This is an archived article that was published on in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The final day of the Legislature: The last chance for bills to pass through the gauntlet of lawmakers and be sent to the governor — or die on the floor. Salt Lake Tribune reporters Lee Davidson, Benjamin Wood and others provided live updates all day Thursday. Readers can also follow along on Twitter.

12:42 a.m.

Herbert praises Senate

Gov. Gary Herbert continued his praise in the Senate, complimenting members of that chamber for their handling of state finances.

"You've got a very good budget," Herbert said. "You prioritized correctly."

Lawmakers planned for the future, Herbert said, adding new funding to education, homeless services and law enforcement.

But he reiterated that tax reform needs to be at "the top of the agenda" in 2018.

"We do have some unfinished business," he said. "That needs to be thought about during the interim time here."

Senators also complimented each other, their House colleagues, their legislative staff, and their corps of interns.

"This has been a great session," said Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, "maybe one of the hardest-working and one of the most-complete sessions we've had in a long time."

And Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, jokingly thanked his fellow senators for defeating his bills early on and eliminating his workload.

"It's been a very restful session," he said.

—Benjamin Wood

12:20 a.m.

Herbert praises House

As Gov. Gary Herbert thanked the House for its work just after midnight Friday, he said, "I've not seen any better than this session,"

He especially praised members for "showing compassion and concern for those who are most vulnerable in our society" — including setting aside $17 million for the homeless.

Herbert praised an attempt to reform taxes, although solutions were not found. "We need to continue the quest on tax reform" and seek solutions during the rest of the year, he said.

He praised the collegiality and mutual respect show by members that he said "should be emulated" by other legislatures nationally.

"You are why Utah really is a leader in this nation," he told the House.

— Lee Davidson

12:08 a.m.

Record-breaking law-passing

House Speaker Greg Hughes announced after midnight that the 2017 Legislature passed 535 pieces of legislation.

"That's a record," he said, adding that members could decide if it was a good one or bad.

Many House members then booed.

—Lee Davidson

12:01 a.m.

Time runs out on election bill

The effort by House republicans to undo Utah's dual-track election law arrived too late for consideration in the Senate.

Even though the Senate had roughly 40 minutes to consider the changes, that debate was pre-empted by a 30-minute discussion on re-criminalizing bigamy in the state of Utah.

Utah's anti-bigamy law has been weakened by court rulings, prompting HB99, which makes it a crime to both cohabitate with and purport to be married to multiple partner.

That bill passed in with a razor-thin 15-14 majority of the Senate and will head to the governor for his signature.

After that bill, Senators had 10 minutes left in the legislative session. The next bill was SB114, the election bill, which was promptly circled by Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, who is the architect of the SB54 compromise that allows political candidates to reach the primary ballot by gathering signatures or participating in a party caucus and convention.

—Benjamin Wood

11:55 p.m.

Further criminalizing polygamy

A bill that would change the definition of polygamy and increases the penalties for it in some circumstances passed the Utah Legislature five minutes before the constitutionally mandated time for adjournment — and without a vote to spare.

The bill never received a hearing in the Senate, but it was brought to the Senate floor for a vote and passed 15-14. It will go to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature or veto.

HB99 would add criteria for being prosecuted for bigamy: The offender would have to live with the extra spouse and "purport" to be married. State law requires only one or the other.

Bigamy would remain punishable by up to five years in prison, but the penalties could increase to 15 years if the offender is convicted in concert with crimes such as fraud, abuse or human smuggling.

—Nate Carlisle

11:15 p.m.

Election law under attack, again

GOP conservatives were making an eleventh-hour attempt — literally, since key votes occurred after 11 p.m. — to gut a controversial new election law called SB54.

That law now allows candidates to qualify for the ballot either by gathering signatures, using the traditional caucus-convention system, or both.

Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, successfully amended SB114 on a 38-33 vote to allow parties to choose which system, or both, to allow for its candidates. The Utah Republican Party has unsuccessfully challenged SB54 in court, although appeals are pending. Fawson attempted to rewrite the law.

