Session’s end looms, dozens of education bills still in play

This is the last week of the legislative session, which ends Thursday at the stroke of midnight. And this means lawmakers are working at a frenzied pace to finish before time runs out.

While the State Board of Education was meeting last week, the Utah Legislature churned out votes on more than thirty of the bills UtahPublicEducation.org is watching this session. Some of these came back from the Rules Committee after being defeated, held or overlooked in committee. In total, the Utah Legislature took action on 32 bills in total on Thursday and Friday, including:

  • H.B. 72 Taxes and Related School Funding Provisions Amendments, by Rep. Mike Noel (R-Kanab), was sent to the Rules Committee on Friday with an amendment and then sent back to the House Reading Calendar. The bill increases the state sales and use tax rate on food and food ingredients and deposits this revenue into a fund for school equalization.
  • H.B. 98 Capital Outlay Funding Modifications, by Rep. Christine Watkins (D-Price), was returned to the Rules Committee yesterday. The bill allows small school districts to use money set aside for construction costs for maintenance and operations of school facilities. H.B. 98 had passed the Utah House on a 50-24 vote and was on the Senate Education Committee agenda on Monday but wasn’t considered. Being sent to Rules can signal a piece of legislation has hit a dead-end for the session.
  • H.B. 111 Full-day Kindergarten, by Rep. Johnny Anderson (R-Taylorsville), was sent to the Rules Committee yesterday after being held in the House Education Committee last month and failing to get another hearing. The bill defines full-day kindergarten as two repeated sessions of half-day kindergarten taken concurrently in the same day.
  • H.B. 138 Federal Receipts Reporting Requirements, by Rep. Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan), was sent to the Rules Committee after passing the Utah House with a 68-7 vote.  The bill requires state agencies to report the amount of federal funds they receive and to draft a plan for operating with 25 percent less federal funds.
  • H.B. 151 Compulsory Education Amendments, by Rep. Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City), was sent back to the Rules Committee after being held in the House Education Committee last month. The bill would have lowered the age when students must attend school from six to five.
  • H.B. 166  School District Property Tax Amendments, by Rep. Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City), was sent to Rules last week but returned to the House Reading Calendar on Friday. The bill failed to get a hearing in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. It allows a school district to increase its voted leeway property tax rate from a maximum rate of .002 per dollar of taxable value to a rate of .003 per dollar of taxable value.
  • H.B. 170 Tobacco and Nicotine Product Amendments, by Rep. Paul Ray (R-Clearfield), was sent to the Rules Committee on Thursday and sent back to the House Reading Calendar on Friday. The bill sets new regulations for certain tobacco products, including requiring the state’s public education system to adopt rules relating to these products.
  • H.B. 172 Service Animal Amendments, by Keith Grover (R-Provo), passed the Utah Senate on Thursday with unanimous support. The bill now heads to the Governor for consideration. The bill redefines “service animal” to follow the federal definition, which essentially limits these to trained dogs.
  • H.B. 181 Child Care Amendments, by Rep. Brad Galvez (R-West Haven), was returned to the Rules Committee on Thursday after failing to get a hearing in the House Business and Labor Committee. On Friday, it was put on the House Reading Calendar to wait in line for a vote of the full House. The bill bars day cares in schools, except for those that serve children of students or employees or if the course is used in connection with a child development course.
  • H.B. 183 School District Leave Policies, by Rep. Keith Grover (R-Provo), passed its first vote in the Utah Senate on Thursday with a 15-4 vote. It was amended in that body on Friday and then passed with a 16-8 vote. The bill prohibits a school board from offering paid association leave for teachers who leave the classroom to conduct union business. The amendment would allow this if the business being conducted directly benefits the school district. This morning, the House refused to concur with these changes and asked the Senate to recede from the amendment.
  • H.B. 253 Sub. 1 Employment of Unauthorized Aliens, by Rep. Chris Herrod (R-Provo), was sent to the Rules Committee after the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee held last week. The bill passed out of the Utah House last month. It requires the leaders of government entities, including school districts, to verify in writing all employees have had their legal status verified and outlines penalties, among other provisions relating to undocumented workers. This is a new bill added to our watch list, though it was first made public in January.
  • H.B. 284 Guardianship Amendments, by Kraig Powell (R-Heber City), was amended in the House Rules Committee after failing to pass out of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The bill originally eliminated a local school board’s ability to designate guardians for students in their districts. The amendment strikes this language.
  • H.B. 288 Concurrent Enrollment Transcripts, by Rep. Ronda Rudd Menlove (R-Garland), passed the Utah House with unanimous support on Friday. The bill requires the State Board of Education and the State board of Regents to coordinate advising for concurrent enrollment students and requires the Board of Regents to create transcripts for them. It may now head to the Senate for consideration.
  • H.B. 301 School District Property Tax Revisions, by Rep. Merlynn Newbold (R-South Jordan), passed the Utah House in a narrow 39-31 vote on Thursday. The bill may now head to the Utah Senate for consideration. The bill consolidates certain property taxes school districts levy.
  • H.B. 315 Accepting Federal Funds Amendments, by Rep. Ken Sumsion (R-American Fork), was plucked from the Rules Committee and placed back on the House Reading Calendar on Friday. The bill requires a state review of all federal funds requests of more than $50,000. It was held in the House Government Operations Committee last Monday.
  • H.B. 341 Interview of a Child Not in Protective or Legal State Custody, by Rep. Michael Morley (R-Spanish Fork), was returned to the Rules Committee by the House Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday. Despite this, it was placed on the House Reading Calendar on Friday. The bill prohibits an educator, school district, or public school from making a child who is not in the protective custody or court-ordered legal custody of the Division of Child and Family Services available for an interview by a law enforcement officer, among other changes.
  • H.B. 367 Utah Schools Seismic Hazard Inventory, by Rep. Larry Wiley (D-West Valley City), was returned to Rules on Thursday and then placed on the House Reading Calendar. It had failed to get a hearing in the House Business and Labor Committee. The bill requires school districts and charter schools to evaluate the seismic safety of their facilities.
