What is Interim Session? We’re so glad you asked! Interim is one of our favorite times of year. But to truly understand Interim, it is helpful to know a few things about our state legislature first.
- Utah’s state legislature is made up of part-time elected officials who make up the State Senate (29 total) and State House of Representatives (75 total). You can learn more about the State Legislature here.
- Every year our legislature convenes on Capitol Hill for a 45-day State Legislative Session (also known as the General Session) between January and March to propose, debate, amend and pass laws and balance our state budget.
- During the rest of the year (often referred to as “Interim”), our state legislators go back to their regular jobs as lawyers, developers, farmers, teachers and so on across the state.
Although our state legislators are part time, Interim is an important time for policy development and advocacy. In fact, most of the relationships, coalitions and legislative support is built during this time. This is also when research is conducted and bills are written. In addition to this behind-the-scenes work, legislators conduct public legislative work during monthly “Interim Sessions” at the State Capitol.
Every third Wednesday of the month between May and November (excluding one month, which is usually July or September), legislators convene for committee meetings to learn about and discuss current issues facing our state and propose and debate potential bills for the upcoming State Legislative Session.
Whereas legislators meet in separate House and Senate standing committees during the State Legislative Session, interim committees consist of senators and representatives jointly meeting to discuss topics within a specific issue area. Each interim committee has two co-chairs: one senator and one representative. Committees are listed on the state legislative website (le.utah.gov), along with committee members, notices of meeting times, agendas, meeting minutes, audio/video clips and public meeting materials. Search for a list of the interim committees here. Note that all interim committee meetings are:
- Open to the public, though public commentary is rarely allowed
- Recorded and available to listen to live or archived on the state legislative website (utah.gov)
- NOT allowed to pass bills, though they do at times vote to make proposed legislation a “committee bill” to show support coming into the following State Legislative Session
Interim committees are divided into the same issues as standing committees, but are joint committees instead of separate Senate and House committees. The principal interim committees are:
Business and Labor
Economic Development and Workforce Services
Health and Human Services
Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice
Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment
Public Utilities, Energy and Technology
Revenue and Taxation
While some Interim Session days are committed to meetings of interim committees, other sessions are devoted to appropriations committee meetings instead. Appropriations committees propose, debate and discuss annual funding needs and budgetary considerations. Like Interim committees, appropriations committees are defined by issue area, though not in exactly the same categories as the interim and standing committees. An Executive Appropriations Committee oversees the issue subcommittees and makes final budget decisions (during General Session). A list of appropriations committees can be found here.
All interim committees meet each Interim Session day during a morning session (generally 8:30-11:15a) and an afternoon session (generally 1:15-4:00p). In addition to these meetings, other meetings involving legislators (like state task forces, commissions and appropriations committees) meet throughout the month.
Meeting notices and agendas must be posted for the public at least 24 hours in advance on the state legislative website’s monthly calendar. You may click on each individual committee meeting listing within the calendar to find the agenda and location for the meeting.
Occasionally, the governor in conjunction with the legislature may call a Special Session during Interim to hold votes on urgent bills to address a pressing need. Special Sessions occur on Interim Session days and often take place at the end of the day after interim committee meetings.
What you need to know to attend Interim Sessions
- Parking – Arrive at the State Capitol in plenty of time to find parking, which can be limited on Interim and General Session Days. Two public lots are located along the east side of the Capitol Campus, and there is additional parking along the streets surrounding the Capitol. Beware of certain parking spaces with time limits!
- Cafeteria – The Senate (East) Building is located adjacent to the parking lot and has a cafeteria on the ground floor. The cafeteria is open to the public and serves breakfast and lunch, closing at 2pm.
- Meeting Rooms – Interim Committees meet in committee meeting rooms on the second floor of the Senate (East) Building, the basement floor of the House (West) Building and on the 3rd and 4th floors the State Capitol Building. Meeting locations can be found within the committee’s meeting notice, along with a map of the location within the Capitol Campus. Please note that all meetings and meeting spaces are open to the public.
- Attendance – Audience members may sit in public seats facing the legislative committee, and in cases of crowding may also stand along the sides of the public seats. At times overflow rooms are offered with screens showing live video of the meeting. An attendance record is passed around the room for audience members to sign in. You may list your name and write your organization affiliation as “Community Member” unless you are attending as a representative of a specific organization.
- Participation – Public testimony is not usually allowed during interim meetings, and the public is expected to remain quiet. However, there are cases where a small amount of time is allotted for the public to weigh in. A note will appear on the meeting agenda in these cases. Public testimony is generally only 1-2 minutes per person and can be limited to a small number of people at the discretion of committee chairs. If you plan to speak, please follow these tips:
- Come prepared – Write out your statement and rehearse and time it beforehand. Be prepared to speak for 1-2 minutes and to shorten your statement last minute if requested by the committee chairs.
- Do not repeat what others have already stated in testimony prior to your statement.
- Use data, facts and personal stories in your testimony.
- Be prepared to answer questions from the legislators. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so and offer to look up the answer and email the legislator later with additional information.
- Listen from home – If you are unable to attend a meeting in person, you may still listen to the recording of the meeting live or archived via the state legislative website. Archived recordings are posted in entirety as well as in clips within the meeting minutes.
The State Legislative Website
The ultimate resource for happenings on Capitol Hill is the state legislative website, le.utah.gov. Use this site to track events, bills and meetings, learn about the state legislature, find out who is your senator and representative, senator and representative contact info and much more.