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Bills that sank, sailed as lawmakers head home

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm •  Published: March 13, 2014
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — After 45-days of meetings and debate, hundreds of bills and a few protests, the 2014 legislative session is set to close at midnight Thursday. Here's a look at where some of this year's most noteworthy proposals and topics ended up as lawmakers head home:

CONVENTION CENTER HOTEL

A plan to lure a developer to build a large hotel near the convention center in downtown Salt Lake City is headed to Gov. Gary Herbert. An earlier version of the proposal faltered last year, but this year's bill has more support because of measures to boost tourism throughout the state. The bill offers up to $75 million in tax rebates for the builder of an 800 to 1,000-room hotel if it drives up tourism. Supporters say the hotel and expanded meeting space are key to attracting conventions business.

MEDICAID

Utah legislators appeared to be postponing any plan to expand Medicaid as available under President Barack Obama's health care law. Legislators had a number of options to consider, including plans from Democrats, Republicans in both chambers and the governor. Herbert, a Republican, is sending staff to Washington, D.C., to start negotiating with federal officials for a plan that offers Utah some freedom. Depending on the progress of those talks, legislators may need to address the issue in a special session or next year.

CAUCUS SYSTEM

Herbert signed a deal earlier in the week to overhaul the state's caucus system for nominating political candidates. The measure was a compromise lawmakers reached with Count My Vote, an organization urging more changes to make the system more inclusive. The deal keeps the caucus-convention system but allows candidates an alternative path to reach the ballot if they gather enough signatures.

ANTI-DISCRIMINATION

A proposed statewide anti-discrimination law protecting sexual and gender orientation has once again died. Despite several protests and meetings, legislative leaders decided to quash the measure this year, arguing it could affect the pending legal battle over the state's same-sex marriage ban. Sen. Steve Urquhart, the St. George Republican pushing the measure, disagrees and says he'll run the bill every year until it passes.

ZION CURTAIN

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, was pushing a bill to get rid of the so-called "Zion Curtain," which requires some restaurants to prepare alcoholic drinks away from public view. Supporters argue the rule curbs underage and binge drinking. Opponents say there's no evidence to support that, but the rule is burdensome for restaurants. Powell said Wednesday that his bill is effectively dead because it did not have enough support.