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Davis Journal

The legislature passed resolutions on Critical Race Theory and Second Amendment rights

Jun 03, 2021 02:43PM ● By Becky Ginos

SALT LAKE CITY—Lawmakers had plenty to tackle in last week’s special session. Some of the hot topics included masks, Critical Race Theory and Second Amendment rights. Those issues aside, the legislature had to decide how to allocate federal funding from the American Rescue Plan.

“We got a lot done,” said Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton. “The real issue to call a special session was to appropriate $1.6 billion of federal money that was allocated to the state of Utah. We decided to do it in May to act responsibly and quickly.”

The federal government didn’t give the state guidelines until May 10, he said. “We reviewed the request from the appropriation committees and others to see what they needed. We appropriated about a third of the money and we’ll hold the rest for later in the year or probably during the regular session.”

Adams said they did appropriate some money for vaccine distribution. “We want to make sure that continues and we can get that out.”

Other money went to affordable housing and water infrastructure. “That’s (water) a big issue in the state,” he said. “We also put $100 million into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to minimize the tax increase on small employers.”

The legislature also allocated $90 million toward a mental health research facility with a match from the Huntsmans, said Adams. “Utah is the number one spot in the nation for research and cancer treatment. Mental health is a big issue all over the nation and especially in Utah. This facility will move us into a leadership position for treatment.”

Lawmakers also addressed Critical Race Theory being taught in schools. “People have more opinions about race than they did two years ago,” said Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful. “Tensions have really heightened. Both sides attack word usage. The word means different things to different people. It was academic but now all of a sudden there’s a controversy between people who want it taught in the schools and those who don’t want it taught in school.”

It’s the job of the State School Board to set the standards, he said. “They’ll be putting those out over the summer. The resolution speaks mostly about how everyone should be treated fairly and kindly and that people from all backgrounds are welcome in our schools.”

There was a presentation made by the state office to charter schools with slides that focused on Critical Race Theory, Adams said. “We were inundated with emails. Our voicemail was full. This was not an issue any of us thought we would be dealing with in a special session but it became an issue because our constituents wanted us to act. We’d rather the school board deal with it but this gave them some direction.”

People have totally misunderstood what it is, he said. “We wanted to make sure we were all on the same page. That is that no one should be discriminated against and they should be judged according to their character not their race.”

Other hot topics included mask wearing and Second Amendment rights. “We wanted to push back (federal government) and make sure Utah has the ability to set our own rules concerning the Second Amendment,” Adams said. “The resolution simply said we support Second Amendment rights.”

Concerning mask wearing, Adams said many people thought the legislature carte blanche got rid of masks. “That’s not what it is. We gave a better definition to the emergency powers act. If the health department or the CDC determines it’s necessary in another emergency they can declare that. But a simple discussion by school administration, principals or districts cannot do that.”

It basically helps with the transition as the pandemic ends, he said. “Our case counts are dropping and over 90 percent of those over 70 have been vaccinated. We need to move on. We wanted to be proactive and do it now before the next school session to give direction on how to proceed.”