The General Session of Utah’s 65th Legislature adjourned on March 3. With a Republican supermajority in both chambers, legislators passed 575 bills — the most passed in a single session since statistics were first recorded in 1998. Legislators broke another record with the passage of a $29 billion state budget.
Republican Governor Spencer Cox has already signed several bills into law, and he has until March 23 to either sign or veto the rest of the bills passed this session. If he doesn’t sign or veto a bill by then, it automatically becomes law.
Here’s a recap of some of the significant actions by the Legislature:
The Legislature passed SB 133, which will extend Medicaid postpartum coverage from two months to 12 months. Lawmakers also approved SB 126, Hospital Assessment Amendments, a bill that would expand Utah hospital assessments to allow for the maximum federal Medicaid reimbursement rate for inpatient and outpatient services — thereby allowing Utah to access additional federal Medicaid dollars on which it had long been missing out.
Healthcare Workforce Training
HB 264, Certified Nursing Assistants Amendments, was passed by both houses of the Legislature and is currently awaiting Gov. Cox’s signature. The bill allows CNAs to get their required 2,000 hours of working experience in facilities designated by the Utah Division of Professional Licensing, rather than just in long-term care facilities.
Last session, the Legislature funded a new workforce training initiative to support nursing school and technical college training for in-demand jobs in the health sector. This session, Rep. Cory Maloy requested additional funding for the program, to expand student capacity and further close the workforce gap. The $4.5 million spending request, titled “Targeted Workforce Development – Healthcare,” was included in the budget and approved by the Executive Appropriations Committee.
Mental Health Services
HB 78, which requires certain health benefit plans to be a single case agreement for covered behavioral health treatment, passed the House and Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
HB 66, which also passed both chambers, would develop grants for mobile crisis outreach teams and fund up to two new behavioral health centers. HB 29, which would have created a grant program to establish best-practice crisis intervention teams, did not pass this session.
Two bills approved by lawmakers would revise procedures regarding mental health counseling. HB 159 would allow healthcare professionals outside of Utah to provide telehealth services to individuals in the state. HB 166 would remove restrictions on remote mental health therapy and substance use disorder counseling and revise licensing requirements for clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, and clinical mental health counselors.
The Executive Appropriations Committee approved hundreds of millions of dollars in water resiliency and desalination projects this session, including $200 million for new “agriculture optimization” technology so farmers can grow crops using less water. Other water-related funding projects approved by the Legislature included $50 million for desalinization and water reuse projects statewide, $30 million for water infrastructure projects, $25 million for dam safety, and $12 million for “cloud seeding.”
Senate President Stuart Adams repeatedly described the 2023 session as “the year of the tax cut,” and the final budget passed by the Legislature and sent to the Governor includes a $400 million income tax cut amounting to roughly $200 per year for the average Utah family.
Gov. Cox signed HB 215, Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education, into law on Jan. 28. The new law provides approximately 5,000 students with $8,000 scholarships that can be applied to schools outside of Utah’s public school system. In addition to the school choice-style scholarships, the law also includes an additional $6,000 in wages and benefits for teachers.