Citing a lack of support among House and Senate leadership, Utah lawmakers said Wednesday that they will not extend the governor’s state of emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic before it lapses at the end of this week.

© Leah Hogsten
(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) In this April 16, 2020, file photo, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and Senate workers conduct business during the Utah Legislature’s first-ever digital special session at the Capitol. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet in their sixth special session of the year beginning Thursday, Aug. 20.

Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, announced that decision at Wednesday’s Political Subdivisions Interim Committee meeting as he pulled the item related to the state’s Emergency Powers Act and the state of emergency from discussion.

“Between the caucuses, the majority caucuses, and House and Senate leadership, there is not support for modifications at this time, nor is there support from the Legislature at this time to extend the state of emergency,” he explained.

Gov. Gary Herbert still has the authority to issue a new state of emergency before the current one expires Thursday at midnight, and Anderegg said he believes the governor will have “compelling reason” to extend it.

Anna Lenhardt, communications director in the Governor’s Office, said Wednesday afternoon that Herbert was working with legislative leadership “to determine the best path forward.”

While some have raised concerns that the end of the state of emergency would lead Utah to lose out on millions in federal dollars available to help states weather the coronavirus, Anderegg said that isn’t the case.

“We checked thoroughly between all the federal law, the FEMA regulations and whatnot as to if any or some or all of the federal dollars associated with the state of emergency might be put in jeopardy and by and large the answer is no,” he said. “So if you are told by anyone in an executive agency that $114 million might be in jeopardy or $250 million for unemployment insurance, the answer is unequivocally no. Those monies can and will continue.”

Anderegg said there may be some FEMA money available to the Utah National Guard that could be affected but that the governor could issue a new state of emergency to secure those funds.

The decision from legislative leadership to pull the resolution extending the state of emergency comes as lawmakers have received a number of phone calls and emails in recent days from a group that would like to see it expire.

Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, described those interactions on Twitter as “relentless and rude.”

“One called me at 1 a.m., another at 11 p.m. This is not persuasion, it is harassment,” she wrote. “Plus, they are not my constituents.”

A series of constituent emails shared with The Salt Lake Tribune showed many were concerned about government overreach, arguing in form emails that maintaining a state of emergency for months is a “complete distortion of the meaning of an emergency” and has negatively impacted small businesses.

The progressive Alliance for a Better Utah had encouraged Utahns on the other side of the issue to contact their legislators as well and urge them to extend the state of emergency. Its expiration, the group argued, would mean that “Utah will not be able to stop the spread of the pandemic.”

Utah has been in a state of emergency since the day the first coronavirus case was diagnosed in the state and the Legislature in June approved a resolution extending the state of emergency to Thursday, though not all lawmakers were in support of the measure. The bill passed 51-22 in the House and 22-7 in the Senate and support for another extension appears to have diminished further.

The Salt Lake Tribune will update this story.

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