2021 Legislative Update: Week 5

February 15-20, 2021

Update: State Budget Revenues Announced

Legislative leadership announced revised budget revenues on Friday, February 19, setting the stage for building the state’s budget in the remaining two weeks of the legislative session. The Legislature will be working to allocate $205 million in ongoing funds and an unprecedented $1.3 billion in one-time funds.

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Legislation of Interest

HB 159, Higher Education Student Speech Rights by Rep. Jordan Teuscher —establishes a specific threshold that determines when student-on-student speech becomes harassment, as opposed to protected speech. Staff has worked with the legislative sponsor on a compromise that reduces legal liability to the institutions. The bill received the unanimous support of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee and awaits consideration of the full Senate.


HB 233, Education Immunization Modifications by Rep. Mark Strong — prohibits USHE institutions from requiring proof of vaccination as a condition to enroll. It also prohibits institutions from requiring a vaccine-exempt student to participate remotely rather than in-person. The bill was amended to allow exceptions for students training in clinical health settings; the bill passed the House and awaits further consideration by the Senate.


HB 278, Name Change Process for Dixie State University by Rep. Kelly Miles —establishes a process for the Dixie State University Board of Trustees and Utah Board of Higher Education to select and recommend a new name for the institution to the Legislature. The bill passed the House with a 51-20 vote and awaits committee assignment in the Senate.


HB 279, Higher Education for Incarcerated Youth by Rep. Lowry Snow — establishes a virtually-delivered Concurrent Enrollment program and accompanying advisory program at Dixie State University for students in certain custody situations. The bill passed the House and awaits committee assignment in the Senate. 


HB 302, Preserving Sports for Female Students by Rep. Kera Birkeland — requires schools to designate athletic activities by sex and prohibits a student of the male sex from participating in an athletic activity. The bill has been modified from its original draft removing higher education. However, the bill is similar to controversial bills that have been adopted in other states that have led to litigation in Idaho and Connecticut; this recent AP news story provides additional background. After a lengthy discussion, the bill passed the House and awaits consideration by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Governor Cox has said he won’t sign the bill as it’s currently written.


HB 318 (1st Sub), Higher Education Amendments by Rep. Melissa Ballard — clarifies and makes technical changes as required by SB 111 from the 2020 Legislative Session. It clarifies the roles of institutions and those of the Board of Higher Education; it revises the Board’s priorities and revises the procedures for presidential searches. The bill passed the House and awaits further consideration by the Senate. The Utah Board of Higher Education supports this legislation.


HB 327, School for Civics and Economic Thought and Leadership by Rep. Jefferson Burton — establishes the School for Civics and Economic Thought and Leadership at Utah Valley University, seeking an ongoing appropriation of $2 million. This bill passed the House Education Committee and awaits further consideration by the House.


HB 328, Adult Learners Grant Program by Rep. Lowry Snow — establishes a scholarship program for students over 26 years old, who demonstrate financial need and are enrolled in an entirely online certificate program in a field with industry need. This bill received unanimous support in the House and awaits further consideration in the Senate.


SB 136, Higher Education Scholarship Amendments by Rep. Derrin Owens — replaces the Regents’ Scholarship Program with the Opportunity Scholarship. It also extends opportunities for scholarships within technical education and forecloses new applications for the New Century Scholarship after this academic year. This legislation is in conjunction with the Board’s action in December 2020 to rename and simplify the state’s achievement-based scholarships. This bill received unanimous support in the Senate and awaits further consideration by the House. The Utah Board of Higher Education supports this legislation.


SB 163, Campus Safety Amendments by Sen. Jani Iwamoto — establishes a student-led Safety and Equity Commission appointed by institution student leadership, that makes recommendations to the Utah Board of Higher Education. The bill also clarifies reporting requirements of institution annual safety reports, along with additional requirements on how those reports are publicized. This bill awaits a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.


SB 193 (1st Sub), Higher Education Performance Funding by Sen. Ann Millner — modifies the current statute on performance funding by requiring the Board of Higher Education to establish five-year statewide goals in conjunction with 5-year goals the institutions set. State funding appropriations will be allocated to the institutions based on their performance in relation to these goals. The bill received the unanimous support of the Senate Education Committee and awaits consideration by the full Senate. The Utah Board of Higher Education supports this legislation.