  • H.B. 388 Operation and Management of Charter Schools, by Rep. Chris Herrod (R-Provo), passed the Utah House on Friday with a 49-23 vote. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. It prohibits a chartering entity from imposing performance standards that would limit a charter school from accomplishing the purposes of charter schools and requires neither the chartering entity nor the state to be liable for the debts or financial obligations of the charter school, among other provisions.
  • H.B. 421 Sub. 1 Use of Public Buildings for Political Caucus Meetings, by Rep. Derek Brown (R-Salt Lake City), was substituted, again, on the House floor on Friday, and then passed unanimously. The bill requires school districts and other local governing bodies to allow political parties to use their facilities.
  • H.B. 423 Public School Seismic Safety Committee, by Rep. Larry Wiley (D-West Valley City), was sent to the House Reading Calendar on Friday after being sent to rules by the House Business and Labor Committee when it failed to pass out of the committee earlier in the week. The bill creates a committee to review and make recommendations about public school seismic safety issues. 
  • H.J.R. 1 Joint Resolution Amending State and Local Taxing Authority, by Rep. Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman), was amended in the Rules Committee on Friday and placed on the House Reading Calendar. The resolution failed to pass out of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on a split vote in January. The resolution seeks a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote for all tax increases. The amendment exempts public bodies that have five or fewer members.
  • H.J.R. 3 Joint Resolution Promoting Healthy and Energy Efficient Schools, by Rep. Mark Wheatley (R-Murray), is also back after being sent to the Rules Committee on Thursday. The resolution was substituted and is now on the House Reading Calendar. It was held in the House Education Committee in early February. The resolution encourages the State Board of Education and Utah’s school districts to promote healthier and energy efficient schools. The substitute eliminates language in the original referring to environmental quality, climate and energy challenges and health benefits of improved air quality, among other changes.
  • H.J.R. 37 Joint Resolution on State Spending Limitations, by Rep. Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman), is new to our watch list, though it was made public in late February. The resolution was sent to Rules last week after passing out of the House Government Operations Committee last Monday on a 6-4 vote. The resolution seeks a constitutional amendment to limit state spending by government agencies to the current levels as adjusted for inflation and growth. The State Board opposes this resolution.
  • S.B. 59 School Grading System, by Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (R-Sandy), was substituted on Friday and passed its first Senate vote 18-8. The bill creates a grading system for the state’s public schools. The substitute addresses several concerns expressed during the initial vetting of the bill. The substitute adds college and career readiness to the original bill’s grading system, based on the performance of a school’s students on statewide assessments and the graduation rate for high schools. The substitute also removes language that would have based the grades on the lowest 25 percent of students and graded schools on a curve. It also allows the State Board to model the system this year before it goes into effect. Today, the Senate gave final approval to the substitute in a 17-10 vote. It now heads to the House.
  • S.B. 63 K-3 Reading Improvement Program Accountability, by Rep. Karen Morgan (D-Salt Lake City), was sent to the House Reading Calendar after it landed in the Rules Committee when it failed to get a House Education Committee hearing. The bill outlines how K-3 Reading Improvement Program funds may be used and requires the State Board to report to the legislature how school districts and charters are using the money. It has already passed the Utah Senate.
  • S.B. 97 Higher Education Mission Based Funding, by Sen. Steve Urquhart (R-St. George), was sent to the House Reading Calendar after a fiscal note was released on the bill. It had previously been sent to the Rules Committee after failing to get a hearing in the House Education Committee. The bill already passed the Utah Senate. It requires the president of each institution of higher education to establish institutional initiatives each year aligned with the Board of Regent’s strategic priorities and allocate mission based funding to each initiative.
  • S.B. 140 State Charter School Board Amendments, by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), was placed on the House Reading Calendar on Friday after being sent to the Rules Committee when it failed to get a hearing in the House Education Committee. The bill requires three of the seven-member State Charter School Board to be nominated by an association representing Utah charters. The bill passed out of the Senate unanimously.
  • S.B. 217 Education Policy Amendments, by Sen. Curt Bramble (R-Provo), passed out of the Senate with unanimous support on Friday. The bill heads to the House next. It requires schools that receive Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program funds to provide matching funds, and makes other amendments.
  • S.B. 238 Verification of Employment Status, by Sen. David Hinkins (R-Orangeville), is a new bill to our watch list, though it’s been public since mid-February. The bill has already passed the Utah Senate and is currently on the House Reading Calendar. It modifies the provision related to status verification of public employers and government contractors to require certification of compliance.
  • S.B. 263 State Board of Education Powers Amendments, by Sen. Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan), passed its first vote in the Senate 16-7 on Friday. The bill has the support of the State Board of Education. It reasserts the Board’s governance of public education. It faces another Senate vote before it can move forward to the House.
  • S.B. 304 Preventing Bullying and Hazing in Elementary and Secondary Schools, by Sen. Ralph Okerlund (R-Monroe), passed the Senate Education Committee with unanimous support on Thursday. It is now waiting for a vote on the floor of the Senate. S.B. 304 bans employees and students of school districts from engaging in bullying, hazing, harassment or cyber-bullying.  
  • S.B. 305 Economic Development Through Education / Career Alignment, by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), is another new bill on our list. It was made public early last week and passed the Senate Education Committee the next day with unanimous support. It is currently on the Senate Reading Calendar. The bill establishes a $600,000 web-based education and career counseling program through the Utah Education Network, similar to the popular UtahFutures.org.

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