SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert signed dozens of bills into law on Monday, including a change to Utah's sex education statute. HB196 removes language prohibiting the advocacy of homosexuality in health instruction.
SB196, which passed by overwhelming margins in both houses of the Utah Legislature, was intended to treat all students equally with respect to sex education instruction in Utah public schools, according to Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton, who sponsored the bill.
The legislation also emphasized instruction that encourages fidelity in marriage.
The passage of the bill, which became law with the governor's signature, could resolve a legal dispute between Equality Utah and the Utah State Board of Education.
In October, Equality Utah filed a lawsuit against the State School Board claiming Utah school policies violate constitutional rights of free speech and equal protection, as well as Title IX protections.
The lawsuit cited the experiences of three unnamed students in elementary, middle and high schools as examples of other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths' experiences in Utah public schools.
The lawsuit is on hold in federal court after U.S. District Judge Dee Benson granted a joint motion for a stay of proceedings earlier in the legislative session.
Earlier, University of Utah law professor Clifford Rosky, who serves on an Equality Utah advisory board, said the organization hopes to work with school districts, the State School Board and the Utah Attorney General's Office "to bring an end to our lawsuit by ensuring that the intent of SB196 is carried out in all of our state's public schools and charter schools.”
Herbert signed dozens of other bills, including a measure phasing out a tax credit for installing solar panels that legislators said was eating away at money for public schools.
Herbert has started churning through the 535 bills Utah lawmakers passed this year before wrapping up their annual session March 9. He has until March 29 to sign or veto legislation, or allow it to become law without his signature.
Highlights from other bills Herbert signed Monday:
Herbert signed a measure into law that gradually winds down the $2,000 tax credit that homeowners can receive when they install rooftop solar panels. The credits apply to income taxes, which are the main source of funding for education in Utah. The measure from Rep. Jeremy Peterson, R-Ogden, limits the credit to $1,600 next year and scales it back every year until it's $400 in 2021.
Any systems installed after that will not be eligible for the tax credit. Peterson says the industry has taken off, and with more and more residents installing the panels, the state missed out on$20 million in tax revenue last year.
Another new law stipulates that a school employee may not physically restrain a student to prevent property damage. The employee must be acting out of self-defense or to prevent injury or harm to the student or another individual.
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay and retired teacher, sponsored the measure and says she hopes it will reduce the risk of injury to students by limiting the use of restraint. Moss said the bill also eliminates an antiquated part of state law allowing corporal punishment of students if parents give written permission.
A measure from Rep. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, exempts small producers of homemade baked goods, jams, jellies and other nonhazardous goods from state food safety inspections. Cottage food producers who sell homemade goods would still have to register with the state, get a food handler's permit and follow state food labeling requirements.
The inspection exemption would not apply to those who make homemade products involving raw seed sprouts, foods from an animal or that require time or temperature controls. Sandall said he wanted to ease regulations on those small, home-based businesses.
Herbert signed a bill that aims to prevent food trucks from needing to obtain multiple licenses from different cities in order to stage their mobile businesses around the state. The law includes reciprocity measures so trucks don't need to get separate business and health department permits and licenses in each city. It also bars cities from passing any restrictions on how close food trucks can be near restaurants.