This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Prison Relocation Commission would get to pick where the state would build a new prison later this summer, unless Gov. Gary Herbert quickly called a special legislative session, according to a new proposal pushed by House Republican leaders.
HB454, sponsored by Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, is an attempt to get around Herbert's opposition to allowing the commission to unilaterally decide where to build a 4,000-bed lockup at a cost of at least $500 million.
"We changed course because the governor wants to have some influence on the process," said Wilson, the co-chairman of the commission, whose seven voting members are all state legislators.
Under his bill, the commission would have until Aug. 1 to recommend one site from the list of five now under consideration. Herbert would then have 30 days to call a special session if he disagrees with the decision or believes it should come up for a vote of the full Legislature. The legislation also sets up a scenario where House and Senate leaders could poll their members to see if they want the governor to call them into session.
"It basically lets the Legislature veto the decision if [lawmakers] don't like it," Wilson said.
This new proposal comes after Wilson pulled back from a plan last week that would simply let the commission pick the site, arguing that it would reduce the politics surrounding the highly-charged issue. Herbert threatened to veto that plan.
His office on Wednesday said the governor was reviewing the new proposal.
"Given the magnitude of this decision, the governor believes both the executive and legislative branches should play a role in determining where the new prison will be constructed," said spokesman Marty Carpenter.
The five potential prison sites include one west of the Salt Lake City International Airport and two in Tooele County, one near the WalMart Distribution Center outside of Grantsville and the other next to the Miller Motorsports Park. The remaining two are in northern Utah County, with one at the southern end of Eagle Mountain and the second in nearby Fairfield.
Wilson's legislation also would create the Prison Development Commission that would oversee the construction of a new prison. It would include seven state lawmakers and one member of the public from the community near the site.
Herbert and legislative have argued the prison should move from Draper to allow for economic development on 700 prime acres near Interstate 15. They also say the move will allow for the construction of a state-of-the-art prison that would be better suited to provide substance abuse and mental-health treatment.
But in recent interviews, Herbert said the prison will remain where it is if the state can't find a suitable location. He put the chances that the prison would be rebuilt elsewhere at 50 percent.