Becker Predicts Enough Votes to Pass Legacy Settlement

Becker Predicts Enough Votes to Pass Legacy Settlement

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah House Democrats can deliver enough votes during Wednesday's special legislative session to pass the Legacy Parkway settlement resolution, Minority Leader Ralph Becker believes.

He said "a good majority" in the 19-member House Democratic Caucus indicated Monday they would support the compromise.

No House Democrat believes the compromise is ideal, he said, "but this agreement probably reflects as good as we're going to get."

However, settlement opponent Rep. Dave Ure, R-Kamas, said far more people oppose the settlement in the House than will openly admit to it.

Ure, head of the anti-settlement group Friends of Legacy, said, "I think there's a lot more than 13 to 14 people in the House that oppose this. It's not a slam dunk unless those people back out because of pressure."

The measure's passage would end the litigation that has stalled construction since the 10th U.S. District Court of Appeals in 2001 stopped the highway project through Great Salt Lake wetlands in south Davis County, ruling environmental evaluations were insufficient.

House Speaker Greg Curtis has said the 56-member Republican Caucus can't by itself muster the 38 votes necessary to pass the resolution on an up-or-down vote. On Monday, Rep. Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, who said Curtis asked him to attend the Democratic Caucus meeting, said GOP support remained tenuous.

The settlement is believed to have sufficient support in the Senate.

The negotiations began at Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s request shortly after he took office in January.

The plaintiffs -- the Sierra Club, Utahns for Better Transportation, the League of Women Voters, Friends of Great Salt Lake, Future Moves Coalition and Great Salt Lake Audubon -- and Utah Department of Transportation reached a framework agreement in September. The fleshed-out deal was released publicly last week.

A provision states the litigants agree not to sue again over Legacy unless UDOT terminates the agreement under an escape clause that could be activated if other parties initiate serious legal challenges to the compromise or the project.

UDOT deputy director Carlos Braceras told the caucus that type of challenge would be expensive and time-consuming. "I don't think there's a serious threat of that happening," he said.

Under the resolution, semitrailer trucks would not be allowed on the scenic byway, which will have a maximum speed of 55 mph, rubberized asphalt to dampen road noise and would remain four lanes wide for at least the next 15 years.

The settlement also includes restrictions on billboards.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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