What the Utah State Legislature did to your life this year

Posted at 12:23 AM, Mar 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-10 19:39:39-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah State Legislative session is over for another year.

Lawmakers passed 535 bills out of 1,279 proposed, breaking previous records. They're now headed to Governor Gary Herbert's desk, awaiting his signature or veto.

With a $16.2 billion budget passed by lawmakers, you pay for it all.

Here's a look at some of the bigger bills that passed, failed, and didn't even get off the ground:


A massive bill that tears down "Zion Curtains" in restaurants in favor of a 10-foot buffer zone keeping kids from bars (think of it as a "Zion DMZ") passed after a lot of deal-making. The bill also reworks licensing and raises liquor prices by 2%.

Lawmakers also passed a bill lowering the DUI level from .08 to .05. House Speaker Greg Hughes told FOX 13 he opposed it, worried it will impact tourism and insurance rates. Governor Gary Herbert has indicated he will sign it into law.

Lawmakers rejected a bill to create "mystery shoppers" in state liquor stores.

Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, passed a bill that gave more money to the DABC. The agency makes millions for the state but its budget is controlled by the legislature.

On the roads:

Lawmakers approved a $1 billion bond to pay for road projects over the next few years. Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, said the bill would fund projects like road work in Davis County and on I-15 near Point of the Mountain.

Mandatory vehicle safety inspections have been repealed in Utah. As part of a compromise, the primary seat belt law has been made permanent.

The penalties are being increased for unsecured loads on a highway or other high traffic road.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to make it illegal to hand something to a person at a freeway offramp. If you want to give, you've got to pull over and park. The bill cracks down on panhandlers, but will also impact things like firefighter "fill the boot" campaigns for charity.

Motorcycles won't be able to lane-split in slow traffic areas. That bill didn't pass.

Medical marijuana:

Research bills passed, but the main bill that would allow for medical marijuana to be a reality never got going in the 2017 session. Supporters said they will move ahead with a ballot initiative.

Homeless and housing:

$10 million was spent to build new homeless shelters. The bill was pushed through the legislature after Salt Lake City agreed to abandon plans for shelters in Sugar House and near The Gateway. $700,000 was earmarked for Ogden's Lantern House. Lawmakers also passed a bill to help with affordable housing.

Another funding bill for homeless resources didn't advance in the legislative session. House Minority Whip Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, killed his own bill that enhanced penalties for drug dealing outside homeless shelters.

Governor Gary Herbert, R-Utah, addresses the House after the Utah State Legislature adjourns on March 10, 2017. (Photo by Arron Healy, FOX 13 News)


In the aftermath of the "Sister Wives" polygamy case, Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, wanted to make it so polygamists could no longer live as husband and wife, and wife, and wife, and "purport" to be married. Despite protests from polygamists (including reality TV's Kody Brown and wives) the bill passed the Senate in the final moments of the session on a close 15-14 vote.

Taxes and spending:

Lawmakers abandoned a series of bills that would look at the tax structure, including a controversial hike on the food tax. After trying to push the bill through with only a few days in the session, and getting some data that made them rethink it, they dropped it. Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said lawmakers would spend the interim session working on tax issues and examine the tax breaks and credits lawmakers hand out.

Lawmakers rejected Rep. Susan Duckworth's bill that would exempt diapers, feminine hygiene and incontinence products from the sales tax. She has said she will bring it back next year.

Family matters:

Stay-at-home parents get a little help in a divorce. A bill passed by the legislature allows lost income potential to be considered in alimony.

Minors harmed by pornography may be able to sue under a bill passed by the legislature. It includes some exemptions for the adult entertainment industry, if they have warnings and age verification on their websites.

A child's artwork on display at the Utah State Capitol during the 2017 legislative session. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)


More money was pumped into education ($120 million in per capita spending), matching Governor Herbert's request for a 4% weighted pupil unit (with a hope that money goes to teacher pay). Lawmakers also approved a bonus for teachers who work in low-income schools. Money was also funded for dual immersion, suicide prevention in schools and field trips. It may not be enough to stop the "Our Schools Now" ballot initiative.

School grading will remain in place, for now, but it's suspended for a year. The bill that ranks schools based on testing and other achievements was the focus of a lot of last-minute wrangling.

It's no longer illegal for children to bring sunscreen to school. The bill that passed also allows teachers to apply it. Yes, Utah law actually forbade it.

A bill requiring school districts to have anti-bullying and anti-hazing policies in place passed the House in the final minutes of the legislative session.

The Senate killed a bill that dropped criminal penalties for parents of truant children. Physical restraint and corporal punishment are more restricted under a bill passed.

LGBTQ issues:

Lawmakers repealed a portion of state law nicknamed by LGBTQ rights groups as "No Promo Homo," which forbade teachers from mentioning anything that might be construed as "promoting" homosexuality. It might get the state out of a major lawsuit leveled against it.

