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Your guide to all the things the Utah State Legislature did to your life this year

Posted at 12:23 AM, Mar 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-09 09:35:40-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- By the time the clock struck midnight and the Utah State Legislature adjourned for another year, lawmakers passed hundreds of bills.

It was a wild session that began with a sex scandal and allegations of a "honeypot," and ended with big changes to your taxes going through in less than 12 hours.

Over the next 30 days, Gov. Gary Herbert will have to review all the passed bills with his staff, then decide if he will sign them into law, veto them, or let them go into law without his signature.

A record number of bills were requested -- 1,364.

Here's some of the bigger issues that passed, failed and never really got off the ground:

Rep. Ed Redd, R-Logan, attempts to cover up the House clock during the last minutes of the 2018 Utah State Leigslature. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Taxes and money:

Lawmakers passed a nearly $17 billion budget, which pays for everything from the roads you drive on to schools, air quality, and economic development projects.

Supporters of Our Schools Now sign paperwork to get on the 2018 ballot. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

A big tax bill was unveiled on the final day of the Utah State Legislature, tied to the deal with the "Our Schools Now" ballot initiative. Going before voters in November is a 10 cents a gallon tax hike question. But there's also a lot of money shifted to education -- $375 million in new money.

Under House Bill 293 that passed in the final hours of the legislature, state income and corporate taxes will go down slightly, there's a single-factor sales tax and a property tax freeze for up to five years. A lot of the money from that will go to education.

Lawmakers called it one of the biggest economic projects in the history of the state. Salt Lake City has criticized it as a "land grab." The inland port, which combines rail, road and air, would be created in the city's Northwest Quadrant. The city accuses the state of snatching up 20,000 acres of land in their boundaries as well as a lot of the tax dollars. Mayor Jackie Biskupski called it an "unacceptable precedent."

Rep. Sue Duckworth, D-Magna, pushed her repeal of the tax on tampons, diapers and other hygiene products. Once again, the bill never got out of committee.

Bills that would have raised the minimum wage or tipped employees failed to pass. Lawmakers also rejected a proposal to repeal the food tax.

A bill that blocks fees from being assessed for credit freezes passed.


Faced with an opioid epidemic in Utah, the legislature got very aggressive about it with a series of bills. It kicked off with House Speaker Greg Hughes calling out Attorney General to sue Big Pharma over the opioid crisis. The legislature passed a resolution urging Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to file that lawsuit.

Lawmakers also passed bills requiring greater disclosures of opioids and their dangers and more money toward substance abuse treatment. Fentanyl was added to the list of controlled substances.

Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, required assisted living centers to come up with drug disposal policies, to stop people from Dumpster diving to get prescription pills.

The Senate did not pass a bill that would have left drug dealers on the hook for murder if someone ODs.


With an out-of-control youth suicide rate in Utah, the governor called it an emergency and convened a task force of community leaders, lawmakers, health advocates and other groups to come up with solutions. Some of those solutions will involve funding for existing services (including Medicaid waivers). Others will make more direct change.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, and Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, passed a bill ensuring crisis hotlines no longer go to voicemail. There will also be more efforts to put


With a ballot initiative that's likely to wind up before voters in November, lawmakers didn't really tackle medical marijuana like they have in the past. Supporters of the ballot initiative also really weren't interested in negotiating with the legislature, preferring to let the people decide.

Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, ran a few bills. So did his Senate colleague, Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City. One allowed terminally ill patients a "right to try" medical cannabis, and would have the Utah Dept. of Agriculture and Food grow the weed for them.

Sen. Vickers also had a bill to allow CBD oil to be sold in Utah that passed.


Lawmakers paid some attention to affordable housing, throwing a little money at it and creating a commission to look at it. A bill that would have created a $100 million bond for affordable housing did not get very far in the 2018 session.


Lawmakers passed a bill expanding Medicaid coverage that covers up to 100 percent of poverty (with a work requirement). It will potentially clash with a ballot initiative for full Medicaid expansion that could be before voters in November.