The bill then passed on a 47-26 vote. Because it was amended, it was sent to the Senate for consideration — with little time remaining before a midnight deadline for adjournment.

SB114's House sponsor, Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, who was also the House sponsor of SB54, said Fawson's amendment violates the "grand compromise" that stopped the Count Our Vote initiative that sought to replace the caucus-convention system with an open primary.

But Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Salem, argued, "Let's let the parties make this decision."

Another part of the bill was also controversial.

It changes current law to require candidates who plan to gather signatures to file for office in the first week of January. Those who use the caucus-convention system would not file until March, after the Legislature adjourns.

Under current law, those who hope to collect signatures could file any time between January and March.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, has complained the change seeks to benefit incumbents, allowing them to see early if they may have a signature-gathering challenger and give them time to do the same.

10:45 p.m.

More bills on way to governor

A bill to increase the penalties for sex assaults committed by someone with HIV or AIDS won approval in the House, 59-12, and is now on its way to the governor for his signature.

Likewise with SB279 — a clean-up bill that allows a restaurant to keep serving liquor even if a church moves in nearby.

10:33 p.m.

Cow harassment

As House members literally "mooed" instead of saying "aye" for approval, lawmakers gave final approval to possibly jail people for harassing livestock with aerial drones, dogs, all-terrain vehicles or other vehicles.

Some jokingly opposed the bill by mimicking a horse's "neigh" for no (nay).

The House concurred with Senate amendments, and sent HB217 to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature or veto.

Rep. Scott Chew, R-Jensen, a rancher, said the bill has gained joking publicity nationwide, and even in Europe.

He said previously that he's pushing HB217 because of an incident in his county were someone chased baby calves, "running over them and simply being obnoxious." He said police found they lacked laws to charge them.

His bill would make a first offense a class B misdemeanor, carrying a possible six-month jail term, as long as no livestock are killed or injured or scattered into areas where they are not allowed. Subsequent offenses would be a class A misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail, as would any incidents that kill or harm an animal.

Chew said the bill would allow "shooing away" animals from areas they should not be, "but not tormenting them."

— Lee Davidson

10:09 p.m.

"Put us out of our misery"

As the legislative session wanes, it's common to see lawmakers become more casual in their debate, and begrudgingly bipartisan in their votes.

During a presentation on aquaculture legislation by Republican Sen. Gregg Buxton, R-Roy, that included a lot of technical explanation, Democrat Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, offered an olive branch to hurry things along.

"I'm just going to vote for this to put you out of your misery," she said.

Buxton thanked her for her support, while Senate President Wayne Niderhauser, R-Sandy, gestured to the clock mounted above his dais.

"I think the only thing that is going to put us out of our misery is if I go up there and spin the clock ahead two hours," he said.

HB315, "Aquaculture Amendments," passed the Senate 27-0 — its earlier House vote was also unanimous — and it will now go to the governor for his signature.

—Benjamin Wood

9:45 p.m.

Extra requirements for ballot initiatives

The Legislature has placed additional requirements on the Our Schools Now ballot initiative, which is working to put a $750 million income tax increase for public schools on the 2018 ballot.

HB255, which requires tax increase initiatives to list both the rate change and the relative percentage change in the forms voters sign to qualify an initiative for the ballot.

It would mean Our Schools Now would have to make it clear that their seven-eighths of 1 percent increase — from a rate of 5 percent to 5.875 percent — will actually increase the raw dollars Utahns pay in income taxes by 17.5 percent.

"We have to tell them at least what the nominal percentage is," Senate sponsor Sen. Bramble said.

The Senate voted 28-0 for the bill, and then sent it to the House to concur with amendments. The House approved the bill 55-16.

The original version required both pieces of tax information to be listed on







But Bramble changed it to instead list the information one time, prominently, at the bottom of each sheet of paper.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said lawmakers will be happy to spend new tax money if Our Schools Now succeeds. But he worried that without the extra tax information, voters might sign the ballot petitions thinking one thing, and then oppose the initiative itself after realizing its true cost.

