Week 2 Legislative Recap: Education Program, Tax Cuts and Golden Eagle

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It’s the end of week two in the Utah Legislature and lawmakers have voted on everything from the curriculum to taxes to the golden eagle.

political journalist KUER and State Street podcast co-host Sonja Hutson joined host Caroline Ballard to break it all down.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Caroline Ballard: Let’s dive right into what was probably the most controversial bill debated this week. It offers more control over the materials teachers use in the classroom. Tell us about the proposal and where it came from.

Sonja Hutson: This bill [S.B. 114] would require teaching materials to be pre-approved by local school boards. It is sponsored by the same senator who sponsored a resolution in May on critical race theory. It is Republican Lincoln Fillmore. And parents worry that CRT – critical race theory – will seep into their children’s classrooms, even if it’s not part of the curriculum.

On the other side, you have teachers who fear that this proposal will create even more layers of bureaucracy at a time when they are already overstretched. This bill left the committee Thursday.

And another controversial bill [H.B. 234] that would give parents even more control was featured earlier this session. But the Republican sponsor, Rep. Jordan Teuscher, withdrew that bill today, and he’ll spend some more time working on it outside of session.

CB: Senate Speaker Stuart Adams said [that] it’s the year of the tax cut, just like it did last year. We have had movement on this proposal this week. Tell us what happened.

SH: We definitely have a bit of deja vu. It already feels like we’ve been through the same year over and over again and I guess it’s the same when it comes to taxes.

But back to that proposal, there were a bunch of different income and corporate tax bills that were introduced this year. But the chosen one [S.B. 59] seems to be this proposal to reduce the income tax rate by 0.1%. So for a family of four earning the state median income, which is about $72,000 a year, they would have an extra $100 a year in their pocket. In total, it would cost the state about $160 million.

Audience feedback was quite mixed during the committee hearing. Some people were saying that the state could afford an even bigger cut and that it should accept a bigger cut. Other people said the money would be better spent on social services.

This bill was passed Friday in the Senate. It has yet to be approved by the House, but House Speaker Brad Wilson says they’ll likely add to that with some additional tax cuts for low-income people and retirees, but they’re still working on it. details about it. .

CB: Speaking of already seen legislation, we also saw a police reform bill that failed last year be resurrected. What was it ?

SH: This offer [H.B. 124] deals with “no-knock” warrants and what are known as “knock and announce” warrants. This bill places a bunch of parameters on how these warrants can be executed.

For example, it prohibits no-knock warrants if police are investigating misdemeanor charges. Officers should also wear clothing that easily identifies them as police officers. The bill also says it’s best for law enforcement to execute these warrants before 10 p.m.

Black Lives Matter Utah supports this bill. They say it could prevent a situation like what happened to Breonna Taylor. She was killed by Kentucky police in 2020 when they used a no-knock warrant to enter her home in the middle of the night.

This bill passed unanimously at its first committee hearing.

CB: Why is this bill gaining traction this year when it failed last year?

SH: The big sticking point last year, which they removed this year, was the requirement for officers to wait 30 seconds before entering the house when serving a “knock and announce” warrant. Now it says they just have to wait a “reasonable” amount of time.

CB: We always like to end them with a fun piece of legislation, because we all deserve it on a Friday afternoon. Tell us about the highly controversial bird legislation.

SH: This bill [S.B. 116] would make the golden eagle Utah’s bird of prey. Now don’t worry, that wouldn’t replace the California gull as a state bird. It’s just add another status symbol.

Bill’s sponsor says gulls are a really important symbol for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But you know, not all Utahns are members of the Church, and that’s not part of all Utahns’ heritage. I think this is all the more relevant as the state becomes less and less LDS – if current trends continue. We see a bit of inclusivity through state symbols here.

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