A bill that would have prohibited abortion involving Down syndrome passed the House but was never heard in the Senate before the midnight deadline. Lawmakers had been warned it could face a legal challenge.


Lawmakers continued to kick in money for homelessness, including funding for new shelters and efforts to combat crime in downtown Salt Lake City as a part of "Operation Rio Grande."

Air Quality:

A bill passed that would create a "pilot project" for Utah County to start doing diesel emission testing. Right now, they're the only county not doing it in an area deemed "non-attainment" by federal air quality standards.

New drivers will get info about air quality and things they can do to clear the air (think idling, cold starts, etc.) More money was also appropriated for air quality efforts.


This topic has a lot of policy and oversight bills and gets the bulk of the state budget. Lawmakers once again kicked a lot of cash toward education (also to try to ward off the Our Schools Now tax hike ballot initiative). Some teachers may also see a pay raise.

Lawmakers also passed some interesting education bills. Rep. Jefferson Moss, R-Saratoga Springs, has a bill to allow kids to take a "mental health day" as an excused absence.

It will no longer be a crime for children to play outside alone or walk home from school alone. Sen. Lincoln Fillmore's "free range kids" bill passed with little opposition.

In response to school shootings, lawmakers passed a bill allowing schools to install tougher barricade style door locks.

Sex ed got expanded slightly in Utah. There will now be a focus on consent and warnings on the dangers of the harmful effects of pornography.

A resolution sponsored by the unlikely pair of conservative Rep. Kim Coleman and liberal Sen. Jim Dabakis called on Utah's colleges and universities to not stifle free speech. It was in response to the furor over University of Utah hosting conservative commentator Ben Shapiro (and efforts to get the school to cancel his speech).

A resolution to eliminate the Utah State Board of Education surprised many when it flew through a Senate committee and the full Senate, uniting Sen. Dabakis with many conservatives and opposing his own Democratic caucus. But when the resolution got to the House it was killed over pushback on letting voters choose their elected school board.

Elections and ballot initiatives:

Lawmakers spent a lot of time fuming about the special election to replace Jason Chaffetz, who quit congress to be a talking head on FOX News Channel. The governor and legislature disagreed over who had the power to call a special election to replace him. So there were a number of bills on that.

They ran a bill against Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, clarifying that he also must respond to the legislature (in the dispute, he claimed the governor was his client). There's also a proposed constitutional amendment to let the legislature call itself into special session and the legislature passed a bill allowing themselves to intervene in some lawsuits over the things they pass (something the governor suggested to FOX 13 he may veto).

After a BYU professor was not able to run for Chaffetz's seat because he was stuck in China, lawmakers passed a bill to allow for remote candidate registration. That'll come in handy for some people when the time to run for office opens.

The Utah Republican Party's civil war over what candidates can get on the ballot was the subject of some legislation. After a faction of the GOP's State Central Committee passed a bylaw change to kick out some signature-gathering candidates, a bill was run to basically ignore them. Then there's a bill that said if Count My Vote passes the ballot in November, they'll abide by the dual-path system. If if fails, then it appears caucus-convention system may be the only method. Both of those bills died in the Senate by the midnight deadline leaving the GOP with an uncertain future.

"Voter-palooza" was Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck's bills that passed allowing for same-day voter registration to continue on, fixes to the drive-up registration, and ranked choice voting as a pilot project. She told FOX 13 she wants to ensure her last term in office meant people's voices continued to be heard.

A bill to delay the implementation dates of some ballot initiatives passed the House, but failed to be heard in the final minutes of the session in the Senate.


Climate change became a topic when Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, tried to push through a resolution acknowledging it is real and saying Utah ought to do something about it. That died, but the legislature passed a similar resolution by Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, that acknowledged climate change but called for smart energy policies.

Reusable bags are sold at a checkout inside a Taylorsville Harmons store. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Sen. Jani Iwamoto's bill to charge a dime-a-bag fee for paper or plastic to encourage reusable bags was killed in a Senate committee over a debate of "local control." But that local control argument came back to haunt them when the House killed a bill that would have banned cities from enacting bag bans.

