Utah State Legislature update: abortion and transgender rights

Reading Time: 2 minutes Utah’s Legislative Session concludes its third week with failed passages during “water week,” but action in education reforms.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

With week three of Utah’s 2023 legislation session wrapping up, several new bills have been passed and a few issues are yet to be discussed. 

So far, there have been clauses added to Resolution HJR-2. There is talk about whether or not House members can overturn the decision made by Third District Court Judge Andrew Stone last July. His ruling preserved select rights for those seeking abortions. 

HB-256 allows pregnant women to use the HOV lane – which has been associated with anti-abortion agendas in the past as lawmakers struggle to define the rights of an unborn fetus and whether or not it is considered its own individual. 

Transgender rights were also a hot topic in this year’s Legislature Session. Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill that prevents youth who have not been formally diagnosed with gender dysphoria from getting gender-reassignment surgeries or using hormone treatments. 

Week three of Utah’s Legislature Session was dubbed “The Water Week,” where one bill instituted new requirements for public and private golf courses to publish their annual water usage. Deseret News reports that this new bill is unfavorable for the golf industry and led Sponsor Rep. Douglas Welton, R-Payson, to be accused of “shaming” golf courses

Freshman Sen. Nate Blouin, D-Salt Lake City, failed to pass Resolution  S.C.R. 6, which would provide goals for the preservation and rehabilitation of the Great Salt Lake’s water levels. 

Education has seen major actions in this year’s Legislature Session. Several education bills have been passed, HB-16 is a law addressing educational scholarship and teacher pay. It has been signed into law by Gov. Cox.  

HB-209 made it through the committee and the House. The bill, which is now in the hands of the Senate, would allow students to participate in sports outside their neighborhood boundaries.

Joint resolution HJR-3, which recognizes school teachers, has passed through the committee and is on the House floor. 

Bill HB-270 would have prohibited the use of cellphones and smartwatches in the classroom, but it was killed in committee.  

Several other “miscellaneous” bills cleared the committee this week. Sponsored by Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, bill SB-151 will no longer require minors to disclose that their lemonade stand or bake sale goodies are not officially licensed by the state. HB-203 will make it easier for inmates to acquire a college education. 

Finally, bill SB-152 has been deemed controversial. The bill would place new restrictions on social media platforms that are open to minors. Deseret News reports that Sen. Dan McCay, R-Salt Lake is a big proponent of this legislation. McCay is against “selling a product that is addictive in nature,” and accused social media companies of “ institutionalizing addiction” through personalized algorithms. 

For more information on the legislature and its happenings, visit their website.