Utah legislature looks at NSA data center

Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-24 20:18:13-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A pair of bills in the Utah State Legislature are taking a look at the National Security Agency's massive data center in Bluffdale.

One bill would give it a break, the other attempts to break it.

Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, unveiled House Bill 161, which forbids the state from supporting any facility that collects data on its citizens. It would effectively cut off any utility support for the Utah Data Center.

"The state, nor any of its political subdivisions will enter into any agreements, service, provide material support to any agency conducting surveillance or collecting mass data on U.S. citizens," Roberts said of the text of HB 161.

The bill, unveiled in the Utah State Legislature on Monday, has to make it through the House Rules Committee before it goes anywhere. Roberts was unsure if it would.

"We have the Fourth Amendment and it's pretty simple," he told FOX 13. "I think if the federal government's not going to follow it, it's up to the states to say, 'Hey, we believe in this. It's our rights, our protections and this is what we're going to to do take action.'"

In the Senate, an entirely different bill dealing with the Utah Data Center was debated. Senate Bill 45 would give utility tax breaks to facilities like it.

"The state of Utah, we do not tax a military installation," Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said Monday. "We do not tax Hill Air Force Base, Dugway Proving Ground, Tooele or Camp Williams."

Stevenson's bill was met with opposition from some of his colleagues in the Senate, who claimed the state would give away millions of dollars each year. Sen. Diedre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, opposed that idea.

"There is language in there that specifically exempted the NSA data facility from any kind of taxation," she told the Senate.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, agreed.

"The way things are now, six million dollars from the federal government will end up in local hands if we vote against this bill," he said. "If we vote for this bill, we give six million to the federal government and we take it out of Utah."

Stevenson said he was unsure if Utah could tax the facilities even if it wanted to, believing it would not hold up in court. He temporarily held his bill to have an ongoing dialogue with his colleagues, but he indicated it would return to the Senate floor for a vote.