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Major legislation to address homelessness, payday lenders and panhandling were among 84 bills that Gov. Gary Herbert has signed into law, he announced on Friday.
He has now signed 103 bills. He is still reviewing another 432 to decide whether to veto them, sign them or allow them to become law without his signature. The last day he may sign or veto bills is March 29.
The newly signed legislation includes HB441 by House Majority Whip Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, which completes the state's role in financing new homeless shelters. The state has committed $27 million to the effort.
Lawmakers and local leaders negotiated for weeks during the legislative session about how to address homelessness.
They emerged with some surprises, including that Salt Lake City will now host two new 200-bed homeless resource centers instead of four 150-bed facilities. Among those discarded was a controversial center in Sugar House.
Plans also called for Salt Lake County to locate a third homeless shelter outside of Salt Lake City, and HB441 gives the county power to place it even in cities that object to it. The county has proposed five possible sites in South Salt Lake and West Valley City, and those cities are fighting all proposed locations.
Deals struck by legislators also call for the 2019 closure of the 1,100-bed homeless shelter on Rio Grande Street in Salt Lake City amid complaints about crime and drug use.
At the end of the session, longtime homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson praised lawmakers saying they "seem to have grasped that there's a multiplicity of problems causing homelessness and there are a multiplicity of solutions."
Another homelessness bill signed Friday was SB160, designed to help homeless youth to receive health care.
Also signed was HB161 by Rep. Steven Eliason, R-Sandy. It outlaws panhandling at freeway exits and along high-speed highways by taking a different approach than previous, similar laws that were struck down as unconstitutional.
Rather than directly targeting panhandling which has been ruled a form of protected speech by U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart the bill focuses on "pedestrian safety."
It bans pedestrians and drivers from exchanging money or property on freeways, highway and paved roads with a speed limit over 35 miles per hour. Eliason said it would still allow panhandling, but not in dangerous highway locations.
The governor also signed HB40 by Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, designed to close a loophole that critics say payday lenders use to trap borrowers into a hard-to-escape debt spiral.
Utah law has long put a 10-week limit for "rolling over," or extending, these high-interest loans that usually are initially issued for a two-week period. Beyond that limit, interest on the loans no longer may accrue.
But Daw said payday lenders often have worked around that by persuading borrowers to take out entirely new loans, arguing it helps them avoid legal action or ruining their credit.
A recent legislative audit found many "chronic users" of payday loans were rolling over loans and paying interest for more than six months a year.
Among other bills just signed by Herbert are:
HB63 • Allows the state to negotiate with federal officials to create a Hole in the Rock State Park, at a famous cleft in a cliff over the Colorado River that was traversed amid danger by early Mormon pioneers.
SB226 • Mandates that county clerks come up with plans, to be reviewed by the lieutenant governor's office, on how to keep election lines under 30 minutes long. That comes after some lines in Salt Lake County last November were more than four hours long.
SB37 • Creates a one-year commission to plan how to create a statewide suicide crisis line, perhaps using the 611 number, that would be available 24/7. The state now has 19 scattered crisis line that operate at different times, and some rural areas are not served by any of them.