SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Utah lawmakers will meet to begin the 2023 General Session starting Tuesday, Jan. 17.
There are over 300 bills including amendments, budgets, and regulations that are set to be discussed over the course of the General Session, but here are five key takeaways from the Utah State Capitol.
H.B. 215 – Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education Opportunities
Sponsored by: Rep. Candice Pierucci, Sen. Kirk Cullimore
One bill proposed in the Utah House of Representatives would see money allocated to increase the salary of Utah’s teachers.
According to the bill, the state would distribute money to each school district, charter school, and Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. Teachers could see an increase ranging from $4,200 to $8,400, depending on if the Utah Fits All (UT-Fits All) Scholarship Program is funded and in effect.
The UT-Fits All Scholarship Program, also introduced in H.B. 215 would provide parents of students an opportunity with additional funds to help their child’s education. According to UT-Fits All, the scholarship is designed to send tax dollars allocated for education back to parents so they can give their children an education that fits their unique needs.
The scholarship can be used by parents to provide their child educational resources such as tutors, learning therapies, books, and extracurricular activities. The scholarship will reportedly include accountability tools to protect taxpayers and ensure the money is being used to help educate Utah students.
S.B. 16 – Sex Characteristic Surgical Procedures / H.B. 132 – Prohibiting Sex Transitioning Procedures on Minors
S.B. 16 Sponsored by: Sen. Michael S. Kennedy / H.B. 132 Sponsored by Rep. Rex Shipp
A bill introduced in the Utah Senate, S.B. 16 would move to prohibit performing transgender surgical procedures on a minor (anyone under the age of 18) for the purpose of making a sex change.
This includes anything ranging from cosmetic surgeries such as breast augmentation or reduction and facial feminization or masculinization surgeries to genital procedures such as hysterectomy or castration.
There are exceptions to the rules such as diagnosed sex development disorders or because of cancer or if it is deemed medically necessary for the procedure by a professional.
H.B. 132 would be somewhat of a companion bill, making it “unprofessional conduct” for health care providers to perform sex change surgeries on anyone under 18. It would also outlaw so-called ‘puberty blockers’ with some medical exceptions.
H.B. 115 – Child Abuse Reporting Revisions
Sponsored by: Rep. Angela Romero
In an amendment to the requirements to report child abuse and neglect, members of the clergy are no longer exempt from the requirements.
In the original bill, the reporting requirement does not apply to a member of the clergy when the report was made as a confession while functioning in a ministerial capacity, and without the consent of the person making the confession. If the clergy member is bound to confidentiality due to church doctrine or practice, they would not be required to report the abuse.
The proposed revisions in H.B. 115 would strike away the entire exemption to the reporting requirements.
H.B. 18 – Online Dating Safety Amendments
Sponsored by: Rep. Angela Romero
These amendments would attempt to protect users of online dating apps and sites. If a dating site does not provide criminal background checks on members, the sites would be required to disclose that to users. If the site does provide criminal background checks, the site would also be required to disclose that, as well.
The amendments would also force dating sites to provide Utah users with a list of safety measures they should follow to remain safe, including tips on protecting themselves from sexual assault, dating violence, and financial crimes, among other measures.
Sites would also be required to notify users if they have been contacted by someone who has been banned for fraud.
H.B. 61 – School Safety Requirements
Sponsored by: Rep. Ryan Wilcox
H.B. 61, if passed, would create a School Security Task Force on the state level, consisting of members from the state House and Senate, the State Board of Education, the Department of Public Safety, the Utah School Superintendent’s Association, The Utah Association of Public Charter Schools the Chiefs of Police Association and the Sheriff’s Association.
It would also create a state security chief and provide specific training to school districts. School Resource Officers would become a mainstay at all schools.