Utah Legislature holds special session for education funding, national monument designation

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Speaker of the House Greg Hughes announced an agreement Wednesday to convene a special session of the Utah Legislature.

This special session will occur in conjunction with the regularly scheduled interim meetings on May 18. The purpose of the session will be to address two items: education funding items which were vetoed after the 2016 General Session and a concurrent resolution opposing the unilateral designation of a national monument in Utah.

Education funding

The special session would restore funding to each of the initiatives included in Item 6 of Public Education Budget Amendments for their original intended purposes. Those initiatives include:

  • $1.5 million ongoing Education Funding plus intent for an additional $500,000 TANF for UPSTART, an early education initiative targeted toward individualized reading, mathematics and science curriculum.
  • $275,000 one-time Education Funding for ProStart, a culinary arts program that provides career training and certifications for high school students.
  • $500,000 ongoing Education Funding for Elementary Reading Assessment Tools, a statewide assessment tool used to enhance the evaluation of early education programs.
  • $3 million one-time Education Funding for K-3 Early Intervention, a program which addresses early reading through the use of interactive reading software.
  • $500,000 one-time Education Funding for IT Academy, a program that provides opportunities for high school students to obtain basic to advanced certifications in software and network administration, which helps them gain employment after high school.

The Governor’s Office and legislature will continue to monitor these programs and their funding mechanisms. This will include visits to participating schools and discussions with participants to better understand how they are being implemented. Both branches will evaluate whether adjustments need to be made in the future to maximize the effectiveness of these programs.

On Monday, Herbert said, “I appreciate the Legislature’s willingness to engage in a collaborative path forward on this line item. I am supportive of the review process in place for both the non-lapsing account balances and the Pro-Start program, and given those assurances I will call a special session of the legislature to re-institute funding for the programs in question.”

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser said, “Our constitutional process works well, and each branch has an irreplaceable role. This is important education funding and the legislative will seems to exist to override the recent veto. However, in discussions with the governor we found that a special session can accomplish the same work in a more collaborative fashion, with less disruption, and less expense to the taxpayers. Most of my colleagues feel this is a better way.”

Speaker of the House Greg Hughes said, “While the House has the support for a veto override session, it has always been our top priority to restore the funding for these programs and that can be accomplished when we come together for our interim meetings in May.”

The veto override poll in the House of Representatives and Senate will be temporarily suspended, pending the issuance of a call to special session.

National monument designation

Regarding the potential national monument designation in San Juan County, Herbert said:

It is absolutely irresponsible for the Obama Administration to consider a new national monument that is over two and a half times the size of Rhode Island without input from Utahns from across the state who will be significantly impacted by this decision. As governor of the State of Utah, I have stated repeatedly that I oppose such a declaration. Today, I am asking every member of the Utah State Legislature to go on record and join me in expressing our opposition to another unilateral national monument within the state.

Cabinet members from the Obama Administration have told Herbert that no national monument will be designated in Utah without an open, public process occurring first.

“I call on President Obama to adhere to the commitments made by his staff and engage directly with Utah’s elected officials and the general public on any proposed national monument in the state of Utah,” Herbert said.

A similar resolution was passed by the Utah State House of Representatives during the 2016 General Session but did not receive a vote in the Utah State Senate.

The special session is being called in conjunction with the legislature’s regularly scheduled interim meetings in May to better accommodate schedules and save taxpayer funds.  The cost savings to the state will be approximately $40,000.

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