The Utah State Legislature’s done. Here’s what they did to your life

Posted at 3:24 AM, Mar 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-14 00:34:42-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The 2016 Utah State Legislature is finally over and it may be remembered more for what did not pass than what did.

A record-breaking number of bills were introduced in the 45-day session. While hundreds of bills did pass and head to Governor Gary Herbert for his signature or veto, hundreds more died in the legislative process.

See the full list of bills that passed here

In terms of talk, perhaps there was no bigger issue on Utah's Capitol Hill than medical marijuana. Neither Senate Bill 73, which favored "whole plant" use to treat a long list of conditions, or a more restrictive Senate Bill 89, passed. Senate Bill 73 died in committee and Senate Bill 89 never made it to the House floor for debate because of a multi-million dollar fiscal note attached to it.

The next stop for bills is the desk of Governor Gary Herbert, who will decide whether to sign them into law or veto them. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

The next stop for bills is the desk of Governor Gary Herbert, who will decide whether to sign them into law or veto them. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

Christine Stenquist, who lobbied for SB73 and is launching a ballot initiative to get medical marijuana on the 2018 ballot said that with the bills' defeat, they move forward.

"Our hope is April 16, we file a ballot initiative for 2018 but in the meantime, we start bringing the stakeholders to the table and start talking about a bill for 2017," she told FOX 13.

A bill that would have repealed the death penalty in Utah did not get considered in the final hours of the legislature. Randy Gardner, the brother of executed inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner, disrupted the House session Thursday night by unfolding a banner showing gruesome autopsy photos of his brother, who died by firing squad.


Randy Gardner, the brother of Ronnie Lee Gardner, disrupts the House to protest the death penalty in Utah. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

Randy Gardner told FOX 13 as he was escorted out of the House chamber by police that he was angry lawmakers weren't considering the death penalty repeal bill.

"The state murdered him and I'm just tired of it! Ronnie was a bad guy, I don't condone what he did. But he was also somebody's dad, grandpa. The worst thing he ever did was not who he was," he said.

A bill that would have "recriminalized" polygamy was called up in the Senate -- but then was held and died when the clock struck midnight. Polygamists who fought the bill gathered in the Senate chamber to watch.

Members of Utah's polygamous communities protest at the Utah State Capitol against a bill that would "recriminalize" polygamy. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

Members of Utah's polygamous communities protest at the Utah State Capitol against a bill that would "recriminalize" polygamy. (Photo by Ben Winslow)

Joe Darger and his three wives, Alina, Vicki and Valerie celebrated with other members of Utah's polygamous communities.

"I think freedom won out today and the voice of plural families was heard," Darger told FOX 13.

Other bills that passed and failed will have impacts on Utahns' lives.

Lawmakers passed a multi-billion dollar budget that includes more money for education, purchases a port in California for exporting coal, and spent money on the state fairpark and to help the homeless.

Here's some other highlights:

House Bill 437 passed, offering expanded health care coverage -- but only to the poorest in Utah. Critics complain it does not cover enough, but supporters say it keeps costs to taxpayers low.

A series of bills passed addressing Utah's opioid addiction problem, including the creation of a needle exchange and putting Naloxone (a drug that reverses the effects of a heroin overdose) into the hands of emergency responders.


Bills dealing with cleaner fuels passed. So did a bill requiring cleaner water heaters. Lawmakers funded more air quality education efforts, but didn't pay for new air quality monitors.


One of the biggest bills dealt with allocating money to pay for water infrastructure, from pipes in the streets to the Lake Powell Pipeline.


The "Internet Sales Tax" bill would have required online retailers to calculate Utah sales tax in the shopping cart. Lawmakers and the governor claimed the state was losing out on $200 million in sales tax it's already owed. But the bill faced pushback from bloggers, online retailers and others. Realizing they didn't have the support, lawmakers pulled the bill from consideration.


Lawmakers passed a "fetal pain" bill that requires analgesic or anasthetic to be used on a fetus in some abortions. A bill that would have banned using some medical instruments in an abortion (something the sponsoring lawmaker termed "dismemberment abortion") did not get considered.


Dozens of misdemeanors -- including speeding -- will no longer carry the threat of jail time. Lawmakers also took steps to address your right to a lawyer. Lawmakers also put in oversight of the public defense attorney system, to ensure people's right to a lawyer. It may not be enough to fight off a lawsuit from the ACLU.

Another bill passed requiring some Justice Court judges to actually be lawyers.

A bill that would have added race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected groups under Utah's hate crimes law died. The sponsor, Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, blamed the LDS Church for its defeat.


A bill to raise the smoking age from 19 to 21 didn't make it. Neither did a bill that would have raised the taxes on e-cigarettes and vaping products.


Lawmakers did pass compromise legislation on police body cameras. They're not mandatory, but there are minimum standards for police departments that use them. Changes were made to Utah's public records laws dealing with privacy in someone's home when it comes to releasing body camera video -- with the potential for appeal if public interest outweighs personal privacy claims.


A resolution declaring porn a "public health crisis" passed. The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, garnered international headlines.


The "recriminalization" bill failed (see above), but a bill passed to move the Safety Net out of the Utah Attorney General's Office and over to the Department of Workforce Services passed. It's a group of social service workers, government agencies and representatives from polygamous communities to help combat abuse and neglect and provide resources to closed societies.


As was mentioned, speeding won't carry a jail sentence anymore -- just a fine. A bill to eliminate safety inspections didn't go very far. A bill that considers electronic driver licenses passed.


Sen. Jani Iwamoto's bill to charge a dime for paper or plastic bags got pulled in the last days of the legislative session. The bill encourages reusable bags and help keep landfills from filling up. Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, says she'll bring it back next year.


A bill to give more restaurants liquor licenses (but reduce the number of beer-only licenses available) passed. So did a bill creating "wine tastings." Bills to tear down "Zion Curtains" failed, but may return next year.


Lawmakers joke that this is the thing they hear the most about from constituents, but like the changing of the clocks, this bill just keeps dying on the Hill.


Education got a lot of money in the Utah State Legislature -- $432 million, according to the governor.

A bill passed that makes some school board races non-partisan, and others are partisan. Another bill that would have required "comprehensive sex education" in schools was defeated.

A bill that would have made truancy an infraction on the first offense (meaning no jail time) failed in a surprise vote on the last day of the session, 32-39.


The resolution that led to Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, rapping on the House floor, passed. Ivory says the show promotes interest in American history for kids.


Despite protests in the Senate, lawmakers defeated a bill to rename Columbus Day as "Indigenous People's Day." The legislature did create a new holiday: Juneteenth (commemorating the day slaves were emancipated after the Civil War) passed unanimously in the legislature. It will be observed in October.


A bill that would have banned so-called "non-compete" agreements in employment contracts started out strong, passing the House unanimously.

Business leaders pushed back and the bill was watered down in the Senate to limit non-competes to one year. The bill's sponsor says he'll address it again next year. (Disclosure: FOX 13, like other television stations, sometimes uses non-compete agreements in its contracts.)