What passed, what didn’t at the 2014 Utah State Legislature

Posted at 6:26 PM, Mar 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-13 20:55:21-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah State Legislature has wrapped up, as lawmakers scrambled to pass bills that affect Utahns on every level.

Both the House and Senate worked up until the midnight deadline to pass or defeat the bills. Among the most notable:

  • HB 105, which provides cannabis oil for epileptic kids, passed the House and is now on its way to Governor Herbert for his signature or veto. Advocates said he is expected to sign it later this month;
  • A pair of clean air bills -- including one that attempts to lower emissions from wood burning -- passed;
  • HB 121, which would have allowed Utah to have stricter emissions than the federal government was not able to be resurrected to the floor for debate and died. Governor Herbert had told reporters it was a bill he believed "should pass;"
  • A bill that declares carrying a gun is not disorderly conduct passed;
  • A bill that provides for prosecution over "revenge porn," posting intimate images online without consent passed;
  • The Senate passed HB 197, which would study eliminating Daylight Saving Time in Utah;
  • Some bills passed dealing with campaigns and legislative ethics reform in the aftermath of the scandals surrounding former Utah Attorney General John Swallow passed. House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, called it "a good start;"
  • A compromise was in the works over a bill that would limit voters' personal information after thousands of Utahns' names, birthdates and addresses were posted online passed in the final hours of the legislative session;
  • A bill making cockfighting a felony on the second offense failed in the State House in the last hour of the legislature;
  • A bill that prohibits "pit bull bans" (bans on any breed of dog) passed and is headed to the governor's desk;
  • Increased funding for students in Utah passed the House and Senate was approved. The Speaker also indicated the budget included a pay raise for teachers;
  • A bill that would grade schools on their performance also passed;
  • A bill that would have put more regulations on e-cigarettes died in the final minutes of the Utah State Legislature. The Senate enacted changes, but it was not considered in the House.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday afternoon, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said they were proud of the budget they have passed, but acknowledged that many things would not be taken up.

"Transportation is going to be a big issue for us next year and education funding," he said.

Niederhauser defended the legislature's decision to not consider any bills related to LGBT rights in the aftermath of a federal judge's ruling overturning the state's same-sex marriage ban. That included a controversial non-discrimination bill, SB 100, which was the subject of protests.

"We're going to have to address it sooner rather than later," said Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, who added that he agreed with not addressing it this year.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said she was also pleased with how the legislative session had gone -- but still lamented her ambitious education plan to put tablet computers and other tech in the hands of students had gone unfunded.

"For me, personally, I would have liked to have seen the technology initiative move forward, but I've been here for 16 years and I know how to take a punch," she said. "You know the real fighters how they react after they get hit."

The House didn't vote on a Medicaid expansion plan -- but the Speaker had a message for the governor, as he sought to negotiate with officials in Washington, D.C.: "Go get 'em cowboy."

The end of the Utah State Legislature marks the final session for the most powerful women in the House. Both Lockhart and her Democratic counterpart, House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, are not seeking re-election.

"It's a very difficult day for me," Lockhart told reporters on Thursday. "Bittersweet."

Lockhart and Seelig are the first women to lead the House, but Seelig noted that women "are not equally represented" in the legislature. Seelig said she is leaving to finish her doctorate degree, but felt proud of her work on behalf of women and families.

"Women are half the population in this state," she said. "They deserve to be included not only politically, but also economically, and I think we need to continue our efforts and outreach to be inclusive to all our citizens."

Reflecting on her legacy, Speaker Lockhart said she was supportive of the legislative process and invigorated the House of Representatives.

"Encouraging lively and vigorous debate on all of the issues and not being afraid of the debate, of the ideas," she said. "That really is the legacy that I would like to leave."

As for Lockhart's future plans, the House Speaker refused to address speculation that she was planning to run for governor in 2016.

"I'm not biting!" she said.