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Week 2: Here’s a look at the bills passed in the 2021 General Session so far

(Utah State Capitol. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — The second week of the 2021 General Session 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. 

Despite safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on Capitol Hill, three Utah lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus during the second week — with one hospitalized. 

Lawmakers say they’ve prepared for small outbreaks, requiring everyone to undergo rapid COVID-19 testing twice a week to detect any active cases. If positive, the lawmaker must attend virtually rather than in person. 

Representatives are also required to wear masks and social distance throughout floor meetings. However, they may take masks off while speaking during official proceedings. 

Because of safety concerns surrounding the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the 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. 

Although the Capitol has been reopened for the public to attend meetings, state troopers will continue their ongoing security measures. 

The tally so far: 19 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: 

WEEK TWO, 2021 General Session: 

Lots of money. At least 10 of the 19 bills passed this week had to do with different budgets and allocating state money. 

HB48 Board of Financial Institutions Amendments

One of the latest bills to be signed, lawmakers approved extending the repeal date of the Board of Financial Institutions until 2031. The board meets four times a year with term lengths of four years. 

HB1 Higher Education Base Budget

The Legislature passed its annual higher education funding bill which allocates money from the state’s general fund, education fund and other sources toward its public colleges and universities. After some amendments during its floor meeting Wednesday, lawmakers approved a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021, and ending June 30, 2022. 

The money goes toward the state’s public universities, like the University of Utah and Utah State University. However, private schools like Brigham Young University and Westminster College do not receive funding. 

SB1 S1 Public Education Base Budget Amendments

A funding bill in the Senate also passed through the Legislature Friday, allocating the needed funding for public and charter schools.

The bill also created the Enrollment Growth Contingency Program and the Supplemental Educator COVID-19 Stipend through the legislation. The latter is a one-time stipend given in “appreciation of work during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

The bill allocates a $1,500 stipend to licensed school educators and $1,000 to other “classified” school employees. The legislation also approves the use of federal coronavirus relief in classrooms. 

HB4 S1 Business, Economic Development, and Labor Base Budget

Another annual funding bill, the Legislature passed its substitute bill for its business, economic development and labor base budget. 

A substitute bill is legislation that replaces a previous bill under the same name. Basically, this bill does the same thing as the last one — but the money is allocated in a different way. 

The bill operates under the same fiscal year as the higher education budget, beginning July 1, 2021, until June 30, 2022. 

See the full breakdown of the latest budget here.

SB24 Property Tax Revisions 

The rules surrounding residential exemptions for property taxes will change slightly under an amendment made in SB24. Under the legislation, counties can waive or reduce penalties for those who fail to file the required statement proving someone’s property that is eligible for taxes. 

Under previous law, homeowners were not able to obtain a residential exemption — meaning they can be taxed at a lower rate if they live in their house year-round — unless they filled out an application on before Nov. 30 of the current calendar year. That has been removed from the requirements. 

SB35 Income Tax Domicile Amendments 

The Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee unanimously passed legislation that makes slight changes to income taxes. 

Under the revised bill, people who aren’t permanent residents of Utah are not eligible for in-state income tax even if their child is enrolled in one of Utah’s public schools. This applies to adults who are noncustodial parents or have never been married to the child’s custodial parent. 

HB6 S1 Infrastructure and General Government Base Budge

Money, money, money.

Legislators also passed a bill establishing the budget for its infrastructure and general government operation. The bill allocates money to go toward its operating and capital budgets. 

See the full breakdown here. 

SB36 Tax Commission Bond Requirement Amendments

The Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee also passed another bill that allows the Utah State Tax Commission to waive bond requirements for anyone whose withholding tax license or sales and use tax license was revoked after a delinquency. 

The revision will only apply if the individual complies with the agreed payment option that is approved by the commission. 

HB7 National Guard, Veterans Affairs, and Legislature Base Budget

Just when you thought you were done looking at numbers. Alas. There’s more. 

Just like it sounds, it sets the monetary allocations for the Capitol Preservation Board, the Legislature, the Utah National Guard and the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs. 

See the full breakdown. 

HB8 S1 State Agency and Higher Education Compensation Appropriations

You guessed it. More money. 

The last of the funding bills for this week allocates money toward state agencies — like the Attorney General’s Office and Utah Department of Corrections — and more funding for higher education compensation programs. 

See the full breakdown. 

Other budgetary bills proposed in the 2021 General Session: SB5 Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality Base Budget, SB 6 Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Base Budget, SB7 Social Services Base Budget, SB8 State Agency Fees and Internal Service Fund Rate Authorization and Appropriations. 

Missed last week’s recap? Here are the highlights.