After some haggling and much consternation, a bill reiterating Utah’s sovereignty in light of federal government actions arrived on the desk of Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. The governor signed it Wednesday evening.

SB57, sponsored by Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, was carried in the House by Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, a member of the state’s federalism commission who also entrenches himself in the U.S. Constitution and principles contained in the Federalist Papers.

On Tuesday he had this to say about SB57: “I believe perhaps this is one of the more important things we will be doing this session,” Ivory said. “What Senate Bill 57 does is it simply provides a mechanism that we can continue to maintain that balance in this governing partnership. We all know that the governing machine has been wanting for maintenance for a while and this provides that ability for us to do that.”

By governing machine, Ivory means the federal government.

Here are a few takeaways on why SB57 matters to conservatives and why some Democrats have concerns:

Autonomy: The measure provides the process by which if a federal law, policy, rule or action is deemed objectionable, Utah can step away and not put that action into play. One example would be the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “good neighbor” rule in which states are being forced to curtail ozone emissions to cut down on pollution that makes it to neighboring states.

The rule affects Utah and 22 other states by mandating the reduction of that drift.

In June, the state filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the rule, vowing to fight it due to the ramifications it would bring, including what Utah argues is the premature closure of coal-fired power plants because of costly upgrades that would only shave a small slice of emissions.

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 Pushback: In the case of the ozone transport rule, Utah could simply fail to take any action until the issue works its way through the court system. Such inaction would require a vote by two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, resulting in concurrent resolution expressing Utah’s stand on the issue.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, urged a no vote among his colleagues.

“This bill pretty clearly simply says we the states have more capacity and power and authority than in fact the U.S. Constitution gives to us,” he said. “It’s more of a stick your thumb in the eye of the federal government bill. It’s not something that I think is well-founded.”

Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, voiced his support of the bill.

“We have a lot of issues in Utah that we cannot solve without this bill. And I think it’s a good bill and I think we should all get behind it.”

Ivory added that without proper balance between the states and the federal government, “The liberty of people is in jeopardy.”

Countering overreach: There’s no love lost between the federal government and Utah if you look at the 50,000-foot view of actions that the state constantly fights against.

Monument designations. Mineral withdrawals. Recreational travel plans. Emission controls. DEI. What constitutes a water body and what does not?

What happens if a concurrent resolution kicks in?

Under SB57, if a concurrent resolution is adopted by the Utah Legislature by a two-thirds majority, and signed by the governor, it prevents a government officer from following a federal directive if it is deemed to run contrary to state sovereignty and within the purview of the 10th Amendment. That amendment grants powers to the states that have not been expressly granted to the federal government and is a cornerstone of the ongoing fight between Texas and the Biden administration over border security, as an example.

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Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said the bill is asking for a fight. He conceded the tension and ongoing fights Utah has had with the federal government, but he emphasized he does not think SB57 is the way to solve it.

“This bill goes further than anything I have seen in my time here whereby it provides a mechanism by which the state could prevent a federal agent from fulfilling a federal act,” he said. “And I’m not convinced that as satisfying as that may be for some people that this is in the best interest for us in the state of Utah.”