A very busy final day of the 2021 legislative session

Mar 5, 2021, 7:55 PM
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(The Utah State Capitol on the final day of the 2021 legislative session. Credit: Paul Nelson)
(The Utah State Capitol on the final day of the 2021 legislative session. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – The sun sets over the 2021 legislative session with a mad rush from lawmakers to have their bills considered.  The final day of the session is widely known as the busiest day with legislators hurrying to squeeze their bills into the docket at the last minute.

By noon Friday, lawmakers had passed 396 bills and resolutions, according to The Deseret News.  At that same time, Senate President Stuart Adams estimated there were still 100 bills that were on their agenda.

“Year over year, it seems like we pass around 500 bills,” Adams says.

How are they able to approve that many bills in one day?  Adams says it may feel like this process is rushed and not thorough during the final day, however, all of the heavy work behind the bills have been finished by then.

“There’s not a bill that we run that hasn’t had a committee hearing,” he says.

(Lawmakers inside the Senate chamber during a “saunter” break. Credit: Paul Nelson)

Plus, Adams says many of the bills being discussed for the 2021 legislative session are non-controversial.  For instance, lawmakers discussed agreements on motorboats, licenses for barbers and where farmers can keep egg-laying hens.

“We see that happen when there’s no debate on the bill.  Even if you get a bill the last day, you may have one that is controversial and, sometimes, we can burn half an hour or an hour on a bill because we may get a controversial bill at the very end,” Adams says.

However, sparks did fly a few times in the Senate.  Senator Dan McCay got a lot of pushback about HB 140, which creates the Tax Surplus Restricted Account.  It would require the Division of Finance to deposit a certain amount of money into the account when a change in the federal tax code would likely cause an increase in state taxes.  Critics of the bill say it would be too hard to identify exactly how much money would be set aside.

“Man, I am somewhat offended at the responses, or the questions of the bill.  Not a little offended, like a lot offended,” McCay said on the Senate Floor.  “I will tell you, if this revenue is set apart and we all sat there and looked at it, we could make a decision about how the revenue should be spent because it would be sitting there in a pool.”

That bill was rejected by the Senate by a 21-8 vote.

Public Safety Reform Bills

House Democrats say they focused intensely on police and public safety bills during the final day.  Representative Angela Romero sponsored HB84, which requires police agencies to submit their use of force data to the Bureau of Criminal Identification.  It passed through the Senate 18 to 6.

Senator Derek Kitchen focused on HB 154, which sets a timeline for when investigations into an officer’s use of force has to be completed, and it requires that certain information about these investigations be posted online.  It failed to pass the Senate by a narrow margin, 13-15.


Other reading:

Utah Senate supports bill to drop concealed carry gun permits

Utah Senate supports increasing penalty for repeat domestic violence offenders

Utah Senate President: Salt Lake City School District should ‘step up,’ offer in-person learning

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A very busy final day of the 2021 legislative session