"If they vote 'no,' I think that will be a slap in the face of education and teachers," Hillyard said.

—Benjamin Wood

Extra penalties for sexual assaults

Senators approved a watered-down version of a bill that adds enhanced penalties to sexual offenses committed by a person with HIV or AIDS.

HB369 originally included a controversial provision that would make it illegal for an HIV-positive individual to engage in otherwise consensual activity without disclosing their HIV status to their partner.

The bill was substituted by its Senate sponsor, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, and as a result is short enough to be listed here in its entirety:

"(1) A person convicted of a sexual offense described in Chapter 5, Part 4, Sexual Offenses, is subject to an enhanced penalty if at the time of the sexual offense the person was infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus or Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus and the person knew of the infection.

(2) (a) Except as provided in Subsection (2)(b), the enhancement of a penalty described in Subsection (1) shall be an enhancement of one classification higher than the root offense for which the person was convicted.

(b) A felony of the first degree is not enhanced under this section."

Senators voted 27-1 for the bill, which was amended to include hepatitis B and C. Those changes require an additional vote of the House.

—Benjamin Wood

8 p.m.

Goodbye, Milo

The budget approved by Utah lawmakers tonight will not include an incentive for schools to purchase autism education robots.

The final budget, made public around 7 p.m., caps off a fortnight of back-and-forth for the otherwise obscure and relatively small — $200,000 — budget item.

Last week, Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, presented HB418 in committee. It would pay half the cost, with schools covering the rest, to purchase a "humanoid robot program that provides comprehensive facial expressions and screen icons designed to teach social and behavioral skill development in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder."

Last was joined in his committee presentation by representatives from RoboKind, a Texas-based company that produces the robot "Milo," and which would be the likely beneficiary of the state funds.

The committee voted 6-2 for the bill, which then landed with a thud in the House on Monday, with members voting 24-50 with almost no discussion. The one lawmaker who spoke regarding the bill, Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said school administrators, and not the Legislature, should select classroom technology to purchase.

But despite the "no" vote in the House, a $200,000 line-item for "interactive tools designed to treat social and behavioral issues with children on the autism spectrum," was included two days later in the preview materials for the so-called "Bill of bills." That funding would be distributed in grant form, with local schools matching the state contribution, in the same format proposed by Last's failed bill.

On Thursday, the Senate's budget chairman confirmed that "Milo" the robot was no longer in the Bill of bills, since the proposal had failed to pass the House and Senate.

— Benjamin Wood

7:29 p.m.

Liquor laws

One top state leader is not happy that the Legislature just passed the nation's toughest drunken driving law: House Speaker Greg Hughes.

"I'm a little worried about .05 to he honest with you," he told reporters at his end-of-the-Legislature press availability Thursday evening.

That comes as day after lawmakers passed a bill that would lower the blood-alcohol content to be considered drunken from 0.08 to 0.05. It is the first state to do that.

Hughes said he worries that some people cited for DUIs with just a 0.05 level might not be truly impaired — and could suffer big financial and criminal consequences.

Because it would also lead to higher insurance rates, he said he worries more drivers may go without insurance. He said it also may hurt tourism in Utah. Others have said the move increases the "weirdness factor" of the state caused by its liquor laws.

Hughes did praise the other liquor law passed this session: alcohol reforms that included offering more options than the "Zion Curtain," a 7-foot-tall barrier to keep children from seeing drinks mixed in restaurants.

"That's a positive" for tourism, Hughes said. He added that new buffer zones to keep children away from bars "is just good management," and many drinkers may appreciate not having children too close.

Some other highlights from Hughes's press availability include:

• He believes a possibility exists that Outdoor Retailer may bring back its lucrative show. Executives left in protest over a resolution, sponsored by Hughes, seeking to rescind the new Bears Ears National Monument.

