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Utah lawmakers head home as session ends

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 15, 2013 at 2:12 am •  Published: March 15, 2013
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Besides retreating from the anti-Medicaid push, two of this session's three attention-grabbing gun bills died in the Senate late Thursday.

One proposal, which legislative attorneys warned would likely be found unconstitutional, declared Utah's authority to regulate firearms in the state trumped federal gun laws.

Another bill sought to bar police from citing someone for disorderly conduct for simply carrying a gun, as long as the person wasn't disregarding police orders or behaving in a threatening manner.

The moves to expand firearm rights were a response to a push in Washington, D.C., to increase gun control restrictions after recent mass shootings.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said state lawmakers had a duty to push back against the federal government, but not to a point where they couldn't be effective.

One gun proposal that's successfully made it the governor's desk would eliminate the need for a permit to carry a concealed gun in Utah, as long as it's unloaded.

Herbert hasn't said if he will sign or veto it, but will say he's satisfied with the state's gun laws and doesn't feel that they need to be changed.

Lawmakers one again tackled the state liquor laws this year.

The Legislature took up and later dropped a move to repeal a requirement for some restaurants to mix and pour alcoholic drinks behind a barrier. That idea was nixed during the final week when lawmakers raised concerns that removing the barriers would promote a "culture of alcohol" in the state.

Herbert said there's no clear evidence that the rule is effective to prevent underage or excessive drinking, or conversely, that it harms restaurants or tourism, but said he expects lawmakers will revisit the issue next year.

Overall, Herbert said he was pleased with the work lawmakers had done this year, especially working to balance a roughly $13 billion state budget that matched his priorities for education spending.

The proposal included $68.6 million to cover the cost of more than 13,000 new students and about $48 million to increase per-student spending.

"This has been an extraordinary year for education," Herbert said, noting that almost 75 percent of the state's new revenue was direct to education.

The budget also sets aside $54 million for a new classroom building at Utah Valley University, almost $3 million to extend a tax credit for alternative-fuel vehicles for one more year, and $3.5 million for a school-based mental health program that aims to diagnose disorders early in a person's life.

"I think in proportion, we've done a really good job of prioritizing here in the state of Utah with the taxpayer's dollars," Herbert said.

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Associated Press writer Annie Knox contributed to this report.