What’s the Deal with Interim Session?

This coming Wednesday, May 17, the Utah State Legislature is meeting for its monthly interim session. Don’t know what an interim session is? Not sure what you can do to be involved? No worries – we’ve got you covered! Here’s what you should know about Utah’s interim sessions.

What is an Interim Session?

Under the Utah Constitution, the Utah State Legislature is only allowed to meet in session for 45 days every year. If you were following the session this year, this is not long enough to even talk about every bill introduced, let alone delve into substantive policy discussions over each issue.

In order to understand various issues properly before each legislative session, where most of the time is spent passing bills rather than talking about them, legislators meet between legislative sessions at what are called Interim Sessions.  At these sessions, which are held almost every month throughout the rest of the year, legislators divide into Interim Committees. Each committee is based on an issue, like Transportation, or Health and Human Services. Committee members hear from civil servants, experts, and the public, to study and discuss potential legislation related to their committees.

What is the Legislature discussing?

There are a lot of important topics the Legislature wants to study over the course of the next eight months before the 2018 Legislative Session – alcohol, equal pay, education funding, tax reform, and election procedures, among many more. You can see a list of all of those topics here.

On Wednesday, the Legislature will be getting started with a few of these issues. Here are some we’ll be following:

  • Healthcare – The Health and Human Services Committee will discuss state healthcare reform, including mental health and opioid misuse. With “Trumpcare” looming large on the horizon at the national level, it will be interesting to hear what the Legislature is thinking about long-term healthcare plans in the state. This committee will be meeting at 8:30 AM in Room 30 of the Capitol’s House Building. To see the agenda, click here.
  • Tax Reform – Various proposals to reform Utah’s tax system were a huge topic of discussion during the last legislative session; however, a comprehensive plan was never adopted before time ran out. Legislators will continue to discuss this issue, with legislative leaders presenting their views and goals, and with the Revenue and Tax Committee reviewing a long list of income tax credits. This committee will be meeting at 1:15 PM in Room 445 of the Capitol Building. To see the agenda, click here.
  • DUI Law – The Transportation Committee will review the newly passed DUI law which will lower the Blood-Alcohol Content threshold for being charged with Driving Under the Influence from .08% to .05%. When he signed the bill into law, Governor Herbert said he would call the Legislature into special session to address the “unintended consequences” that will come from this law. This committee hearing will be our opportunity to see the Legislature discuss this law again and determine what changes may need to be made. This committee will be meeting at 1:15 PM in Room 210 of the Capitol’s Senate Building. To see the agenda, click here.
  • Public Lands – The Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee will be receiving an update from the Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office, the administrative office responsible for most of the controversial issues surrounding our public lands. We aren’t sure exactly what they’ll be discussing, but the Natural Resources Committee meetings are generally very interesting! This committee will be meeting at 1:21 PM in Room 30 of the Capitol’s House Building. To see the agenda, click here.

These are only a few of the topics being covered this week! For more info on these committees and the rest of the committees that will be meeting this Interim Session, visit le.utah.gov and click on the calendar tab. There you will be able to see all the meetings happening Wednesday, access their agendas, and find information as to when and where they will be meeting!

How can I get involved?

  • If any of these issues concern you, attend the committee in person or listen in online! If you’re busy at that time, all the committee hearings will be recorded and available to listen soon after. Here is a schedule for Interim Sessions, or you can go to le.utah.gov and click on the calendar tab to find agendas for each committee, as well as information for when and where each committee will be meeting.
  • If you attend the committee hearing in person, most committees allow for public comment on the issues they are discussing. Your input could help shape their opinions and decisions!
  • You can also call or send a letter to any of the members on the committees and let them know your opinion. This is in addition to contacting your own representative and senator to let them know how you feel on these important issues. To find out who represents you, enter your address here.
  • Finally, later this week, we will be posting updates on our website about what we learned during the Interim Session. Look out for these blog posts and let us know what you think!
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