Lawmakers passed a resolution calling on the Interior Dept. to relocate some of its key federal agencies from D.C. to southern Utah. They also passed a resolution supporting the creation of a new national park near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, after President Trump shrunk it.

In a rare bipartisan move, lawmakers overwhelmingly pushed a resolution demanding the feds cough up more money in lieu of taxes for all the land they control in Utah (federal lands are about 70% of the state). Republicans and Democrats alike think the state is owed more money. If their "payment in lieu of taxes" idea actually works out, Utah could yield potentially billions for education.

The idea of creating an island on Utah Lake got a little life from the legislature when they passed a bill to allow for a land swap in exchange for cleaning up the lake. The idea is ambitious, and environmental groups have concerns.


Following a summer of wildfires caused by fireworks, lawmakers were deluged with calls from angry constituents. Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, and Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, passed a bill limiting the days you can set off fireworks in July and giving cities more power to enact restrictions.

Criminal justice:

Lawmakers continued to look at reducing the seriousness of some crimes and justice reinvestment, with more resources to help people avoid repeating crimes.

University of Utah Nurse Alex Wubbels

After the incident involving Nurse Alex Wubbels, who was arrested when she refused a Salt Lake City police officer's demand to do a blood draw on an unconscious patient, the legislature quickly passed West Valley City Rep. Craig Hall's bill requiring cops to get a warrant or the patient's consent in all future blood draws.

First responders will be able to get mental health counseling more easily under a bill that passed. Jails will have to also track deaths under a bill passed by Sen. Todd Weiler.

People with mental illness will not have to sit in jail for extended periods of time waiting for a mental health evaluation just to be found competent to face a misdemeanor crime. Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, ran the bill in response to a lawsuit against the state. His legislation speeds up the process.

You can't stand in a median and block traffic. A bill called "pedestrian safety" tightened where you can and can't stand (it appears it's directed at panhandlers).

A higher penalty has been added if a teacher has sex with a student.

A bill that would have attempted to lower the age juveniles could be tried as adults when it comes to the murder of a police officer failed to pass. It was in response to the death of West Valley City Police Officer Cody Brotherson.

A bill to abolish the death penalty made it out of a House committee, but unsure of the votes on the floor, Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said he would not let a debate go forward.

In response to the school shooting in Florida, Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton proposed a bill to take guns away from people deemed by the courts to be "severely mentally ill." The bill never made it out of committee.

The legislature passed a ban on police quotas in citations and arrests. The bill (and FOX 13's reporting on it) led to the disclosure from many police officers that they were required to issue a certain amount of tickets.

The Senate adjourned before voting on the hotly controversial "stand your ground" bill.

In a last-minute vote, it is no longer a misdemeanor crime to hold a raccoon. Seriously.

Transit and roads:

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, holds a map showing the route of the Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

It became the most controversial bill -- but it didn't get too far. Rep. Mike Noel's bill to name a huge road in southern Utah the "Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway" was tabled after the Kanab Republican was deluged with angry calls and emails.

Get ready for toll roads. Senate President Wayne Niederhauser's bill expands state authority on creating and enforcing them. He's eyeing Little Cottonwood Canyon, but lawmakers are not ruling anything out.

Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, unveiled a huge bill that overhauled the scandal-plagued Utah Transit Authority (which could now be renamed "Transit District Utah"), kicked more money to transit, but also hiked the fees for hybrid and electric vehicles.

A distracted driving bill that would have made it "hands free" for anything in the car failed to pass. Utah lawmakers did not get to a bill that allowed for self-driving cars. Personal delivery robots will have access to sidewalks under a bill that passed.

Sell a car? A bill passed that lets the license plate go with it. If your registration decal falls off, you won't face a fine under another bill that passed (provided you have proof you're current on your registration). License plates with UHP and EX on them are also exempt from registration fees.

Tesla will be able to begin sales in Utah. After years of trying, Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, passed her bill on the last day of the legislative session.

A bill that would have let you run a red light if no one else was around failed to pass.