"There are some loud voices [among retailers] that are very frustrated with the politics of Utah," he said. "But I'm also hearing there's a lot that quite enjoy visiting Utah. ... Some would like to see that [the annual shows] stay here."

• He praised legislation that passed to address homelessness. "We have embraced our homeless crisis as a state issue."

• Hughes said he is disappointed lawmakers were unable to enact tax reform, but said their work on it gives them a head start for study during the rest of the year.

"We had the political will," he said. "We were willing to enact reform," but data showed proposals were not bringing the hoped-for results.

"I can overcome the politics of issues, but I can't beat the math," he said.

• Hughes said this session was unusually friendly with the Senate and governor.

"We've communicated well," he said. "There hasn't been any gamesmanship. We're pretty drama-free and we've been pretty blunt. I think it contributed to a more smooth session."

— Lee Davidson

5:31 p.m.

Public lands

Instead of the past fiery calls for Utah to sue the federal government for control of federal public lands, lawmakers passed a kinder, gentler resolution Thursday.

It's all because Donald Trump is president — and because Republicans control both houses of Congress.

HCR1 now only urges legislative action to give Utah control of public lands. It calls for preparation of a lawsuit, but only for use as a last resort if Congress fails to act.

Such a legal challenge is expected to cost $14 million.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, earlier made an interesting change in the title of the resolution reflecting it change in direction. It was originally, "Concurrent resolution on public lands litigation."

Now it is, "Concurrent resolution to secure the perpetual health and vitality of Utah's public lands and its status as a premier public lands state."

The House and Senate agreed to a compromise worked out by a conference committee, and sent HCR1 to Gov. Gary Herbert for his consideration.

— Lee Davidson

5:20 p.m.

Medically induced abortion

Unless vetoed by Gov. Gary Herbert, a new law will require doctors to give the following information to women seeking a medically induced abortion:

"Research indicates that mifepristone alone is not always effective in ending a pregnancy. You may still have a viable pregnancy after taking mifepristone. If you have taken mifepristone but have not yet taken the second drug and have questions regarding the health of your fetus or are questioning your decision to terminate your pregnancy, you should consult a physician immediately."

The update to Utah's informed consent law is based on a two-step process for medication-induced abortion. In some cases, women who took only the first medication — mifepristone — were able to successfully carry their pregnancy to term.

When asked about whether the medical community is comfortable with abortion-reversal guidance, Senate sponsor Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, said that difference of opinion does not change the reality that two rounds of medication are often required to successfully terminate a pregnancy.

"We're all entitled to our own facts. Doctors are entitled to their own facts," Bramble said. "The facts are, not every pregnancy is terminated upon taking this medication."

Bramble later clarified on Twitter that he meant to say everyone is entitled to their own "opinions."

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, spoke in favor of the bill, HB141, saying it provides women with additional information.

"Informed consent laws do not prevent a woman from choosing an abortion," Weiler said. "Rather, they ensure that a woman makes an informed choose."

But Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, opposed the bill, and questioned whether laws should dictate the conversations between doctors and their patients.

"I just don't think we need the government between a woman and her doctor," he said.

Senators voted 22-5 in favor of the bill, which was approved by the House in a 56-13 vote last month.

— Benjamin Wood

4:53 p.m.

Convicts applying for work

Lawmakers gave final passage Thursday to a bill that would allow convicts who apply for state jobs not to disclose their criminal past until they have an interview.

The House concurred with Senate amendments to HB156, and sent it to the governor for his signature or veto.

Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, a social worker, sponsored the bill saying many convicts who have done their time and have turned their lives around are screened out in job searches because of their backgrounds.

She said the bill gives them a chance to explain their situation when seeking state jobs, and perhaps talk their way into a position. At an earlier hearing, several convicts who said they have changed their lives pleaded for the bill.

— Lee Davidson

4:47 p.m.

