ST. GEORGE – Utah people groups and hot topic interests were the subject of many laws considered during the state’s general session, including bigamy, polygamy, LGBT, the homeless, college students and conceal carry rights, medical marijuana, pornography concerns, elections and even food industry interests. These are among many things the Legislature did during its 2017 general session now come and gone. This report is the second in a four-part series on the session’s highlights.
The general session ended at midnight Thursday and Utah lawmakers are no longer being held hostage at the State Capitol. These elected officials who willingly endure such captivity on behalf of their constituents passed 535 bills out of a proposed 1,279 during this year’s session. While there was nothing passed in the way of tax reform – a subject that was batted around during the session – it will likely be a big issue next year.
- Part 1 – Legislature wraps: $16B budget, education $$, alcohol laws, short-term rentals and more
- Part 3 – Legislature wraps: Public lands, air quality, medical and crisis options
- Part 4 – Legislature wraps: New laws on crime, punishment, penalties and protections
2017’s Senate Bill 114, Election Law Amendments, would have created a runoff election between the top two finishers in some primaries. The measure was touted as the answer to issues created by 2014’s so-called Count My Vote compromise bill, the Election law Amendments bill’s sponsor Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, said.
A version of the bill remained in the Legislature undergoing several changes to address filing deadlines for candidates. Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said the bill was finally killed by the bill’s sponsor on the last day of the session after being turned back over to the Senate in its changed form. Read more here.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Raymond Ward, R-Bountiful, titled School Board Amendments, would have made elections to the State Board of Education nonpartisan once more. The Legislature previously passed a law making the state school board election partisan starting in 2018. Read more here. Ward’s bill never made it to a committee vote let alone a House vote and was filed without passing.
With five minutes to spare in the Utah Senate, a bill that effectively “recriminalizes” polygamy narrowly passed with a 15-14 vote. The “Bigamy Offense Amendments,” designated as House Bill 99 and sponsored by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, criminalizes someone who claims to be married yet lives with multiple people, such as multiple wives. It also has enhanced penalties related to coercion in marriage and sex abuse, child abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking, as reported by Fox 13 News’ Ben Winslow. See Winslow’s story on the bill’s passage here.
A bill lowering the legal conceal carry permit age to 18 passed the Legislature. The bill gives 18- to 20-year-olds the ability to get a provisional conceal permit that expires on their 21st birthday. The primary argument in favor of the bill is that it will give young adults a much better chance of defending against sexual violence, particularly on college and university campuses where openly carrying a gun is not permitted. Read more here.
A bill that would have allowed Utah residents to conceal carry without a permit did not survive the Legislature.
Of food and food trucks
“Direct Food Sales Amendments,” designated as House Bill 58 and sponsored by state Rep. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, modifies the requirements for a cottage food production operation. Small home kitchens making cakes, cookies, jams and jellies, among other select goods, will be allowed to sell food directly to consumers without going through expensive state licensing and inspections.
Such operations will still be required to hold a valid food handlers permit, register with the state as a cottage food operation and label products indicating their unregulated status. Read more here.
A bill de-regulating food trucks was passed passed by the Legislature. The legislation will allow food trucks to do business in multiple counties and municipalities by making permits, fees and licensing obtained in one jurisdiction honored in another. This will save on food truck operators having to obtain multiple permits and licenses between various towns and counties.
In the passage of House Bill 441, Housing and Homeless Reform Initiative Amendments, homelessness issues emerged as a politically empowered and well-funded priority in this year’s session. The amendments are critical to the plan to revamp the state’s troubled homeless services model. The bill finalizes the second half of the state’s $20 million contributions for the construction of new homeless resource centers including two new shelters in Salt Lake City and a third in a yet-to-be-decided city other than Salt Lake City in Salt Lake County.
The measure also created a hard deadline of June 30, 2019, for closure of the blighted downtown Road Home shelter at 210 S. Rio Grande St. in Salt Lake City.
Called the “No Promo Homo” law by LGBT advocates, language in state law regarding health education that forbade the promotion of homosexuality was repealed by the Legislature. However, language outlawing discussion of premarital and extramarital sex, regardless of orientation, remains. Read more here.
Suing purveyors of porn (someone thought of the children)
A follow up to 2016’s resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis, Rep. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, sponsored a bill that will enable youths under 18, or their parents or guardians, the ability to sue porn producers and distributors if they believe the child has been harmed by it in some way. The bill passed the Legislature Monday. Read more here.
While a medical cannabis research bill ultimately passed this year, medical cannabis remains illegal in Utah for yet another year as no state policy supporting legalization made its way through the Legislature’s general session. Failure by the Legislature to pass law legalizing medical cannabis has led to advocates pursuing a ballot initiative that could roll out sometime this summer. Read more here.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, that would create a day-to-day framework for regulating the handling and sale of medical cannabis in preparation of the day when medical cannabis could be legalized did not pass the Legislature.
In this report, the presumption of bills passed becoming new laws is dependent upon the governor not vetoing the legislation. Gov. Gary Herbert has until March 29 to sign or not sign (in either case, the bills passed become law) or to veto a bill. If he vetoes a bill, it returns to the Legislature for possible override consideration.
St. George News assistant editors Paul Dail and Kimberly Scott, and reporters Cody Blowers, Julie Applegate, Joseph Witham and Tracie Sullivan contributed to this series of articles.
- Southern Utah Sens. Ralph Okerlund, Don Ipson, Evan Vickers and David Hinkins | Listing of all senators.
- Southern Utah Reps. Walt Brooks, Merrill Nelson, Brad Last, John Westwood, Mike Noel, V. Lowry Snow and Jon Stanard | Listing of all members of the House of Representatives.
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