Lawmakers call special session to cope with coronavirus

A woman walks past the Utah State Capitol Monday, April 13, 2020, in Salt Lake City. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is extending his voluntary directive telling people to stay home except for essential errands through the end of April. He is also encouraging people to wear masks when at stores and other businesses to prevent the spread of the virus. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Legislature will hold a special session to address the coronavirus crisis starting Thursday.

The gathering announced late Monday will be held remotely for the first time to avoid possibly spreading the virus that has already infected one lawmaker. Democratic Sen. Luz Escamilla has since recovered.

Legislators will re-examine the state budget amid widespread economic fallout from business shutdowns implemented to halt the spread of the virus, which causes flu-like symptoms that most people recover from but can be fatal. Eighteen people have died in Utah so far.

Other issues on the agenda include ensuring access to medication, preparing for the June primary election and extending the state income tax deadline.

Special sessions typically last one day, but this one could continue up to 10 days. “We are navigating uncharted territory as a state and as a nation,” said Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson said, but the state has a robust rainy-day fund that will help get through the crisis.

Committee hearings will not be available remotely yet, but legislation will appear only ahead of time and people can send feedback through the state website.

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This story corrects that lawmakers will consider extending the income-tax deadline, not the sales tax deadline.

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