SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Legislature ended in the early morning hours, capping a 45-day session that saw a record number of bills, a $13 billion budget passed and some division between the House and Senate over some big bills.
“On behalf of the people of Utah, I thank you,” Governor Gary Herbert told Senators as the session ended just after midnight Friday.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, praised his colleagues this session for “taking the high road.”Some of the more high profile bills to await the governor’s signature include:
- The so-called “Zion Curtain,” a 7-foot wall that prevents restaurant patrons from seeing liquor being poured, will stay. A bill to take down those barriers was proposed as part of a catch-all bill that freed up liquor licenses.
The House wanted the walls torn down while the Senate disagreed. The disagreement led to a stalemate between the two sides.
“I have yet to see any data or any study or anything that says the so-called “Zion curtain” has any effect whatsoever on alcohol consumption,” said Rep. Spencer Cox, R-Fairview.
- Private prisons will be kept out of language of a bill that advances the idea of relocating the Utah State Prison from its 700-acre site in Draper. However, Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said that the option remains open for consideration.
- Lawmakers passed a series of gun bills, including one that allows Utahns to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. Governor Gary Herbert has not said if he would veto the legislation, but suggested in an interview with FOX 13’s Max Roth that it was up for consideration.
“I think what you saw this year is we were responding to our constituents who were having great concerns about some of the things they were hearing coming out of Washington,” said House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, R-Provo.
- One of the most stunning votes came late in the session when House members voted 39-35 to reject providing subsidies to build a convention hotel near the Salt Palace. Supporters of the bill argued it would stimulate growth in Salt Lake City and bring more conventions and increased tourism to Utah.
“This bill is just incredibly bad policy,” said Rep. Bryan Greene, R-Pleasant Grove.
After the vote, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams told FOX 13 he was “still trying to make it happen.” Downtown Alliance Executive Director Jason Mathis said they would bring the bill back next session.
While both Republicans and Democrats feel they accomplished a lot this session, many feel time got the best of them. Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, says she would have liked to see more legislation dealing with air quality.
“More certainly could have been done. I would have loved to have seen more done, but this is a continuing process,” she said. “There’s not one bill that can solve all air quality problems.”