Cox calls special session of Legislature on Juneteenth, drawing criticism from NAACP leader

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Friday called state lawmakers into a special session June 19.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Friday called state lawmakers into a special session June 19. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has called state lawmakers into a special legislative session beginning Wednesday.

The announcement prompted criticism from an NAACP Salt Lake leader, who questioned the timing of the special session, calling it a "political campaign stunt."

Cox issued a proclamation Friday, stating, "Certain matters have arisen which require immediate legislative attention." The special session will begin Wednesday at 4 p.m. Although Wednesday is commemorated nationally as Juneteenth National Independence Day, Utah's state holiday to commemorate the ending of slavery in the U.S. falls on Monday.

NAACP leader responds

NAACP Salt Lake President Jeanetta Williams in a statement noted that Juneteenth holiday "is considered the 'longest-running African American holiday' and has been called 'America's second Independence Day.'" She pointed to the holiday's origin, when troops went to Galveston Bay, Texas, two years after President Abraham Lincoln emancipated slaves in America, and told slaves there they were free.

She pointed to Cox's support of the bill passed by Utah legislators this year that effectively ended diversity, equity and inclusion programs in government entities, including schools — a bill that has drawn criticism from some who worry about impacts on students of color and others who have traditionally benefited from such programs.

Williams contended that the governor "has no interest about diversity and issues facing the minority communities."

Issues to be considered during special session

Lawmakers will meet, in part, to try to stop a federal rule from going into effect in the state that would expand Title IX antidiscrimination to include gender identity and sexual orientation. The Utah Legislature passed a bill earlier this year restricting restroom access to transgender people in schools and other government buildings.

Under another recently passed bill, SB57, lawmakers in Utah can prohibit state employees from enforcing federal directives "within the state if the Legislature determines the federal directive violates the principles of state sovereignty."

A resolution to push back on the Department of Education rule would be the first use of Utah's sovereignty law. Text of the likely resolution has not yet been made public.

According to the proclamation, lawmakers will meet for the following:

  1. To consider amendments to SB161, energy security amendments, from the 2024 general session, and amendments related to the Project Entity Oversight Committee.
  2. To take action under SB57, Utah Constitutional Sovereignty Act, from the 2024 general session, with respect to the U.S. Department of Education's new Title IX regulations slated to take effect on Aug. 1.
  3. To consider amendments to provisions of the Utah Code related to statutory repeal dates, including completing the standardization the Legislature adopted during the 2024 general session for Title 63I, Chapter 1, Part 2, repeal dates requiring committee review by title, and Title 63I, Chapter 2, Part 2, repeal dates by title.
  4. To consider the following actions related to countering federal overreach on public lands in the state of Utah: reallocating existing appropriations, making statutory amendments and facilitating public outreach efforts.
  5. To consider amendments to provisions of the Utah Code related to participation by exchange students in the statewide online education program.
  6. To consider amendments to provisions of the Utah Code related to SB221, school district amendments, from the 2024 general session.
  7. For the Senate to consent to appointments made by the governor.

Contributing: Ashley Imlay

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for He is a graduate of Utah Valley University.


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