The Utah State Legislature recently wrapped up the 2023 session with the unofficial theme of “Preparing Utah for Growth.” Over 45 days, the Legislature tackled the difficult job of prioritizing a budget and passing bills focused on issues related to Utah’s growing population. The Chamber policy team worked tirelessly to advocate for policies promoting a healthy business environment and strong communities across the state.
WHAT WE DID FOR YOU:
We engaged with legislators, testified in committee hearings, and provided research and analysis to help inform policy decisions. Our goal was to ensure that Utah is well-positioned to meet the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly growing population and economy.
The following summary represents some of the legislative actions business leaders should be aware of from this session. You can also visit the Chamber’s legislative watchlist for a larger view of our advocacy efforts on behalf of the business community.
WHAT WE PRIORITIZED:
Our policy team worked on initiatives to increase access to affordable housing for Utah’s growing population. We supported policies that incentivize affordable housing development, streamline the permitting process, and address barriers to affordable homeownership. Jobs = Housing AND Housing = Jobs.
- HB 364, Housing Affordability Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Whyte, was passed. This bill makes several changes to the Moderate Income Housing Plan processes. Most notably, it creates an appeal board for cities that are in noncompliance, and also increases the aggregate amount of low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) to be allocated.
- SB 174, Local Land Use and Development Revisions, sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, was passed. This bill assesses a fee to a municipality that has not submitted a Moderate Income Housing Plan, or whose plan is not in compliance, and includes a garage as an Internal Accessory Dwelling Unit (IADU) if it shares a wall with the primary residence.
We advocated for additional funding for deeply affordable housing in conjunction with wraparound services that build on recent progress to better mitigate homelessness.
- HB 499, Homeless Services Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, was passed. The bill requires the Utah Department of Health and Human Services to initiate a Code Blue Alert when there are weather events that would pose a danger to individuals experiencing homelessness. In addition, the bill prohibits municipalities from receiving funds if they do not prohibit camping (unless all shelters are at capacity) and directs certain counties to convene a winter response task force to prepare a plan for the Office of Homelessness Services.
Our team advocated for policies that support workforce development and training initiatives, including funding for apprenticeship programs and increased support for career and technical education.
- HB 555, Talent Ready Utah Program Modifications, sponsored by Jefferson Moss, was passed. This bill creates an appointed apprenticeship intermediary position to foster relationships between the Talent Ready Utah Program, LEAs, and industry partners. It also allows for liability and workers’ compensation coverage by the state for high school students who are being compensated while in a youth internship or apprenticeship program.
We pushed for increased funding for transportation infrastructure to help support the growing needs of Utah’s businesses and workforce.
- SB 125, Transportation Infrastructure Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Chris Wilson, was passed. This bill designates the ASPIRE Engineering Research Center at Utah State University as a research center for strategic planning of the electrification of transportation infrastructure in the state.
- SB 185, Transportation Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Harper, was passed. This bill creates the Active Transportation Investment Fund (ATIF), which will provide an ongoing, stable funding source for the Utah Trails Network proposed by the Utah Department of Transportation and Governor Cox.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & BUSINESS
Our team advocated for increased innovation in Utah. We supported incentives that promote research and development to keep the state moving forward as an innovation leader.
- HB 42, Technology Commercialization Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Jeffrey Stenquist, was passed. This bill creates the Utah Innovation Lab and provides for the innovation lab’s powers and purposes. It also requires the innovation lab to organize and administer the Utah innovation fund for the purpose of investing in businesses developed in the state through technology commercialization.
- HB 216, Business and Chancery Court Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Brady Brammer, was passed. This bill establishes a separate court for business litigation throughout Utah, and has jurisdiction over cases seeking monetary damages over $300,000 and other various disputes.
We also opposed HB 407, Incentives Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Kay Christofferson, which failed to pass out of committee. The Chamber opposed this legislation because incentives encourage businesses to invest in developing new products, technologies, and processes, which can lead to breakthroughs and advancements that drive economic growth. This bill would have directed state agencies to disclose to the State Tax Commission all tax credits that the agency issues, to whom they are issued, and how much each credit is for.
We advocated for a free market-based health care system that maximizes employers’ ability to offer affordable, high-value health care coverage to employees and their families. Therefore, we opposed SB 184, Prescription Cost Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, which failed to pass out of committee. This bill would have allowed any cost paid on behalf of a health care plan enrollee to be counted toward their cost-sharing requirement, and for vouchers and coupons to be applied to a deductible. The Chamber opposed this bill since business insurance premiums could be impacted, which would result in cost redistribution rather than real cost reduction.
ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL & GOVERNANCE (ESG)
The Chamber opposes federal overreach and supports local control with businesses putting economic return at the heart of decision-making processes. The policy team focused efforts on anti-ESG legislation, specifically SB 97, Public Contract Requirements, sponsored by Sen. Chris Wilson, which requires a company that seeks a contract with a public entity to self-certify that they are not engaging in an economic boycott. We initially opposed the bill, but worked on language changes with the sponsor, then took a neutral position.
WE ARE NOT DONE:
While we are pleased with the progress made during the session, we recognize that many important business items were pushed to interim as study items. We will continue to monitor these items and form working groups to help inform the legislature on the needs of businesses. These working groups will include:
- Prescription drug costs and the impacts on individuals and businesses.
- Incentives and the impacts on Utah and business recruitment.
- Workforce development connectivity to the bills passed that create apprenticeships and work-to-learn programs.
- Diversity and inclusion programs offered at higher education institutions and their impacts on the business community.
If you would like to be part of these working groups, please let us know. Your input and feedback are invaluable as we work to promote a strong business environment in Utah.
Additionally, if you have any questions about our policy work or want to get involved in our advocacy efforts, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We look forward to continuing to work on your behalf in the months and years ahead.