On Saturday, Gov. Spencer Cox signed two controversial bills: one that would create the largest school voucher program in state history and another that would ban most gender-affirming health care for transgender youth .
Controversial Measures protest The bills, which have been debated since their introduction, were the first two bills Cox signed into law this legislative session, Cox’s office said.
In signing the SB16 ban into law, Cox acknowledged it raised a “very divisive issue” but said “experts, states and countries around the world are putting these permanent and life-changing treatments on hold” pending new Research. He also pledged to secure more resources for organizations that support transgender youth.
“While we understand that our words will bring little comfort to those who disagree with us, we sincerely hope that as we work to better understand the science behind these procedures,” he said in a statement Saturday. and consequences.”
He also said HB 215, which allocates $42 million in taxpayer funds to help families pay for private school tuition, “strikes a good balance.” multiple choice”.
Cox praised “teachers and education leaders who helped push for more accountability measures that were not included in the original bill” and thanked lawmakers for including teacher pay increases.
Here’s what these measures do.
Transgender Medical Care and Procedures
SB16, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, prohibits doctors from prescribing hormone therapy for minors diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” a type of mental distress caused by a conflict between a person’s gender identity and gender identity medical diagnosis. The sex they were assigned at birth.
With the ban in place, the Utah Department of Health and Human Services will study data on treatments using the drugs and recommend policy changes to lawmakers, the bill says. It did not set a deadline for completing that analysis.
The Utah Senate passed the bill in a 20-8 vote on Friday. Any veto could be overridden by lawmakers, as the bill has more than two-thirds support in the House and Senate.
Cox vetoed a bill last year that would have barred transgender girls from participating in school sports that matched their gender identity. At the time, Cox wrote an emotional four-page letter to lawmakers explaining his veto, writing that out of a total of 75,000 student-athletes in Utah, only four transgender children play high school sports .
“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few people,” Cox wrote in the letter. “I don’t understand what they’re going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to Alive. All the research shows that even a little bit of acceptance and connection can significantly reduce suicide rates.”
Last year’s bill initially created a committee to evaluate transgender athletes for school sports. It was amended on the last day of the session to ban trans girls from women’s sports, and Cox’s veto was later overturned by the Utah legislature in a special session in late March. This year’s bill was signed into law just nine days after the legislative session.
The ban on hormone therapy for transgender youth applies only to new patients and took effect immediately after Cox signed the bill.
HB215 is sponsored by Rep. Candice Pierucci (R-Herriman) and allocates $42 million in taxpayer funds to send students to private schools. The bill also includes a $6,000 increase in wages and benefits for teachers across the state as a bargaining chip, so public school educators will get higher salaries starting this fall.
Vouchers could be labeled as tax credits, tax rebates, education savings accounts, backpack grants, or, as in this proposal, scholarships. They’re both the same concept – the way they work is they take money from taxpayers and deposit it into a voucher fund.
The money is then distributed to individual students, who use it to pay for all or part of their attendance at private schools. This creates a financial dilemma for public schools, which receive less funding if children leave public schools for private schools.
Cox opposed a similar bill last year, but those reservations are not fully addressed in the version that has now passed.
“Our top priority this session is to significantly increase teacher pay and education funding,” Cox said in a statement. “…school choice works best when we adequately fund public education and we remove unnecessary regulations that burden our public schools and make it difficult for them to succeed.”
Despite outcry and opposition from Utah teachers and nearly every educational organization, the controversial proposal moved forward with alarming speed. The Utah Education Association pledged in a statement Thursday that they would explore “all options available to overturn this damaging legislation that jeopardizes the future of public education.”
The Legislature will have the opportunity to change or reconsider the bill in next year’s session, which will happen before the scholarships start in fall 2024, but the teacher salary increases will come in fall 2023.