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After 45 Days Of Work, The Utah Legislature Is Wrapping Up

utah_legislature_hall.jpg

Associated Press

The Utah legislative hall.

Utah's 45-day legislative session wrapped up Thursday in Salt Lake City.

Michelle Price from the Associated Press reported on the successes -- and failures -- with the Beehive state's governing body.

She said lawmakers would probably point to a deal to stave off a ballot initiative to raise sales & income taxes to pay for education as the Legislature's biggest success.

Instead of raising those taxes, the deal changes gas and property taxes.

"This deal they struck is going to bring about $375 million more toward education spending, and it will continue to grow in the years to come," she said. "So, that actually is what they're seeing as their biggest victory this year."

Price said lawmakers also worked to end a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state, but they couldn't get a deal. Voters now will decide that issue in November.

Instead, they passed two bills addressing marijuana. One allows terminally ill patients to use the drug and the other allows businesses to sell CBD oil,  a marijuana extract with lower levels of THC -- the active ingredient in marijuana. 

Another focus of the Utah Legislature was mental health. Utah has seen a spike in suicides, especially among young people. Legislators heard of one case involving a Utah teenager named Hannah. She had tried to call her therapist when she was feeling suicidal but could not get in touch with her, Price explained.

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Hannah later died by suicide.

In response, the Legislature passed Hannah's Law, which requires all suicide hotlines to either be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week or be connected to a hotline that is.

Price said it is part of the effort by Utah's governor and lawmakers to address the problem of mental health in the state.

"It is an ongoing effort, but it is a big one that Utah lawmakers have taken on this year," she said.

A bill that got a lot of attention, but ended up not being passed by the Utah Senate, was one to ban abortion of fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome.

"The issue with this legislation is that it came with a warning note from Utah's legislative lawyers that stipulated that there was a high probability that it could be unconstitutional," Price said.

A handful of other states have passed similar laws, but they are all being challenged in court. 

Another bill that received a lot of attention limited reporter access to the House floor. Originally, the bill would have barred reporters from being on the House floor 45 minutes before a House vote is taken. After an outcry from journalists inside and outside the state, lawmakers agreed to change it -- but reporters are still not allowed to stay on the  floor for very long during a vote.

Price said reporters can go on the House floor to get a quick interview with a lawmaker, but they must then leave. 

A law passed last year -- and mercilessly ridiculed thereafter -- was repealed this year. Lawmakers added another rule to Utah's already notoriously strict liquor laws last year requiring bars and restaurants to put up signs that stated whether establishements were, in fact, bars or restaurants.

After a year of snarky comments, lawmakers repealed the rule. Now, only bars have to put up a sign stating no one under 21 years old is allowed inside. 

A group of Utah lawmakers was also mocked for a YouTube video they created. In the video, the lawmakers use a rap to outline how a bill becomes law. It is set to the theme song from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

"I think they thought it was goofy but I don't think they realize how bad it was," Price said. 

Trending: Utah Lawmakers Rap About How A Bill Becomes A Law

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guests

Michelle Price, reporter, Associated Press

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