SALT LAKE CITY — The 2023 Utah State Legislature is under way. Throughout the session, FOX 13 News political reporter Ben Winslow will provide real-time updates from the Utah State Capitol as both chambers of the state legislature create the road map that will determine the future of the Beehive State.
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 18
In a 6-1 vote, the Senate Business and Labor Committee voted to advance the bill for the new state flag. The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
Day 2 of the #Utah legislative session, and @mikemckellutah introduced a #bill to ban gas chambers in #animal shelters – @KatieHeigl (a Utah native) showing her support for the bill.
More on the impact of this measure coming up on @fox13 #utpol pic.twitter.com/AG1N7vBrlR
Full room at Utah Senate Health and Human Services meeting as two bills, dealing with Sex Characteristic Surgical Procedures + School District Identity Policies are expected to be discussed.
Rep. Mike Peterson, R-North Logan, has issued a statement on his LGBTQ conversion therapy bill. FOX 13 News reported on the legislation last night. Here is the statement released by the House of Representatives:
Representative Michael Petersen (HD2) has released H.B.228, Unprofessional Conduct Amendments, which codifies a prohibition on conversion therapy and clarifies that mental health professionals may engage in broad-based talk therapy with minors seeking assistance for issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
This bill seeks to clarify the Division of Professional Licensing (DOPL) rule that prohibited any therapy seeking to change or eliminate behaviors and attractions related to a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. While Rep. Petersen’s bill continues the prohibition on all conversion therapy treatments, it will allow minors to discuss a broader range of topics, concerns and options with their mental health counselors and therapists, striking the right balance between compassion and free speech.
“As a former counselor, this DOPL rule has been particularly concerning for me,” says Representative Petersen. “I’ve spoken with former colleagues who have stopped treating minors because of ambiguity in the rule and fear of reprisal if they were to say something non-affirming to their minor patients. I’ve also spoken with members of the LGBTQ community who are grateful for the upcoming change because they wish their counselors would have been more inquisitive and curious during their therapy sessions.”
Goud Maragani, President of Utah Log Cabin Republicans, has expressed support stating that, “This bill will ensure the ban on conversion therapy does not prevent LGBTQ+ youth from talking about gender-related issues with their mental health professionals.”
Ultimately, this bill will improve mental health treatment by allowing trained professionals to provide support through talk therapy and continue to protect minors by codifying Utah’s current conversion therapy prohibition.
HAPPENING NOW: Senate leadership meeting with reporters. @fox13 #utpol #utleg pic.twitter.com/TyKpadyf2N
The House gave a citation to recognize a doctor and Utah Highway Patrol trooper. In 1978, the doctor was headed to the airport when he happened upon a UHP trooper who had been shot while doing a traffic stop. The actions saved the life of the trooper.
TUESDAY, JAN. 17
Some of the most contentious bills of the Utah State Legislature (so far) will have hearings in a Senate committee tomorrow. A series of bills dealing with transgender youth will be heard by the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. Meanwhile, a bill was introduced in the legislature on Tuesday to allow for some forms of LGBTQ conversion therapy.
The House and Senate are meeting jointly now to hear the State of the Judiciary.
Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant will present it to the #utleg. @fox13 #utpol #Utah
Senate leadership meeting with reporters on the opening day of the #utleg. @fox13 #utpol #Utah pic.twitter.com/VQ08WoQboe
In the Senate Minority Caucus, Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, has been elevated to Senate Minority Whip. This follows the resignation of Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City. She left the legislature due to health reasons as she battles cancer.
On Monday, Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Taylorsville, won the special election to replace Sen. Mayne in the Senate.
In his opening day speech, House Speaker Brad Wilson said “the decisions we will make this session will define Utah’s next decade and beyond.”
He detailed the House Republican majority’s priorities of sustainability, affordability and investment. The Speaker specifically called out saving the Great Salt Lake as a priority.
“If we fail to lead courageously our state will not continue its growth, future generations will have to find somewhere else to live and the cherished lifestyle we all enjoy will be at risk,” he said. “This has been a wet winter so far – and that is great. But one winter alone won’t wash away two dry decades. The ongoing drought, our management of state water, increased resources for Southern Utah, and preservation of the Great Salt Lake are top priorities for this House.”
“Let’s build upon last year’s considerable policy success to encourage conservation and provide resources to help Utahns do their part to safeguard Utah’s water.”
On housing affordability, Speaker Wilson called for more to be done.
“It’s a problem for buyers, it’s a problem for sellers, and it’s a problem for renters. It’s a problem along the Wasatch Front, in southern Utah and in rural Utah,” he said. “The problem is high interest rates. The problem is over-regulation. The problem is simply a housing shortage.”
“Some of these problems we have no control over, but when it comes to over-regulation, there is something that can be done. Local governments are at the forefront of critical decisions that impact our housing supply… and some are doing it very well.”
The Speaker promised tax cuts will happen this year.
“To the people of Utah: You will see historic tax cuts this session,” he said.
The Speaker outlined his goals for teacher salary hikes — coupled with the controversial school voucher bill (something FOX 13 News reported last week).
“I strongly believe that when it comes to education, one size does not fit all,” he said. “We can educate every student and empower parents to make informed choices about how their children are educated.”
Speaker Wilson signaled more anti-abortion legislation was coming.
“In 2020, we passed a trigger law on the chance Roe v. Wade was overturned. The decision by the Supreme Court last year rightfully shifted authority from the courts, back to the states. While we wait on a decision from the Utah Supreme Court, we must work to make legislative intent crystal clear before this session concludes,” he said.
Good morning from the opening day of the Utah State Legislature!
Day 1 is a lot of pomp and ceremony as the session kicks off. House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President J. Stuart Adams will give speeches. Lawmakers take the oath of office.
ICYMI, you have feelings about stuff the #utleg is doing?
Advice on how to effectively engage as a constituent during the 45-day session from: @SenatorLuz @KPete801 @AFP_Utah @SueRobbins31 @PolicyProjectUT https://t.co/W50XEXXKD1 @fox13 #utpol #Utah pic.twitter.com/KUbI1WrzHT