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Digital special session

The Legislature will kick off a special session to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 this Thursday, and we want to be sure you have all the information you need to get involved. The session could go for up to 10 days, and will be held entirely online. 

The historic nature of the special session is not lost on us, and we’re extremely proud that Utah is one of the states leading out by holding a legislative session online. Following is a list of things you need to know, and things we’re watching for.

What you need to know:

  • They will only be holding floor time in the Senate and the House, no committee meetings
  • They will be streaming the meetings on the Legislature’s website and on KUEN channel 9.2
  • Meetings start at 9AM
  • Once a bill becomes public, you can comment on it

Utah House, 2020 General Session

What we’re watching for:

  • Transparency 
    • As it stands, when members of the public leave a comment on a bill, the comment will not actually be public. This is a violation of the spirit of transparency in government, and possibly a violation of Utah’s Open Meetings Act. Utahns deserve full insight on how these bills are being shaped and influenced–especially in the absence of committee hearings. You can read more about our concerns here
  • Accountability
    • We’ll be watching out for any attempts by legislators to use this opportunity to push through their pet issues that are not relevant to COVID-19. One such issue is a possible veto override on HB332, Special Needs Scholarship Amendments. This bill would divert public funds to private schools with minimal public oversight, and was vetoed by Governor Herbert earlier this year. This bill has no relevance to the current crisis and should not be addressed during the special session.
  • Self-dealing
    • The majority of legislators are investment property owners and have a financial interest in realty-friendly legislation. We will be watching out for any self-dealing landlord bailouts that don’t also help renters. 
    • A Utah pharmacist is working with Senate President Adams to get the unproven drug Donald Trump has been pushing–hydroxychloroquine–into pharmacies around the state. It’s imperative that lawmakers pass laws that are in the best interest of Utahns, not just in the financial interest of a few. We’ll be keeping an eye out for anything that would push this medication that is untested and potentially unsafe to treat COVID-19.
  • Consolidation of power
    • The Governor has executive authority to make decisions in an emergency–the Legislature should let Herbert do his job without getting in the way. This is a checks and balances issue, and lawmakers must appropriate funds then let the executive branch handle establishment of protocols and processes for recovery from the COVID crisis. 
    • The Legislature should not try to override the stay-home orders of municipal and county governments and health departments. If the state is not going to enforce Gov. Herbert’s directive, local officials must be allowed to step up to keep their communities safe and healthy.

We will watch the entire session from the safety of our homes, and you can be sure we will send out any necessary alerts and updates.

Lauren is the policy director for Alliance for a Better Utah

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