Liquor laws:

After a massive bill last year that tore down Zion Curtains, lawmakers decided against taking another shot. The only major bill this session to deal with liquor eased some of the requirements of where children can sit near a bar area in a tiny restaurant, still required barriers for places licensed as both a bar and a restaurant, but also got rid of those "This is a Restaurant, not a bar" signs.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, waves a breathalyzer in a committee hearing and announces he has a BAC of .05. (Image by Kevin Walenta, FOX 13 News)

House Majority Leader Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, told FOX 13 the Republican majority couldn't agree on ways to fix the state's very controversial .05 DUI law, so it will go into effect New Year's Eve. When it does, Utah will have the nation's toughest anti-drunk driving law. Attempts to delay that from going into effect failed (even with a senator downing mimosas and giving a legislative presentation).

Lawmakers also will not touch 3.2 beer, preferring to wait until 2019. Major breweries have warned the state it will stop making a lot of brands when other states move to selling heavier brews and this could lead to empty store shelves.

Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will be able to move a little faster when it comes to building new stories. A bill passed to give them more authority to purchase land.

The legislature also voted not to fight "Deadpool." They passed a bill to comply with a judge's ruling against a liquor law that forbade licensees from showing anything with full nudity or sexually explicit conduct.

Marriage, divorce and family:

A bill to speed up the divorce process from 90 days to 30 passed the legislature. So did a bill that lets you go to court and petition for alimony changes once your ex shacks up with someone else. You will get a discount on a marriage license if you sign up for pre-marital counseling.

A bill to allow paid parental leave in some parts of state government didn't get anywhere. Neither did a study on equal pay for women. A bill offering tax credits to businesses who offer paid family leave also failed to pass.

Sen. Todd Weiler passed a bill that will require Internet Service Providers to notify customers regularly about porn-blocking software that's available.

LGBTQ issues:

A bill that created a path for transgender people to legally change their gender on their birth certificate died after both the transgender community and social conservatives united against it. The trans community felt it didn't go far enough, social conservatives said the bill went too far. A Utah Supreme Court case could decide everything.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, once again tried to bring up his hate crimes bill that would create enhanced penalties for targeting people based on a number of criteria. It never got a hearing.

Sending Martha to Washington:

Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon (photo via Utah State Historical Archives)

A resolution to replace the statue of TV inventor Philo Farnsworth representing Utah in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall with physician-suffragist-senator-polygamous wife Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon sparked a big debate on the Hill between "Philo Phans" and "Team Martha." Like she did in her historic run for Utah State Senate when she beat her own husband, Martha won and is on her way to Washington. The statue will be paid for by private donations.


For years now, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, has pushed a "death with dignity" bill that allows terminally ill patients to take their own life. Lawmakers this year refused to give her a hearing. She told FOX 13 she may push for it as a ballot initiative.

You can get water cremation under a bill that passed the legislature. Some funeral homes want it as an environmentally friendly way to dispose of your remains.


A bill that would have required the permission of everybody being recorded in a conversation emerged in the legislature. It sparked heated reaction when it was revealed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supported it because it might stop a recent trend of bishop's interviews being secretly recorded. Rep. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, said he actually ran it at the request of businesses concerned about trade secrets, but abandoned the bill after hearing the public pushback.

Lawmakers won't be taxing your Spotify or Netflix yet. A proposal to formally tax streamed media was not pursued in the final days of the session.

A bill to ban non-compete contracts in news media was pushed through the House. (Disclosure: FOX 13 uses non-compete contracts for some of its employees.)

As a condition of being granted press credentials to cover the Utah State Legislature, members of the news media must undergo workplace harassment training. A similar measure requiring lobbyists to do the same failed to pass in the final minutes of the legislative session.


Lawmakers spent a little time with a bill to make the Utahraptor the official state fossil. Then they decided to make it the state dinosaur and keep the state fossil as the Allosaurus.

The bill inspired a number of jokes, including one from Sen. Orrin Hatch who called it "a fitting tribute to my decades of service." (He got his own day in the legislature.)