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Special legislative session set for Thursday

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The Capitol in Salt Lake City is pictured on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — As expected, Utah lawmakers are calling themselves into this year’s sixth special legislative session Thursday, where they’ll consider 22 items largely centered around the COVID-19 pandemic including changes to the November election and continuing to adjust the state budget.

The session is set to start at 10 a.m. Thursday and can be viewed via the Utah Legislature’s website, le.utah.gov, or on KUEN channel 9.2 and Comcast 388 (Senate), and KUEN 9.3 Comcast 387 (House). The Capitol remains closed to the public due to health concerns.

Lawmakers will have the option to attend in person or virtually, as will members of the news media. The public can participate remotely in committee hearings being held earlier in the week by registering onlineat least 12 hours in advance.

Legislative leaders said the session is necessary because of the coronavirus crisis.

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said the state “is taking calculated steps to continue its trajectory toward economic recovery while protecting individuals’ well-being,” while House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said the “focus is primarily on adapting to ever-changing circumstances” to help businesses and families.

Their agenda ranges from permitting those in care facilities and unable to receive visitors to sign wills electronically, to addressing the modification of jail sentences during a health crisis, to deciding whether to extend Gov. Gary Herbert’s emergency orders related to the pandemic.

Also to be dealt with is allocating some $150 million in federal relief funds, as well as making some fixes to what is now a $19.2 billion state budget after some $800 million in cuts, while dealing with education issues that have arisen during the pandemic such as increased enrollment in online schools.

Changes put in place for the June 30 primary election are expected to be relaxed somewhat in November. Utah has had universal vote-by-mail elections for a number of years, but eliminated all in-person voting options for the primary.