Public education

Lest you think that lawmakers and educators don't get along, the House and Senate took a minute during their last day of businesses to read the following letter:

"The members of the education community collectively wish to thank the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, the Executive Appropriations Committee and members of the House and Senate for their investment in public education this year. We have enjoyed the open dialogue and collaborative atmosphere and look forward to continued cooperation.

"We are appreciative of the Legislature for fully funding student enrollment growth, the 4 percent increase of the WPU value, ongoing funding for teacher supplies, regional service centers and the new appropriation for educator licensing fee costs. Of note, we are especially grateful for the additional 1 percent WPU allocated on top of the original 3 percent proposal. Your commitment to student achievement and positive outcomes in schools is commendable. Thank you for a positive session!"

The letter was signed by the Utah Education Association, Utah Board of Education, State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson, Utah Parent Teacher Association and various associations for school employees and administrators.

— Benjamin Wood

4:27 p.m.

"No Promo Homo" law

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said he sees "no reason not to sign" a bill that repeals the state's prohibition of "advocacy of homosexuality" in schools.

The bill, which was passed by near-unanimous majorities in the House and Senate, was sponsored in response to a lawsuit against the state challenging its so-called "No Promo Homo" laws.

Bill supporters argued that the ambiguity of "advocacy" in the law made it difficult for teacher to acknowledge the existence of same-sex relationships, or to intervene on behalf of a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender student who is bullied by their peers.

"We need to comply with the law," Herbert said, referring to recent court decisions on same-sex relationships. "The law of the land really is requiring this to take place."

— Benjamin Wood

4:22 p.m.

A restaurant with a liquor license can keep serving alcohol if a church or school moves next door under a bill approved by the Senate in a 20-4 vote.

SB279 is a clean-up bill to last night's liquor reform package — the "Zion Curtain" bill. It removes the ability of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to allow variances for restaurants and bars within a set distance from a "community location" — parks, schools, churches, etc. — but grandfathers in existing variances.

Sponsor Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, gave the example of strip malls, where churches or charter schools might open shop where liquor-serving restaurants are currently operating. The bill will now be considered by the House.

— Benjamin Wood

3:33 p.m.

Concealed firearms

The Senate signed off on a bill allowing 18-year-olds to obtain a concealed-carry gun permit.

HB198 was pushed as a way for young women to protect themselves from sexual predators. Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the bill would allow women to carry a gun on a college campus in their purse.

He told lawmakers the majority of the opposition he has received has come from people who are against 18-year-olds being allowed to carry a firearm. However, he said, under Utah law, young adults can already access a firearm as long as they carry it openly.

Under the bill, young adults would be required to get a new permit upon reaching the age of 21.

— Jessica Banuelos

3:18 p.m.

Child support

With same-sex marriages now allowed in Utah, lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that will also allow enforcement of child support orders against all parents — straight or gay.

"This brings our code into compliance with current state law," said Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara. "Regardless how we feel about the state of the law, that is the state of the law."

The House voted 68-3 to pass SB147, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature or veto. It was previously approved by the Senate 29-0.

— Lee Davidson

3:06 p.m.

Opioid addiction

The Utah Senate unanimously passed a bill to set regulations on opioid prescriptions. The bill requires physicians to give seven-day partial refills if they are able to do so, hoping to prevent addiction.

Bill sponsor, Sen. Vickers, R-Cedar City, said HB50's purpose is to "have physicians review their practice and prescribing habits."

Vickers mentioned there will be no penalty if physicians decide it is necessary to give a full prescription due to the patient's circumstances.

— Jessica Banuelos

2:52 p.m.

Affordable housing

A bill designed to increase affordable housing and fight homelessness won final approval Thursday.

The House and Senate voted to adopt compromises worked out by a conference committee and sent HB36 to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature or veto

Its sponsor, Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, has said it would encourage more affordable housing by doing such things as increasing state income-tax credits for landlords. It would also create a fund to provide loans to help build more affordable housing or convert existing market-rate units to it.

Lawmakers approved $4 million in funding for the bill.

It comes after the state reported recently that the number of Utah's extremely low-income families exceeds the rental units they can afford by more than 38,000 — equivalent to the population of Kearns.

