Governor signs Dixie State name change bill, slew of police reform measures

Utah Capitol

(Carter Williams,, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Dixie State University will undergo a process to get a new name — that may or may not include the term "Dixie" — under a bill Gov. Spencer Cox signed late Tuesday night, along with 171 other bills.

Cox's signature on HB278 capped off a grueling and emotional debate over the Dixie State University name change on Utah's Capitol Hill during the Legislature's 2021 general session. The battle ended with a bill that was watered down in the Senate to remove language prohibiting the term "Dixie" from the university's future name.

Some Senate leaders, particularly Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, grappled with the bill, expressing concerns there had not been enough public input from residents in southern Utah to move ahead with the version of HB278 that the House approved after heated debate.

Some Utah lawmakers cried "cancel culture" while others said students' job and graduate school prospects were being harmed by a name that people outside of Utah perceive negatively.

Discussions about the name have been going on for decades but intensified following protests across the country over George Floyd's death last summer while in police custody in Minnesota. Earlier this year, Intermountain Healthcare changed the name of its hospital in the area from Dixie Regional Medical Center to Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.

Police, protesters

Cox also signed several police reform bills, including:

  • HB59, to make it a crime for a police officer to share intimate images to anyone who is not part of an investigation. It was inspired by a former University of Utah police officer who showed explicit photos of Lauren McCluskey to other officers, according to an independent investigation.
  • HB62 to add additional grounds for the Peace Officer Standards and Training council to suspend, revoke or issue a letter of caution against a police officer for "conduct involving dishonesty or deception" or if the officer is found by a court or by a law enforcement agency to have "knowingly engaged in certain biased or prejudicial conduct."
  • HB84, to require local law enforcement agencies to collect and submit data on use-of-force-incidents to the Bureau of Criminal Identification, a state and federal database.
  • HB237, seeking to prevent "suicide by cop" by clarifying in training requirements that when someone is threatening suicide, an officer should try to use "strategic withdrawal" rather than engagement.
  • HB264 to require a law enforcement officer to file a report after pointing a firearm or a Taser at a person.
  • SB38 to require annual certification of K-9 officers and their handlers. The bill came after Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall suspended and then censured the Salt Lake Police Department's K-9 program after a review found 18 questionable dog bites dating back to 2018. Mendenhall called the findings a "pattern of abuse."
  • SB68 to use $2 million of state funds to fund the purchase of technology and equipment for the Utah Highway Patrol that is capable of counting and recording shots fired from a trooper's gun, including the date and time the shots were fired. The bill is meant to aid investigation and data collection for increased transparency around officer-involved shootings.
  • SB102 to allow legal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and has legal authorization to work in the U.S. to qualify to serve as a police officer.

Cox also signed several bills targeting protesters, including:

  • HB58, a bill that requires an individual arrested for rioting to appear before a judge before being released and pay restitution if convicted. Their bail rights could also be waived if there is substantial evidence to support a charge of felony rioting and if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person is not likely to appear in court.
  • HB291, to make "targeted residential picketing" — a protest "specifically directed or focused toward a residence, or one or more occupants of the residence" — a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable under Utah law by up to six months in jail or fines of up to $1,000.

Other bills

Cox signed dozens of other bills, some related to water and air, some gun legislation, a bill to potentially lay the groundwork for a new state flag, a bill to create the new Utahraptor State Park, and more. They include:

  • HB297 to set up the Colorado River Authority made up of representatives from major water districts in the state, as well as the Colorado River commissioner representing Utah. Legislative leaders supported the bill, saying drought and the dwindling Colorado River make it more important than ever for the state to act now to safeguard its interest in the river.
  • SB15 to implement a telework program for eligible state employees on bad air days or other circumstances, such as extreme weather.
  • HB47, also known as "Sarah's Bill," to allow harsher bail terms for someone accused of injuring others while driving under the influence. The bill was named after Utah high schooler Sarah Frei, who lost both of her legs after a drunken driver crashed into Frei and her friends car, paralyzing her from the waist down and severely injuring the other teens.

  • HB200 to set up a procedure that if a firearm owner or someone living with them could voluntarily surrender their weapon to law enforcement until the owner comes and requests its return.
  • HB216 to allow for a provisional firearm permit to be sought by people within 90 days of their 21st birthday to show they'd received concealed carry training required for a full permit.
  • HB267 to allow a person to request to be added to the restricted persons list that would bar them from purchasing a firearm. The bill allows the same person to request the removal of their name from that list 30 days after it's added. Their name will automatically be removed after 180 days; but they can request a renewal for another 180 days.
  • SB48, to establish the State Flag Task Force to begin studying whether to replace the flag with something new.
  • HB257 to create the Utahraptor State Park in the Dalton Wells, Grand County, area. It will also rename Lost Creek Reservoir in Morgan County the Lost Creek State Park. The costs for the creation of both parks will be $36.5 million.
  • HB188 to designate honeycomb calcite as the state stone.
  • HB308 to bar government agencies from requiring Utah employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations (except for health workers who need the vaccine to work).
  • HB102, to require jails to give female inmates the contraceptive medication they received before their incarceration.

HB228, which prohibits jails from sharing jail booking photos unless the individual is convicted of a criminal offense based on the conduct for which he or she was incarcerated at the time of the photo or if a law enforcement agency determines the individual is a fugitive or an imminent threat to public safety.

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Jen Riess is the weekend and evening content producer for She also covers breaking news and in her free time loves being with her dogs and cheering on the Cleveland Browns.


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