2021 Utah Legislative Session Recap: Pandemic Bills, Film Incentives, Affordable Housing

Mar 8, 2021


Utah lawmakers wrapped up their 45-day session Friday.


After a rocky start to the legislative session with both a pandemic and the threat of possible protests. Lawmakers found their footing - working both on the hill and virtually. 

Two bills that received a lot of attention during the legislative session involved the pandemic. 

One of the bills would remove the mask mandate throughout Utah by April 10. Students would still be required to wear masks in schools until July 1. Senate Floor Sponsor Derrin Owens said the bill would set an endgame to the pandemic. 

"But this just shows...this is what success looks like, I believe," Owens said. "And it's a balancing of our lives and livelihood."

The bill passed both the House and Senate on the final day of the session. 

Another House and Senate approved bill concerning the pandemic would limit the governor’s and state and local health departments executive powers during public health emergencies.

Lawmakers also approved State Budgets that included $100 million in tax relief to families, veterans and residents who receive social security. They also passed $50 million dollars on affordable housing and a $475 million base budget for education including bonus checks for school teachers. 

Wasatch Back lawmakers had a number of bills in the legislature. 

Republican Sen. Ron Winterton represents Summit and Wasatch Counties. He sponsored the Film Economic Incentives Bill. It would add an additional $1.6 million to the funding for film industry tax credits. 

Summit County saw around $7 million of direct spending during season one and two of the popular TV show Yellowstone, which left Utah last year.  

Speaking during floor discussion Thursday, the House Sponsor Rep. Mike Kohler said the bill requested $10 million, but was later reduced to $8.3 million.

"We've recently had an issue where we've actually lost a film that was being filmed here, because we didn't have enough incentive," Kohler said. "This is post performance money, the money stays in Utah. When the request comes in after the money has been spent by the entity, it's reviewed by GOED {Governor's Office of Economic Development} to make sure the use is proper, and then it's paid after that."

The bill passed the legislature Thursday.

Summit County Rep. Kera Birkeland was sponsoring a bill, which would’ve banned trangender girls from playing on women’s sports teams in schools. 

While the bill barreled through the House, it stalled and ultimately died in the Senate. Gov. Spencer Cox said he would not have signed the bill the way it was written. 

One bill that passed the legislature creates an infrastructure bank for state authorities. Under the bill, the Military Installation Development Authority - known as MIDA would be able to use loans for future projects.  

A spokesperson for MIDA said they are using bonds to pay for the development of the Mayflower Resort. And at this time, MIDA is not receiving or asking for loans. 

A number of bills in the legislature were aimed at limiting the powers of local municipalities. 

There were two similar bills on billboard regulations. They would’ve allowed billboard companies to update and/or digitize boards regardless of local regulations. Both bills failed in the Senate

Another bill allows homeowners to build accessory dwelling units, opening the doors to basement apartments while regulating certain local restrictions.

The bill could address affordable housing issues throughout the state, but it doesn’t regulate Median Area Income. Concerns over short-term rentals were addressed in an adopted bill substitution, which passed the House Thursday.

Many bills now sit on the governor’s desk waiting for his app roval or veto.

The Legislative Report on KPCW is made possible, in part, by the law firm of Hoggan Lee Hutchinson at HLHParkCity.com.