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The 12 Bills of Lege-mas

Halfway through this year's general session, here are a dozen notable bills to keep on your radar.

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If passed, a few bills could make this year’s Capitol Hill extravaganza one for the record books. - ENRIQUE LIMÓN
  • Enrique Limón
  • If passed, a few bills could make this year’s Capitol Hill extravaganza one for the record books.

To the relief of some, and maybe a sad note for others, the Utah Legislature recently hit its halfway point. During the session's 45 days, lawmakers work at lightning-fast speed to debate more than 1,000 bills. While the bulk go unnoticed, a few attract oodles of attention, draw criticism and trigger a head-scratch or two. Will Utahns finally have a state flag worthy of a mouse pad this year? Or be able to purchase full-strength beer at their neighborhood grocery store like normal people? Read on.


Conversion Therapy

The bill: In a widely approved move, the Legislature is considering a bill that would ban conversion therapy for minors—a destructive process that attempts to change a youth's sexual orientation or gender identity. Advocates say the bill will help reduce teen LGBTQ suicides and end a psychologically harmful practice.
Sponsor: Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City
Status: Awaiting approval from House Rules Committee.

Slavery
The bill: Say goodbye to slavery. Wait, what? Yes, it's 2019 and Utah's constitution still includes wording about slavery. In a mostly symbolic move, House Joint Resolution 8 would officially strike archaic language from the document. And the state can finally (?) move into the 21st century.
Sponsor: Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City
Status: Approved by the House and awaiting discussion in the Senate.

State Flag Commission
The bills: Can't get enough juicy flag debate? Join the club. One lawmaker sought to create a commission to consider new state flag designs, while another bill came with a ready-made solution. The proposed flag included the year 1847—the year when the Mormon pioneers settled in Salt Lake Valley. But not all agreed the new pennant should be tied to Mormon history. With the argument still raging, both bills were squashed.
Sponsors: Rep. Kevin Stratton, R-Orem; Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton
Status: Bills did not advance out of committee.

Gender Requirements
The bill: Initially, Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, wanted to prohibit people from changing their assigned sex on their birth certificates. After some pushback and negotiating, he changed the bill to allow people to change it on their driver licenses, but not on birth documents. Criticized for being transphobic, Nelson's bill was abandoned, but don't be surprised to see other gender bills introduced in future legislative sessions.
Sponsor: Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville
Status: Lawmakers agreed to not pursue the bill this session.

Hate Crimes
The bill: In a years-long debate on Capitol Hill, legislators have been unable to agree on a workable hate-crimes law. This year, however, we've seen the most promising sign yet—committee approval. The proposed bill would strengthen Utah's hate-crimes statutes and add protected classes. Remember the homophobic attack just a week ago on Main Street? District Attorney Sim Gill told City Weekly his office couldn't seek a hate-crimes-related enhancement because the current law is functionally useless ... for now.
Sponsor: Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City
Status: Passed out of Senate committee, awaiting floor hearing.

Beer!
The bill: It's no secret the country's major brewers are deciding whether to continue to brew the weak 3.2 alcohol by weight (ABW) beer Utahns drink. Once Kansas' stronger beer law takes effect April 1, Minnesota and Utah will be the only two states that peddle in the watered-down hops. But that could change. One bill being debated at press time would raise the ABW from 3.2 to 4.8 percent, on par with many other states. Cheers to that.
Sponsor: Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton
Status: Received approval on initial vote in Senate. Will be up for one more vote before moving to House.

Mugshot Privacy
The bill: Are you one of those people who peruse mugshots online? Or were you previously arrested, found not guilty, but every time anyone Googles your name, the dreaded mugshot pops up? One Utah lawmaker is proposing rules to remove photos from publications and websites. It would require that photos be pulled if the person requests it within a certain time period and prohibit companies from charging for their removal, among other things.
Sponsor: Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City
Status: Received a favorable recommendation from Senate committee.

Vehicle Idling
The bill: Rep. Patrice Arent has long been a clean air stalwart. This year, she proposed a bill that would give municipalities a little more power in enforcing anti-idling ordinances. Instead of a previous three-warning requirement before law enforcement could issue a citation, they would now only need a single warning. This bill would adjust a 2012 law that restricts what cities can or can't do to cut down on idling.
Sponsor: Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek
Status: Awaiting hearing in Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee.

Medicaid Override
The bill: Not to be outdone by the will of the people, the Legislature passed a sweeping overhaul of Proposition 3, the citizen initiative to expand Medicaid coverage to 150,000 Utahns. On the day the bill reached its final vote, faith leaders protested outside the House chamber to no avail. The bill costs more initially, covers fewer than 150,000 Utahns and will rely on a federal government waiver lawmakers hope will be approved.
Sponsor: Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden
Status: Passed and signed by governor.

Fringe Gambling
The bill: Luck be a lady tonight. In a move to clarify rules on some "fringe" gaming machines (remember, gambling is strictly illegal in this Puritan haven), the Legislature has advanced a bill to eliminate the devices. They look a lot like slot machines and are popular in gas stations, rest stops, convenience stores and even some fast-food restaurants around the state. City Weekly previously reported these machines still were popping up after a police crackdown years ago.
Sponsor: Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork
Status: Passed by House and Senate. House now considering substitute version.

Inland Port Monitoring
The bill: The much-hullabalooed inland port in Salt Lake City's Northwest Quadrant is coming. But as it progresses, one senator has proposed a bill that would require the Department of Environmental Quality to monitor air quality and assess other environmental impacts.
Sponsor: Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City
Status: In Senate for second reading.

Plastic Bag Ban
The bill: Park City and Moab have 'em—bans on the use of plastic bags. But one Utah lawmaker wants to prevent cities from passing ordinances banning plastic bags, straws or containers. While Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, has previously proposed legislation that would charge 10 cents per bag, Rep. Mike McKell tells Fox13 he's "concerned with consistency in the marketplace," and doesn't want one city to ban them, another to charge for them and another ignore the issue.
Sponsor: Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork
Status: Held in House committee.


Bill statuses are current as of press time.

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