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Bills on child sex abuse, panhandling advance; clean air legislation fails in committee

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Posted at 8:06 PM, Mar 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-06 22:06:21-05

SALT LAKE CITY – The end of the legislative session is approaching, and several bills have advanced or been defeated as of Thursday.

A bill that would create programs to educate young children in Utah schools about sexual abuse passed through a Senate committee Thursday and will go to the Senate floor for a vote.

Sexual abuse survivors like the current Miss Utah, Ciera Pekarcik, have spoken in support of the bill, as have Elizabeth Smart and Deondra Brown. Pekarcik said she was abused at the age of six, and she said she didn’t know how to report it.

“By putting this bill in place, parents are informed about the bill taking place,” she said. “If they don’t feel comfortable with their child being educated in this manner then they can opt their child out of this, but to have that language is the most important thing and I would have been able to get help a lot sooner if I was able to express what was fully happening to me.”

A bill that would prohibit panhandling along state highways, freeways or road shoulders passed on a nearly unanimous vote in the Senate, and the bill now goes to Gov. Herbert for signature or veto. The bill would not prohibit panhandling on public sidewalks—unless the spot is within 10 feet of an ATM or bank.

A bill that would have allowed Utah to set tougher air quality standards than those set by the federal government did not make it out of committee Thursday. The bill sponsored by Rep. Becky Edwards, R-District 20, stalled on a 3-3 vote. The bill would have to be reintroduced at a later session to be considered again.

The legislative session ends next week, and lawmakers have worked overtime recently as they attempt to pass legislation and finalize a budget.