Lawmakers Gear Up For Special COVID-19 Session

Apr 15, 2020

For the first time ever, state legislators will not be meeting at the state Capitol for a special session.

The Utah Legislature is convening a special session this week to deal with some pressing issues regarding the impacts the COVID-19 outbreak has had on the state budget and education.

The Legislature will convene in its first-ever virtual session to reexamine the state budget and address issues to meet state needs arising from the COVID-19 outbreak on Thursday morning at 9 a.m.

State Rep. Tim Quinn (R-Heber City) says the full house did a dry run on Monday with the new technology that will allow lawmakers to see one another and the Speaker of the House as each piece of legislation is discussed and voted on.

“There will be a way for us, in real time while we're in session, reading comments and statements and concerns and opinions about each piece of legislation from our constituents as we’re there in the special session,” Quinn said.

He says the public will also be able to comment on each piece of legislation, and lawmakers will be able to electronically raise their hand for floor time.

The governor has put lawmakers on notice that the special session could last as many as 10 days -- the legal limit for a special session. Quinn says he’s already planned to be in session through at least Friday.

The special session has a number of issues for lawmakers to consider – 21 of them – and include everything from accepting federal funding to passing a resolution urging state and local governments to exercise fiscal responsibility with their budgets.

Even though lawmakers just spent 45 days earlier this year piecing together a budget for next fiscal year, Quinn expects several amendments.

“No one expected what we’re in, where it’s my understanding we could be as much as a billion and a half dollars off from the revenue side,” Quinn said.  “Not only that, but we moved in accordance with the federal move from April 15th July 15th filing date. So many people pay their taxes when they file, so there's a three- month window there that we go without revenue that we normally would have. So yeah, there's a lot from a budgetary standpoint that's going to have to be done in the budget would be drastically changed.  And departments both state and local will be asked to tighten your belt through this pandemic until we come out and our economy is healthy and strong again. So yeah there's a lot of moving parts to this I think that's why they said 10 days is a possibility.”

Lawmakers will also consider a number of issues dealing with education - such as waiving the requirement for year-end statewide testing, granting a waiver for seniors who must pass a civics test as a condition for  their graduation and addressing the existing requirement that educator evaluations be conducted.

Proposed legislation will be made publicly available online in advance. Quinn says he’s already received some input from a couple of constituents and encourages others if they have something to say – to call or email him.

Citizens can also comment on specific legislation at le.utah.gov. Floor proceedings will be streamed on the legislative website and broadcast on television on KUEN channel 9.2.

The state Capitol is currently only open for official business to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. There will be limited staff at the Capitol with a presiding officer for each chamber. Senate and House members will meet at different times.