— Lee Davidson

12:55 p.m.

Senate media briefing

Members of Senate leadership held their final media briefing of the legislative session Thursday.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said he was disappointed lawmakers were unable to pass tax reform — Senate Republicans had pushed for an increase in the sales tax on food, combined with a decrease in the overall sales tax rate. But he pointed to several successes, including bonding for road projects and the construction of a new state prison, a 4 percent increase in per-student spending, state funding for new homeless shelters in Salt Lake County and a decrease in the state's legal limit for drivers' blood alcohol content (BAC), from 0.08 to 0.05.

"We put together, I think, a very balanced budget," he said.

• On air quality: Senators praised a bill that gives a $1.8 million tax break to oil refineries that transition to the production of cleaner-burning fuels.

"Tier-3 fuel is really the one thing that makes a big difference," said. Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe.

• On medical marijuana: Niederhauser commended a bill that allows for research into the medical uses and proper dosing of cannabis.

"It's shocking that no other state has taken that approach," he said. "Hopefully we can have [the research] by next session and have a clear pathway to what we're going to do with medical marijuana."

• On liquor reform: Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said he doesn't anticipate widespread restaurant remodeling as a result of his bill providing additional options beyond the so-called "Zion Curtain" for keeping children away from the preparation of adult beverages.

And Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said his bill to decrease Utah's BAC limit for drivers to 0.05 — which would be the lowest level in the nation — is one component of decreasing traffic fatalities.

"I think we're all in agreement there's too many deaths on our highways," he said.

• On new taxes and fees: Stevenson said "there's nothing more basic to conservative principles than those who use services should pay for services."

— Benjamin Wood

11:55 a.m.

Solar panels

A bill advanced Thursday that generally would require homeowner associations (HOAs) to allow residents to install solar panels.

The House voted 53-15 to pass SB154. Because it was amended, it returns to the Senate for its concurrence to the changes. The Senate previously approved it 23-2.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, the bill's House sponsor, said that after amendments, it would affect only privately owned single-detached homes in HOAs — not condominiums, town homes or duplexes.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, earlier said if an HOA already bans or restricts solar panels, those covenants would be grandfathered into law. However, if they are silent on solar, then they must allow them.

They may still impose restrictions — such as on colors, size and the view of panels from the street — as long as they do not hurt the efficiency of the panels by 5 percent or increase their costs unreasonably.

However, if 67 percent of residents in an HOA vote to remove existing solar panel bans — or to add them — that also would be allowed.

— Lee Davidson

10:40 a.m.

Utah Lake

Luxury islands on Utah Lake? That's the hope of one Utah lawmaker.

During debate on a resolution urging the restoration of Utah Lake, known for its aromatic distinction and colorful algal blooms, Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said the area is full of promise as one of the few bodies of water in the United States where lakefront property is not in demand.

"I have a dream that someday we dredge it so that it's deep," Stephenson said. "And we use the land from the dredging to build islands on which we can have hotels and golf courses and have an amazing, amazing place."

The resolution, a non-binding piece of message legislation, is intended to encourage the Utah Lake Commission to look for ways to "get rid of its yuck factor," said Senate sponsor Sen. Deidre Henderson.

Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, spoke in support of the proposal, and praised it as a change of pace from Utah's habit of passing state's rights resolutions.

"At long last," Davis said, "I'm reading a resolution that doesn't demand the federal government do something."

— Benjamin Wood

10:33 a.m.

Phone fees

A bill advanced to require Utah telephone users to pay an extra 52 cents a month on every cellphone and landline — a 68 percent increase.

They now pay 76 cents a month, but that would increase to $1.24 a month under SB198.

The House approved the bill on a 55-17 vote. It returns to the Senate for one more vote to consider House amendments.

Its sponsor, Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, earlier said the money would help upgrade what officials say are antiquated 911 and public safety radio systems statewide. Also, the bill would also make many reforms to the Utah Communications Authority after an official embezzled $1 million from it recently.

