Rep. Christine Watkins stopped by the studio to talk about the recent Special Session of the State Legislature held on Wednesday, June 19. The legislature covered several bills during this session, including House Bill 3002, also known as the Public Lands Funding Amendments. The following is an overview of each item with Watkins describing each bill and its purpose.

What is a special session?

“Well, most of the time, we passed some bills during the session that, we thought we had everything correct in them and we had some things come up after the session that affected people and we need to change it now for things to be right and good for the state and the people that are in it.”

H.B. 3001 Amendments to the Statewide Online Education Program

H.B. 3001 changed the state’s online education, which Watkins explained, “What that was about is we have some foreign students who come to Utah and they take regular classes in high schools, they also do online. And by our state law that we changed with this, the students had to be with their parents to graduate. Well, they’re foreign students, they’re here, and their parents are in a different country. So what we had to do was change it so that the custodial parent could take that place.”

H.B. 3002 Public Lands Funding Amendments

“What it (H.B. 3002) would do was modify the provisions regarding the public lands litigation Restricted account and so we renamed it. It’s now going to be The federal overreach restricted account and then it consolidated the federal federalism-related funds from four separate accounts into that restricted account because over the years we’ve recreated all these little accounts and we needed to put them all together and it just makes life so much easier for everyone that’s working with them. And then we authorize the funds in the restricted account to be used for educating the public in matters relating to federalism or state sovereignty.”

H.B. 3003 School District Amendments

Although not very applicable to the Castle Valley Area schools, which are witnessing student population loss instead of growth, Watkins explained the purpose of this bill saying:

” It’s involving the Alpine school district. It’s huge. I mean, that’s an understatement to say that it’s huge. And we’ve had people trying to break off and create new districts. And the funny thing is the way the School district wanted to go about it. There would be people in the school district being able to vote for a change But other people would not because they were on the say the west side of the district and the people on the west side The district said whoa, whoa, whoa. No, we want to have a say in this and Because the school district was also saying let’s just split it into two districts well, we’re talking about some of the fastest growing areas in the state and As someone, one of the legislators explained to me, let’s just rip the bandage off this wound. We want to be proactive and we want to create three school districts. And they have it figured out.”

H.B. 3004 Energy Security Adjustments

This bill covered a hotly contested topic in the state, that being air quality control as well as the power plant in Delta, Utah. “This one created a decommissioned asset disposition authority. And now it’s authorized to submit comprehensive air permit application to the Utah Division of Air Quality, which is DAQ on behalf of a project entity.” Watkins expanded on this stating,” It also created a timeline for when they had to review it and this is all centered around our coal-powered Power plant in Delta. And so this was all relating to this and it also one of the fun things is it because Rep. Albrecht, who used to represent Emery County was a sponsor of this it repealed a bill that he did a couple of years ago because they found out it just really didn’t need to be there.”

H.B. 3005 Sunset and Repeal Date Code Corrections

This bill was mainly focused on fixing the technical aspects of a previous bill,” it made technical changes to create a standardized format for drafting sunset and repeal date provisions. And we do that all the time. We have a bill and we say, “we’re going to have a sunset at in five years or 10 years,” and then we look at it again, and then we decide whether we want to have at sunset or not.”

HCR & HJR 301

Both of these resolutions look to express the state sovereignty of Utah regarding recent changes to Title IX made on the federal level. Watkins explained the rationale behind this,” We’ve had the federal government come out and have directives that are really against what we chose to do as a state and so what we said was The federal directive that’s coming down if it violates the principles of our state sovereignty That we have the power and the right to because it’s reserved to us as a state under the 10th Amendment to say no.”

Watkins expressed this in Layman’s terms as well,” So what we’re saying is the federal government, we’re going to push back. We’re not going to do that. And if you don’t like it, you can sue us.”

How to Stay Informed

To stay up to date with the Utah State Legislature, you can visit their website here, which allows open access to view every bill that has passed, or is currently making its way through the government. You can also find this information on the Legislature’s Facebook page.