrimination while opponents said it restricts a woman’s right to choose.

Donald J. Trump Highway: The bill to rename the Utah National Parks Highway that runs through Southern Utah to Donald J. Trump National Parks Highway failed. It was proposed by Rep. Michael Noel as a show of gratitude to President Trump for reducing the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. After receiving heavy backlash, the bill was shelved.

A Ban on Banning Plastic Bags: The House voted against Senate Bill 218 which would have banned cities’ ability to ban plastic bags. Arguments against the bill said it would limit local control. Rep. Val Potter said, “Why would we want to regulate what cities do with their cardboard boxes and their plastic bags?”