Week 3 of the 2023 legislative session is wrapping up, and as we approach the halfway point in the Legislature, some bills besides teacher salaries, scholarships and health care for transgender youth are starting to move.

Week 1 saw the Utah Legislature addressing transgender surgeries for minors, puberty blockers and school educational scholarships. Week 2 had two controversial bills pass all the way through both bodies and land on the governor’s desk, plus a discussion on celebrating Halloween on the last Friday of October.

Special election

Between the end of the second week and beginning of the third, the Democratic delegates in House District 31 held a special election to replace former Rep. Karen Kwan, who is now Sen. Karen Kwan, D-Salt Lake. Brett Garner won the election and was sworn in on Monday morning. His campaign website lists his involvement with politics and education, as well as his current career: stay-at-home dad. Congratulations to Garner, and good luck as you begin your service.

Education bills

Even though HB16, the educational scholarship and teacher pay bill, was signed into law on Saturday, education bills keep coming. HB209, a bill allowing students in “private, home, charter or online” schools to participate in sports outside the boundaries of their neighborhood school passed out of committee and passed the House. It is awaiting further action in the Senate. HJR3, a joint resolution recognizing Utah’s public school teachers for their “extraordinary efforts” passed out of committee and is on the House floor. HB270, legislation that would have prohibited cellphones and smart watches in Utah’s public school classrooms, failed in committee.

Water week

This week was designated “water week” on the Capitol Hill. However, no major water bills have been discussed in committee. When they are, those policies “will be a big policy and a big funding priority for us,” said Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville. Meanwhile, a bill requiring both public and privately owned golf courses to publish their annual water usage was tabled last week after it was opposed by the golf industry and members of the committee. Sponsor Rep. Douglas Welton, R-Payson, was accused of trying to “shame” golf courses. This week, freshman Sen. Nate Blouin, D-Salt Lake, tried to pass a resolution that would have given a target level for the Great Salt Lake, but it too was killed in committee.

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Speaking to the media at the end of “water week,” Wilson said that he was encouraged with the progress being made. Speaking to Blouin’s bill, he said “There’s nothing wrong with us having a target for the Great Salt Lake, but it can’t be done in isolation. That bill was not comprehensive in its approach to a broad perspective and understanding of water needs in the state.”

County sheriffs

Wilson and Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, are running a bill that would put the office of county sheriff on the next general election ballot so that the elected office would be enshrined and protected in the Utah Constitution. The resolution must pass by two-thirds of each body to be placed on the ballot.

Other bills

Other bills that passed committee this week include HB256, which would allow pregnant women to use the HOV lane; HB203, which makes it easier for inmates to receive a college education; and SB152, that would impose restrictions on social media companies who allow minors on their platform(s). The committee hearing for SB152 got a bit heated, as lawmakers took lobbyists to task over “peddling” a product they knew was harmful. “You are selling a product that is addicting in nature, and you build algorithms with a primary purpose of institutionalizing that addiction,” said Sen. Dan McCay, R-Salt Lake. “I would ask that you work with your clients to clean up your house. You have a problem.” There are additional bills regulating social media companies yet to be heard.

Finally, an important bill for our state’s youngest entrepreneurs. Sen. Jake Anderegg, L-Lehi, is sponsoring SB151, a bill that would exempt minors from rules that would require them to tell customers at their lemonade stand that their food is not officially licensed or certified by the state. When the weather finally warms up, they’ll be able to hawk their $1 cup of lemonade without being in violation of state law.

Holly Richardson is the editor of Utah Policy, a weekday newsletter about Utah politics, policies and politicos.