UCA Board Chairman Tina Mathieu said in an earlier hearing that the fee hike is long overdue.

"Our system is literally being maintained right now by parts we are buying from eBay, and from other cities as they replace their outdated systems," she said. "This is our fourth year that we've been before the Legislature asking for funding for this project."

— Lee Davidson

10:01 a.m.

Safety inspections

Utah's car safety inspection program has now gone the way of the horse and buggy — unless Gov. Gary Herbert decides to veto HB265.

The House on Thursday concurred with earlier Senate amendments to that bill, sending it to the governor for his signature or veto.

The bill would end the requirement that noncommercial vehicles undergo a regular safety inspection. It also increases the cost of vehicle registrations by $1 to fund hiring more Highway Patrol troopers, and paying them more overtime.

Senate sponsor Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, said 34 states have already abandoned safety inspections, with no corresponding increase in traffic fatalities. She said market forces motivate drivers to purchase and maintain safe cars, and the rate of fatalities due to unsafe vehicles is eclipsed by human error.

However in the House, Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, a Highway Patrol lieutenant, argued vigorously against the change saying he has seen many non-inspected cars from other states suffer fatal crashes because of problems inspections would have found.

— Lee Davidson

9:56 a.m.


The Legislature's new plan to fight homelessness, a top priority of leaders this year, won final approval on Thursday.

The House concurred with Senate amendments to HB441, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature or veto.

It incorporates deals worked out that reduce the number of homeless resource shelters in Salt Lake City from four to two, including eliminating a controversial one in Sugar House.

The deal also calls for phasing out the Rio Grande homeless shelter. It calls for Salt Lake County to locate another homeless resource center outside of Salt Lake City.

The bill gives the county power to locate a shelter in a city that may not want it.

The bill completes the Legislature's role in appropriating $20 million for construction of new homeless resource centers.

— Lee Davidson

9:52 a.m.

Statutory rape

Lawmakers approved HB123, which decreases the penalties — and provides flexibility to courts — in cases where teenagers engage in consensual sexual relationships.

Senate sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the changes were prompted by a case in which two minors were both charged with statutory rape of the other.

"That doesn't make sense to really anyone," he said.

The bill creates a graduated scale of severity, from class C misdemeanor to third degree felony, depending on the age of the minors who engage in sexual activity.

The Senate voted unanimously for the bill on Thursday, following a unanimous vote of the House last month.

—Benjamin Wood

9:38 a.m.

Presidential primary

Remember the long lines during Utah's presidential caucuses last year? Legislators approved a bill trying to avoid that in 2020 by allowing switching to a presidential primary instead.

The House concurred with Senate amendments to HB204, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature or veto.

"Political parties should be in the business of trying to win elections, not run them," Rep. Patricia Arent, D-Millcreek, sponsor of the bill, said earlier.

In a primary, she said people may vote all day, vote by mail or absentee ballot or use early voting — and it is run by professionals. But in last year's caucus, parties used volunteers to compress voting into a few hours in the evening.

"There were people who couldn't vote because there was no parking, they were elderly, they couldn't stand in line, it was cold, they were there with their families and their children couldn't stand in line," Arent said, adding that people who had to work could not vote.

Because of the chaos and long lines, Arent said, "We thought, 'Wow, there are a lot of people — what a great turnout.' Actually, 53 percent fewer people voted in that presidential caucus last year than in our primary in 2008."

—Lee Davidson


Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, had a comical — or perhaps divine? — slip-up in the waning hours of the penultimate day of the Legislative session.

Near the end of Senate business Wednesday evening, Niederhauser was going through the motions on a vote when he mistakenly invoked "Third Nephi," — a religious text in the Mormon scriptural canon — instead of a bill's "third substitute" — meaning a third draft prepared for debate.

The chamber, largely composed of members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, filled with laughter while Niederhauser buried his head in his hands. After several minutes, Senate business resumed.

— Benjamin Wood