The 2017 legislative session ended Thursday night with a total of 535 bills that passed the House and Senate. Out of those 535 bills, 131 or 24 percent were passed on the last day of the session.
This year’s Legislature repealed the annual safety inspection requirement for personal automobiles, lowered the blood alcohol level for driving under the influence from 0.08 to 0.05, and provided restaurants an option to the Zion curtain — the partition that separates alcohol preparation from the view of customers.
But the big story for Tooele County from Utah’s capital this year was the passing of a bill authorizing the state to bond for up to $1 billion for transportation projects over the next four years.
The $1 billion bond will include funding for the Midvalley Highway, according to Tooele County legislators.
“The transportation bond, including the Midvalley Highway, is big news for Tooele County,” said Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville. “There is a critical need for better access to I-80 in Tooele County. Midvalley Highway will help with safety and economic development.”
Nelson also touted increased funding for education as a major accomplishment of the 2017 legislative session.
“We fully funded growth in education and a 4- percent increase in the weighted pupil unit funding for education,” he said.
Among legislative efforts passed by Nelson was House Bill 199, which requires the transfer of all adopted children be completed through a legal process.
Prior to HB 199, parents of high needs adopted children were using the internet to transfer their adopted children to new parents when the adoption failed, making the internet a human trafficking market place, according to Nelson.
Nelson’s House Concurrent Resolution 6 passed both the House and the Senate.
HCR 6 expresses the state’s support of a constitutional amendment sponsored by Utah Congressman Rob Bishop that would allow two-thirds of the states’ Legislatures to overturn any federal executive order, rule, regulation, other regulatory action, or administrative ruling.
Nelson also sponsored a resolution that would have set standards for the redistricting process following the 2020 decennial U.S. Census. The resolution sailed through the House with a 70-0 vote, but died in a Senate committee following a 2-4 vote.
The 2017 passed bill list also includes Rep. Doug Sagers’, R-Tooele, House Bill 405. HB 405 allows the state of Utah to offer up to $50 million in tax incentives to Nikola Motor Company.
Nikola is eyeing Tooele County as a production location for its new zero emission hydrogen fuel cell powered electric semi-trucks.
Sagers also passed House Concurrent Resolution 21, which expresses the state’s support for a NASA test center for commercial drones in Tooele County.
A measure to allow counties to sell or transfer property to their redevelopment agencies at lower than fair market value did not pass the 2017 session.
Sagers collaborated with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, to include clarifying language in the state’s redevelopment laws.
House Bill 290, “Community Reinvestment Agency Amendments,” passed the House 68-0 and passed a Senate committee with a 3-0 favorable vote. However, the bill did not reach the Senate floor before the end of the 2017 general session.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, who also represents parts of Tooele County, passed a bill that creates a commission to integrate local mental health crisis lines into a statewide mental health crisis line system.
“Many local crisis lines aren’t available during peak hours for suicide,” Thatcher said. “With a statewide system, we would have 24/7 coverage.”
Senate Bill 72, another of Thatcher’s bills, would have provided enhancement by one degree for criminal offenses when it can be proved the offender acted against an individual because of the offender’s perception of the individual’s ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation. State code already provides for enhancement of penalties for a variety of reasons, Thatcher said.
“I’m not creating any new crimes,” he said. “It is hard to prove hate, and just hating somebody is not a crime.”
While Senate leadership let SB 72 die in the Senate Rules Committee without ever being assigned to a committee for consideration or a public hearing, Thatcher said he believes the bill made progress this year.
“SB 72 received plenty of support that previous hate crimes legislation did not receive,” he said.
Thatcher listed the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the Utah Association of Counties, the Utah Sheriff’s Association, the Utah Council on Victims of Crime, and the Utah State Sentencing Commission among SB 72’s supporters.
“I’ll bring it back,” Thatcher said. “We want to send a message that those that target people for crime as a way of instilling fear in our communities will not be tolerated.”
Out of the 535 bills passed by the House and the Senate, Gov. Gary Herbert has signed 14 so far, according to the state Legislature’s website.
If the governor fails to either sign or veto a bill within 20 days of adjournment of the legislative session, the bill becomes law without the governor’s signature.