Lawmakers ultimately didn't vote on a bill that made it not a defense for criminal non-support if a parent kicked a child out of the home for sexual orientation or gender identity.


The smoking age remains 19 in Utah. A bill to raise it to 21 failed to pass.

Daylight Saving Time will continue to be a thing in Utah. Lawmakers rejected a bill that would allow voters to decide whether to stay on it or not.

Doctors will be required to tell women that a medication-induced abortion can be halted. Critics have said that advice is not scientifically proven.

A bill making it a crime not to disclose a person's HIV status passed the legislature. The bill was watered down (and Hepatitis was added) to make it an enhanced penalty in a sex offense already being prosecuted.

Crime and punishment:

It's now a crime to harass cows, sheep, chickens or other livestock with a drone. No, seriously. It passed the legislature with few "neighs" (pun intended.)

A highly anticipated bill on hate crimes protections that included sexual orientation and gender identity never got a hearing. Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, vowed to bring it back next year.

Lawmakers created a child abuse registry that is similar to a sex offender registry.

A bill that bans the gas chamber at animal shelters passed the Senate, but was killed in the House. A bill making it a crime to leave your animal tethered in extremely hot or cold weather conditions went nowhere.

Lawmakers passed a bill making it tougher for domestic violence offenders to have firearms. Stricter laws have also been passed on strangulation.

The new drug "Pink" is now illegal in Utah. Lawmakers passed the bill after the deaths of two teens in Park City.

A bill to allow you to concealed carry a firearm without a permit was abandoned after pushback from the governor and others. Lawmakers did approve a bill lowering the age for someone to carry a concealed firearm from 21 to 18.

A major rewrite of Utah's juvenile justice system passed the legislature, with an emphasis on less juvenile detention and more home confinement with resources to keep kids out of trouble. Lawmakers also lowered the level of offense for juveniles who engage in consensual sexual activity with each other.

The Utah State Senate in the final moments of the 2017 legislative session. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)


A bill that would charge you a dime a bag in an effort to encourage you to bring a reusable bag (and pay for environmental initiatives) when you go shopping was abandoned by its sponsor, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City. She told FOX 13 she'll bring it back next year.

A bill that continued a tax credit for purchasing an energy efficient tax credit failed to advance out of the House.

Refineries will get a tax break if they switch to Tier 3 fuels. The legislature passed a resolution asking Utahns to consider the smog rating when buying a new car.

Lawmakers passed a bill that allows you to cook food with a wood-burning grill, despite clean air warnings. Environmentalists are asking Governor Herbert to veto it.

Solar tax credits will be phased out under a bill passed by the legislature.

A resolution recognizing climate change and its impact on Utah was rejected by the legislature.

Arts and landmarks:

Part of Little Sahara Sand Dunes will be a state park under a bill that also renames a wilderness area after the late Congressman Bill Orton. Lawmakers also approved bills designating ancient rock art and the Spiral Jetty as "state works of art."

Lawmakers funded museums and theaters ranging from the Utah Shakespearean Festival and Tuacahn to the Hale Center Theater and Cache Valley Center for the Arts.


A resolution to call for a Constitutional Convention (or "Con Con" as they're often dubbed) failed in a split amongst Capitol Hill conservatives.

Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, has been pushing for increased privacy of your voter records, after FOX 13 reports on data miners and other websites buying the info from the state then publishing it with maps and attempts to link to your social media accounts. The bill failed to advance in the final days of the legislative session.

The legislature passed a pair of resolutions asking President Trump to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument and shrink Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Those resolutions prompted the multi-million dollar Outdoor Retailer show to announce it's leaving Utah. Lawmakers stuck to their guns, but added a $1 million incentive in the budget in case OR changes its mind.

Ranked choice voting, which allows you to pick your candidates from worst to first, died in the last days of the legislature.

Lawmakers rejected a bill to spend $350,000 on a course for lawmakers on federalism, but approved a resolution on "federal overreach."

A bill changing the makeup of some major policy-making boards passed. It removes the partisan requirement. Democrats complained it targeted them.

A bill to create a Presidential Primary in Utah passed. However, it remains to be seen if it will be fully funded.


Your barber or hair stylist can give you a brief neck massage under a bill passed by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross. Another bill he sponsored allowed nail salons to have less expensive exhaust systems when using acrylic chemicals.

Before any new bills are passed in the legislature, they've got to know how regulations will impact residents or businesses. That's the terms of a bill pushed by House Majority Leader Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.

Tax credits will be given to businesses that move to rural Utah in an effort to boost jobs.

After a bit of tasty lobbying that involved parking food trucks on the Capitol steps, lawmakers approved a bill de-regulating food trucks and allowing them to move around a little more.