The Utah Legislature 2021 general session concluded on March 5th, and I am proud to report many successes that benefit House District 53. First, I'd like to note that during this session, 307 House bills were sent to the governor. While this may sound like a lot, the figure includes bills focused on technical changes or repealing past laws, and is actually a significant decrease in new legislation compared to previous years. As a proponent of limited government, this is a victory in my book!
I know many of you are concerned about COVID restrictions and executive overreach, so I am also pleased to report that HB 294 and SB 195 passed both houses and are awaiting Governor Cox's signature, which is expected. HB 294 ends the mask mandate on April 10 (not including schools) and all remaining restrictions on July 1. SB 195 puts limits on the executive power of the governor as well as public health officials in favor of the legislature and county governments for extended emergencies. These bills weren't perfect but I do consider them significant steps in the right direction.
As I have already noted in previous correspondence, Governor Cox also signed HB 60, the Constitutional Carry bill that I co-sponsored, which allows the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit in Utah. Permits are still available for reciprocity in other states. Especially given the push for gun control at the federal level, this bill is a victory for gun rights and the 2nd Amendment in Utah.
One unfortunate setback was that HB 302 -- Preserving Sports for Female Students -- which I sponsored, passed on the House floor but failed to make it out of committee in the Senate, primarily because of Governor Cox's opposition. I believe this issue to be important and know based on polling that the conservative position -- that women's sports should be reserved for biological women -- is very popular in Utah. Similar bills have now passed in several other states and I believe there is momentum behind this issue. I will be working on it again next session.
Finally, I want to note budgetary highlights include $500 million in education spending including an increase in the per pupil allotment as well as $100 million in parks and recreation funding. The latter includes additional funding for all existing parks, as well as $350,000 for Bear Lake, and $7.5 million for a new state park in Morgan County, both in my district. As a fiscal conservative, I am perhaps most pleased to report that the budget also includes $100 million in tax cuts.
Here is a list of the bills I sponsored and co-sponsored:
HB 0154 Use of Force Revisions
HB 0302 Preserving Sports for Female Students
HB 0389 Medicaid Recovery Amendments
HR 0003 House Resolution Honoring Donovan Mitchell over Shaquille O'Neal
SB 0235 by K.A. Cullimore; Statewide Online Education Program Amendments
HB 0060 by W. Brooks; Conceal Carry Firearms Amendments
HB 0086 by W. Brooks; Social Security Tax Amendments
HB 0257S01 by S. Eliason; Utah State Parks Amendments
HB 0353 by P. Lyman; Barber Licensing Amendments
HB 0415 by P Lyman; Executive Order Review Process Amendments
HB 0076S01 by A.C. Maloy; Firearm Preemption Amendments
HB 0161S01 by C. Pierucci; Military Retirement Tax Amendments
HJR 008 by C. Pierucci; Joint Resolution to Protect Utah's Institutions of Higher Education from Chinese Communist Party Influence
HB 0116 by A. Robertson; Student Attendance Amendments
HB 0258S02 by R.P. Shipp; Firearm Safety in Schools
HB 0136S01 by J. Teuscher; Initiative and Referenda Modifications
HB 0287S02 by D. Welton; Nurse Practice Act Amendments
HB 0081 by M. Winder; Mental Health Days for Students
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the session and what issues are most important to you for my continuing work representing you!
Representative Kera Birkeland
Utah House District 53