SALT LAKE CITY — The first week of the 2021 General Session of the Utah Legislature is over.
Amid a time period that is unlike any other — held in a mostly empty Capitol decked out with plexiglass shields, social distancing mandates, mask requirements and virtual meetings — the 45-day legislative session is set to tackle several hot button political issues.
Because of safety concerns surrounding the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the Utah State Capitol was closed off to the public during the first week of the session. The closure was part of a larger order issued by Gov. Spencer Cox, who declared a state of emergency five days before Inauguration Day.
After a quiet week, legislative leaders agreed Friday to reopen the Utah State Capitol to the public to attend hearings for the remainder of the session. For those who don’t feel comfortable attending in-person, they can stream meetings online.
State troopers will continue their ongoing security measures, including bag checks at the capitol entrances.
By the end of the first five days, four bills have been passed through the state legislature and one of those has been signed by the governor. Here’s a breakdown of what’s passed so far:
H.C.R. 7 Concurrent Resolution Recognizing the Public Service of Representative Lawanna Lou Shurtliff
So far, Cox has only signed one bill: A resolution honoring the legacy of former state Rep. Lawanna “Lou” Shurtliff, who died Dec. 30, 2020. She was 85 years old.
A concurrent resolution doesn’t hold the force of law; both houses of the state legislature must adopt it. It’s mostly symbolic, and in this case recognizes the public service of a former state representative.
Cox signed the resolution Friday, making it the first legislation to be signed by the governor.
Shurtliff died at the end of December, after being hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia. After the hospital put her on a ventilator, her family made the decision to “let her pass peacefully,” according to a statement released by the family.
The state representative was the only Democrat in the Utah Legislature outside of Salt Lake County. She served in the Utah House of Representatives from 1999 to 2008, returning to the seat in 2018.
Shurtliff was best known for passing a bill that closed the loophole in Utah law that made it impossible for victims of stalking to get a restraining order unless that person had previously lived with their stalker.
H.J.R. 3 Joint Resolution Authorizing Pay of In-session Employees
The state legislature passed its second bill of the session Wednesday, which established the compensation for legislative in-session employees. The legislature must set employee payment at the beginning of each General Session through a joint resolution.
According to the resolution, employees will be paid according to an eight-level scale. Compensation levels are determined by and directly correlate with the number of years an employee has worked for the legislative session.
H.J.R. 4 Joint Resolution Approving Acceptance of Federal Funds
Legislators passed the third bill of the session on Thursday. The joint resolution — which means that both the House and Senate separately approved the legislation — allows the state to accept funds from the federal government through Public Law 116-260, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 which was passed by Congress.
Through that law, the state of Utah can receive federal COVID-19 emergency relief to aid its response to the pandemic.
S.J.R. 1 Joint Resolution Reappointing John L. Fellows as General Counsel to the Utah Legislature
The most recent resolution the legislature passed Friday effectively reappoints John L. Fellows as the general counsel to the Utah legislature beginning May 12.
The management committee within the legislature voted 16-0 on the bill, approving the reappointment for the next six years.
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