Jan 3, 2024 - Politics

What we're watching: 2024 Utah legislative session

Illustration of the Utah State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Utah Legislature is back in session on Jan. 16.

Why it matters: The legislation lawmakers prioritize for the 45-day stretch could impact Utahns for decades to come.

Here's what we're paying attention to in the new year:

1. Increasing housing stock

Boosting the state's housing inventory is a priority for lawmakers this year.

Why it matters: Utah's critical housing shortage has not kept up with increasing demand, preventing young people from their dreams of homeownership.

The latest: Gov. Spencer Cox's proposed budget calls for a $150 million investment to build 25,000 starter homes by 2028.

2. Amending social media restrictions for minors

Lawmakers are anticipated to make changes to a pending state law that would prohibit minors from using social media platforms without parental consent.

Details: Utah's age-verification law is set to take effect March 1 and a trade group representing social media giants, including Meta and TikTok, is putting up a legal fight.

Zoom out: A federal judge temporarily blocked a similar law from taking effect in Arkansas last August, saying the measure infringed on the free speech rights of minors and adults.

  • Of note: Cox's budget proposal includes about $1 million to defend the social media law against a lawsuit.

3. Targeting DEI in higher education

Utah Republicans are expected to revisit diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices in Utah colleges and universities.

The big picture: Such initiatives are intended to close college attainment gaps among historically marginalized groups.

Yes, but: DEI programs have become a lightning rod issue for conservatives, particularly in Florida, which banned universities from spending public dollars on such initiatives in 2023.

Flashback: Last year, state Sen. John Johnson (R-Ogden) introduced a bill that would prohibit the funding of DEI offices in Utah colleges.

The latest: Cox last month criticized DEI programs in colleges for creating divisions rather than fostering inclusion.

4. Saving the Great Salt Lake

All eyes will be on state lawmakers on how to get more water to the dwindling Great Salt Lake.

Flashback: Many water-saving bills, including one that required golf courses to report water use, did not pass last year after the state saw an unusually wet winter.

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