The 2021 Utah Legislative Session is behind us, and while we await Governor Cox’s decisions about signing or vetoing bills, here is an update on some of the most significant legislative actions for Utah businesses.
The session was an impactful one – this year’s $23.5 billion budget is the largest in state history, with 502 bills passed that have the potential to become law.
We started this session with the priority that Utah businesses could spend the year focused on recovering from the impact of the pandemic and not adjusting to new or onerous regulations and burdens for business. We also wanted to keep our eye on the demands our growth will require for the future, and we are very pleased the legislature did just that. Further, with the unprecedented opportunities the new budget provides, the state has made some very strategic investments for the years ahead.
The following are highlights of the more significant legislative actions that will impact Utah businesses:
- H.B. 294, Pandemic Emergency Powers Amendments “Pandemic Endgame”(Rep. Ray), ends the statewide mask mandate on April 10th. Requirements can continue for gatherings of 50 or more people who can’t physically distance. Other orders and restrictions applying to businesses and events will expire upon the following:
- The state’s 14-day case rate falls below 191 per 100,000.
- No more than 15% of intensive care unit beds are filled with COVID-19 patients over a seven-day average.
- The federal government has allocated 1,633,000 first doses of the coronavirus vaccine to Utah.
- S.B. 195, Emergency Response Amendments (Sen. Vickers), places new parameters on the Governor’s emergency powers.
- S.B. 208, Medical Procedure Amendments, which would have prohibited private employers from mandating vaccines, was held in the Senate and did not pass. However, the legislature did approve H.B. 308, COVID-19 Vaccine Amendments (Rep. Spendlove), which prohibits state government from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Additionally, Sen. Kirk Cullimore passed S.B. 214, Official Language Amendments, which will allow government documents to be printed in languages other than English. The inability to do this was a significant barrier to COVID-19 information reaching minority communities – this will remove this barrier in all circumstances, not just during the pandemic.
- H.B. 217, Regulatory Sandbox Amendments Program (Rep. Maloy), creates a regulatory relief office within the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and creates the General Regulatory Sandbox Program to identify state laws or regulations that could be waived or suspended under the program.
- H.B. 80, Data Security Amendments (Rep. Brooks), creates an affirmative defense to causes of action arising out of a data breach involving personal information, for entities that implement a cyber security policy based on best practices.
- H.B. 348, Economic Development Amendments (Rep. Hawkes), rewrites Utah’s laws surrounding Economic Development and restructures the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). The bill changes the name of the GOED to the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (Go Utah Office). The bill makes changes to the structure of the office, including the creation of the Unified Economic Opportunity Commission, and restructures other existing GOED boards and commissions.
- S.B. 18, Property Tax Exemption Amendments (Sen. Harper), increases the tangible personal property exemption from $15,000 to $25,000.
- H.B. 86, Social Security Tax Amendments (Rep. Brooks), provides for an individual income tax credit for certain social security benefits.
- H.B. 161, Military Retirement Taxes Amendments (Rep. Pierucci), provides that a claimant who receives military retirement pay may claim a nonrefundable tax credit against taxes equal to the product of the income tax rate and the amount of military retirement pay that is included in adjusted gross income on the claimant’s federal income tax return for the taxable year.
Affordable Housing and Homelessness
- H.B. 82, Single-family Housing Modifications (Rep. Ward), requires municipalities and counties to allow for certain accessory dwelling units.
- S.B. 217, Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone Act (Sen. Harper), creates a new development tool called Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zones (HTRZ), which is designed to facilitate mixed-use, multi-family and affordable housing development within a 1/3-mile radius of FrontRunner stations.
- S.B. 164, Utah Housing Affordability Amendments (Sen. Anderegg), creates a process by which a municipality may grant real property that will be used for affordable housing.
- Expands the use of the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund for pre-development grants.
- Dedicates $800 for affordable housing programs.
- H.B. 347, Homeless Services Amendments (Rep. Ray), creates accountability to these efforts by designating a single person to direct and coordinate government services and programs. Additionally, the bill appropriates $50 million toward homelessness and affordable housing programs.
- H.B. 433, Amendments Related to Infrastructure Funding (Rep. Schultz), appropriates $1.1 billion in transportation infrastructure investment including over $300 million for transit. The bill funds infrastructure projects across the state including double-tracking sections of FrontRunner, a rail bridge project in Brigham City, bus rapid transit in the Salt Lake mid-valley area, environmental study at Point of the Mountain, expansion of trails and active transportation, and road improvements across the state.
To learn more about these bills and others and the impact they will have on your businesses, watch for a series of virtual Legislative Session Overviews in the coming weeks.
Salt Lake Chamber Policy Team