Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 19, 2019
One bad bill

HB 74 is one bill we’re glad won’t see any ink from Herbert’s pen this year — and hopefully never will 

The Utah Legislature wrapped up its 45-day, 2019 General Session last Thursday and by midnight it had approved over 570 bills that will make their way to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk for approval or veto.

Bills that were approved by the Legislature and will impact Tooele County include House Bills 220 and 288 (see related front-page story). HB 220 imposes a tax on certain low-level radioactive waste disposed in the state and calls for the classification of low-level radioactive waste at the time it is received at the disposal site. It also requires a site and waste specific assessment before low-level radioactive waste can be accepted in Utah.

Opponents of HB 220 — which has become law because Herbert did not sign or veto the bill within 10 days after its passage earlier this month by both the House and Senate — claim the bill will open the door to accepting depleted uranium and higher than Class A low-level radioactive waste in the state, namely at EnergySolutions in Tooele County’s West Desert.

HB 288, called Critical Infrastructure Materials, vests current legal nonconforming and permitted sand, gravel, and rock aggregate operations with certain protections. It also allows county legislative bodies to create critical infrastructure material protection zones, similar to existing protection zones for agriculture, industry, and mining.

Voting on the bill ended just hours before midnight Thursday and will be forwarded to Herbert for his signature or veto. HB 288 involves the numerous commercial gravel pit operations in Tooele County, especially ones that are looking to expand or are being encroached by residential development.

Time will tell if both bills are true acts of wisdom and governance by our state’s top leaders.

But one House Bill in particular we’re glad won’t have the chance to see any ink from Herbert’s pen — at least this year.

That piece of proposed legislation was House Bill 74, which sought an amendment to Utah’s Open Meetings law. If passed in its proposed form, HB 74 would have allowed governmental entities to hold a closed meeting to discuss a response to a confidential draft of an audit report. Although the bill passed the House and cleared a Senate committee, it never was considered by and voted upon by the Senate before midnight Thursday.

The main concern with HB 74 is the state’s Open Meetings Act would take a hit, limiting citizens and the news media access to vital public information. It would have allowed members of a public board to review in secret preliminary findings of an audit regarding their agency.

The result could be hush-hush deals to resolve inconvenient or embarrassing errors or matters privately, without public knowledge or input, before the audit’s final draft becomes public. We consider that a serious affront to the purpose and intent of the state’s Open Meetings Act. 

Thankfully, HB 74 never made it entirely to the surface for air. But proposed bills, no matter how bad they are, have a way of coming back the following year. For citizens and the news media that don’t want to be further hobbled from getting the facts, a long fight may still lie ahead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>