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The plan to move the Utah prison from Draper took another step forward Wednesday, as Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law a bill giving the Prison Relocation Commission authority to recommend a final site later this summer.
The governor signed 56 bills in all on Wednesday, including legislation overriding a Salt Lake City ordinance requiring drive-thru businesses to serve cyclists; a bill increasing death benefits for police and firefighters killed in the line of duty; and legislation requiring an outside investigation of all officer-involved shootings.
The Prison Relocation Commission is currently looking at five potential sites to build a new prison, freeing up the 700-acre parcel where the current prison has stood for more than half a century.
Commissioners face an Aug. 1 deadline to make a recommendation. Initially, the chairmen of the commission Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, and Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville wanted the commission to have the final say on the matter. But Herbert said he and the full Legislature should have a say, and said he would veto a bill to give the commission the ultimate authority.
"The state prison facility in Draper is outdated and needs to be replaced," Herbert said in a statement. "The construction of a new prison regardless of where it is located provides us with a tremendous opportunity to build a facility that will help us reduce recidivism while enhancing public safety."
HB454 includes the authority for the state to issue $475 million in bonds to build the prison and new local-option sales tax authority, seen as a potential sweetener should Salt Lake City be chosen as the site.
The commission is considering a site from several large parcels west of the Salt Lake City International Airport; two sites in Tooele County, one near Grantsville and the other by the Miller Motorsports Park; and two in Utah County, one in Eagle Mountain and the other in tiny Fairfield.
Other bills • Herbert signed HB160, which gives businesses the ability to deny drive-thru service to customers on bicycles. Salt Lake City had passed an ordinance requiring businesses to serve those patrons, but some restaurants fought the ordinance, arguing it created a safety risk.
It was one of several bills passed this session that used state law to trump Salt Lake City ordinances.
The families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty would get a more generous payment from the state under HB288, which the governor also signed. Before, the surviving spouse of an officer would only get $1,000 plus a portion of the officer's salary going forward. The new bill provides six months salary, plus the ongoing payment of about a third of the monthly salary.
"When police officers and firefighters are lost in the line of duty, we owe them more than just a debt of gratitude," Herbert said. "I am pleased to see such strong support for their family members who have paid such a heavy price."
And Herbert signed HB361, which would require an outside law-enforcement agency to investigate any officer-involved shootings. Currently, such shootings are typically investigated internally.
In addition, state and local agencies would have to make reasonable workplace accommodations for women who are breastfeeding under HB242, which was signed Wednesday.
The governor has signed a total 200 of the 495 bills which require action by the governor. He has yet to veto one this session.