Bills that sank, sailed as lawmakers head home
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers are heading home after wrapping up a whirlwind, 45-day legislative session that concluded at midnight Thursday. Here's a look at where some of this year's more noteworthy legislation ended up:
— CONCEALED CARRY: A measure from Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, would eliminate the need for a permit to carry a concealed gun in Utah, as long as it's unloaded. It allows anyone 21 or over to carry a hidden gun, as long as that person hasn't been convicted of a crime that bars a person from legally owning a firearm. Gun owners would still need a permit to carry a loaded, hidden weapon. They would also still need a permit to carry a hidden weapon on a school campus or to carry in another state that honors Utah's concealed weapon permits. Legislators approved the measure and it's been sent to the governor.
— GUN CONTROL PUSHBACK: A declaration of Utah's authority to regulate firearms in the state moved forward after lawmakers watered down the original proposal, but stalled and ultimately died in the Senate. The bill said that if a judge declares that a state gun law conflicts with a federal law, the state law will be supreme and officers cannot enforce it.
— ZION CURTAIN: Barriers in Utah restaurants shielding patrons from seeing waiters mix and pour drinks will stay put for now. Lawmakers killed a proposal to remove the barriers, known as "Zion curtains," saying the removal could lead to more drinking in Utah.
— PRISON RELOCATION: A proposal that could lead to the relocation of the Utah State Prison in Draper has successfully made it to the governor's desk. Tech companies including eBay and Microsoft have set up shop in that area in recent years, and the governor said he supports the move to further develop the site. The proposal tasks a committee to look at options for a new prison site or redevelopment at the old location.
— MEDICAID: The House made a push to bar Gov. Gary Herbert to reject expanding the state's Medicaid program, but lawmakers retreated from that idea. The bill that's been sent to the governor now says he cannot make a decision until the state has reviewed detailed studies on the pros and cons of the expansion. The governor says he won't decide the issue at least a few months.
— ANTI-DISCRIMINATION: A perennial proposal for a statewide law barring discrimination based on sexual identity or orientation died this session. It has come up for five years in a row, and this one went further than any before with a vote of approval by a Senate committee. One of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, called the vote "historic." It later died in the Senate before it could get a vote by the full chamber.
— GUEST WORKER: Utah lawmakers pushed back the start date for a program to allow illegal immigrants to stay and work in the state. Illegal immigrants in Utah who have worked steadily and haven't committed other crimes could legally stay in the state with immediate families under the law, which the legislature passed in 2011. This session, lawmakers voted to delay its so-called "trigger date" until July 2015. They did that to make way for Congress to tackle immigration with a comprehensive plan.
— TUITION BREAKS: Utah lawmakers passed a proposal that will allow state universities to give in-state tuition to top students from other states. The bill aims to fill a revenue gap due to an unprecedented exodus of students on Mormon missions. Enrollment is now down at eight colleges and universities in Utah this spring semester after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in October it was lowering the minimum age for missionaries: from 21 to 19 for women; and from 19 to 18 for men.
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