UTAH — The 2023 General Session of the 65th Legislature convened on Tuesday, January 17. Here are some highlights from the first week.
LGBTQ+ issues at the forefront
Three controversial bills that could impact LGBTQ+ individuals rapidly cruised through the Senate during the first week of the session, and were given final passage on Friday, January 20.
S.B. 16 , sponsored by Sen. Michael Kennedy, R-Utah, would restrict a doctor’s ability to prescribe hormone therapy for minors who are transgender, and would entirely ban sex-changing characteristic procedures, such as mastectomies, for transgender youth.
S.B. 100 , sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Davis, would require schools to ensure a parent’s right to access information regarding their child, including education records or other records pertaining to “a student’s gender identity that does not conform with the student’s sex.”
S.B. 93 , sponsored by Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Salt Lake, would block changes to a person’s birth certificate under the age of 18, except to rectify certain errors.
These bills now move to the Utah House for further consideration.
Parkite Katherine Heigl advocates for the end of gas chamber euthanasia
Actor, animal rights advocate, and Park City resident Katherine Heigl took to the Capitol on Wednesday, January 18, to advocate for S.B. 108 .
Sponsored by Mike McKell, R-Utah, this bill would end the practice of gas chamber euthanasia in Utah animal shelters.
Utah is currently only one of three states that continue to use gas chambers in animal shelters. As the founder of the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, an organization dedicated to animal welfare, Heigl has a vested interest in Utah’s animal euthanasia policy.
“The sign of a civilized society is marked by how we treat the voiceless and innocent,” said a statement from Heigl. “We cannot continue the inhumane practice of using gas chambers for animals. I encourage the Legislature to pass S.B. 108 and for all Utahns to support this legislation. Thank you, Sen. McKell, for shedding light on this issue once again. Gas chamber euthanasia needs to end immediately.”
S.B. 108 will be heard in committee during the coming weeks.
Bill that would give teachers pay raise and parents scholarships for private education passes committee
H.B. 215 , sponsored by Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Salt Lake, was passed to the House of Representatives by the House Education Committee on Thursday, January 19.
This bill would provide Utah public school educators an additional $4,200 in salary and in $1,800 benefits, and establish the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program, which would allot up to 8,000 per child to qualifying parents for private, homeschooling, or other education options.
New state flag moves to Utah Senate
S.B. 31 cleared the Senate Business and Labor Committee with a 6-1 vote on Wednesday, January 18, and will now move on to the Utah Senate for a broader vote.
Also sponsored by Sen. McCay, this bill would establish a new state flag and designate Utah’s current state flag as the ceremonial state flag, which would only make appearances at special events.
The final red, white, blue, and yellow proposed state flag was selected by the More Than a Flag task force out of 20 semifinalist designs that were, narrowed down from more than 5,000 ideas and designs submitted by the public.
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