Feb 23, 2024 - News

Capitol recap: What you missed during Week 6

illustration of the Utah state capitol

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

There's one more week left to go before Utah's legislative ends. Here's what you missed:

Chaplains in public schools

HB 514 would authorize schools to enlist volunteer chaplains, as long as students aren't required to participate in their services.

What they're saying: "We worry that allowing chaplains to serve in official positions in schools creates an inherently coercive context for students regardless of the intent," Ellie Menlove, an attorney for the ACLU of Utah, told the House committee this week before members advanced the bill on a 10-2 vote.

Details: The committee's only two Democrats voted against the proposal, saying they feared districts would substitute unlicensed religious volunteers for school counselors and psychologists.

The other side: "I honestly believe that a chaplain in the school is also a safe place for the children to go, not necessarily for religious counsel and guidance, but for just a place to talk," said Rep. Steven Lund (R-Manti).

Yes, but: The committee's reception was less religiously neutral when a leader from the Satanic Temple, based in Massachusetts, said she was "enthusiastic" about the opportunity for her group to get involved.

  • "Our ministers of Satan are eager to take an active role in enriching Utah's educational landscape," said Rachel Chambliss, the group's director of operations.
  • "I'll be blunt," replied Rep. Kera Birkeland (R-Morgan). "I don't want somebody who professes their loyalty to Satan in our schools."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Kevin Stratton (R-Orem), said it would not take effect until 2025 "to give us time to work through those issues."

Secret calendars

SB 240, sponsored by Sen. Curtis Bramble (R-Provo), would make the calendars of public officials private under the state's Government Records Access and Management Act.

  • It favorably passed a Senate committee on Wednesday, and the bill is now headed to the Senate for a full vote.

Context: The measure comes after Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes refused to provide his work calendar to KSL-TV after a state panel deemed the records public last year.

Stadium funds

HB 562, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Wilcox (R-Ogden), would allot $900 million in taxpayer dollars to fund a new Major League Baseball stadium and an entertainment district in Fairpark by raising hotel and car rental taxes.

  • The bill has been met with opposition from Salt Lake City Council Member Alejandro Puy, who represents the neighborhood where the new stadium would sit, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

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