Medical marijuana, DUI, 3.2 beer, taxes on the list for Utah lawmakers to study

Posted at 3:57 PM, Apr 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-13 12:43:14-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- From 3.2 beer to the taxes you pay, lawmakers are about to move forward with an ambitious agenda ahead of the 2018 Utah State Legislature.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Legislative Management Committee approved a long list of topics to study in monthly interim sessions. Some of those could lead to legislation by January.

The topics include:

  • Whether to follow other states that have allowed grocery and convenience stores to sell more than 3.2 beer
  • Equal pay and workplace discrimination
  • Teacher compensation and technology in classrooms
  • Outcome metrics for education
  • Affordable housing and intergenerational poverty
  • Development at Point of the Mountain with the Utah State Prison moving
  • Opioids and medical cannabis will get continued study
  • Any connections between mental illness and homelessness (and if treatment options are sufficient)
  • Off-duty police officers working as private security
  • Sex offender treatment programs
  • Potential oil drilling near Bears Ears National Monument
  • Expanding Utah State parks
  • Algae blooms at Utah Lake
  • Animal shelter euthanasia methods
  • Petition gathering on government property and free speech rights
  • Broadband privacy
  • Nighttime road construction

The recent law signed by Governor Gary Herbert lowering Utah's Blood Alcohol Content level to .05 is going to be studied again. Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, said he was open to exploring changes to address "unintended consequences" of the bill. Restaurant groups have protested the bill as having a chilling effect and making Utah look strange again with its liquor laws. He also said he had heard concerns about gun ownership if someone is convicted of a DUI at a .05 level.

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 an interview with FOX 13, Rep. Thurston said he was also willing to look at the level of punishment for a .05 DUI.

"I’m not opposed to taking a look at that punishment structure and see if there are things that are too heavy or too light," he said.

Rep. Thurston said he also wanted lawmakers to study whether occupational licensing restrictions are too strict in Utah.

"It requires more training to be an electrician than an electrical engineer," he said. "So you gotta ask the question, at the least the question has to be asked have we gone too far?"

The biggest issue lawmakers will examine will be taxes. The interim legislature is planning a review of everything from income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes to the controversial food tax.

Democrats said while they support a review of Utah's tax policies, they want to ensure that tax credits handed out to businesses and industries are also scrutinized.

"Is this tax credit building jobs? Is this tax credit benefitting this particular industry in the way we thought? If it is and it’s generating income and it’s doing what it was intended to do, let’s continue to do it," said House Minority Whip Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City. "If it’s not and its simply lowering someone’s tax profile and it’s not generating the jobs and industry then it’s simply a gift. It’s a taxpayer gift to a company."

Read the full legislative study list here: