LOGAN – The Utah State Legislature adjourned the 2020 session late Thursday night after 45-days. They passed more than 500 bills, rejected hundreds more and proposed changes to the Utah Constitution.
Legislators, including Sen Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, are proposing a constitutional amendment that would fundamentally change how education is funded in Utah, pending voter approval in November.
“It’s a big and important thing,” Hillyard said after helping to negotiate a deal with leaders of the Utah Education Association and other education constituencies.
SJR9 would expand the earmark on income taxes for education to include services for children and people with disabilities. It could free up as much as $650 million to spend on other essential government services.
“We have never fully funded both higher and public education with income tax alone,” he stated. “We’ve had to put in property tax, alcohol tax, general funds and sales tax…so it ties our flexibility down to be able to adjust in the income tax.”
Rep. Casey Snider, R-District 5, said everyone who worked on that bill should be happy and proud of what they accomplished.
“I think that’s a pretty fundamental shift,” Snider said. “It isn’t a complete solution of our structural problem, but it’s a pretty good solution. I think it’s a balanced solution that’s going to protect education and allow the state the latitude it needs moving forward.”
Hillyard also was able to secure millions in funding to aid in higher education projects in Logan.
About $40 million in funding has been set aside for a new health science building at Bridgerland Technical College that will, among other things, offer a nursing program.
“We have more senior service centers and more living centers in Cache Valley that need these kind of nurses, so that makes me really happy,” he said.
Money was also allocated for a science building and a veterinary lab at Utah State University, according to the Senator.
There were a number of education-related bills approved this year, including HB222 co-sponsored by Hillyard and Rep. Dan Johnson, R-District 4.
The bill, which got off to a rocky start, was tweaked a number of times and finally approved. It will expand alternative school breakfast programs in Utah schools.
A bill that would make it a crime to explicitly threaten a school, whether that threat is real or fake, reached final passage in the Utah Senate late Thursday by a vote of 25-0.
Several education bills failed to pass the legislature, including one that would require substitute teachers to undergo sensitivity training.
A bill to require water in schools be tested regularly for lead failed to pass the legislature by a narrow 34-33 vote.
A bill to make kindergarten attendance mandatory failed to pass the House.