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Legislature tackles 80 mph speed limits and public shooting ranges

Legislature tackles 80 mph speed limits and public shooting ranges



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SALT LAKE CITY — The speed limit could zoom up to 80 mph on more sections of Utah freeways at least temporarily under a proposal that's expected to be introduced in the 2013 Legislature.

Members of the Legislature's Transportation Interim Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to support expanding the number of freeway sections where the higher speed limit is being tested.

The vote came after the committee was told the Utah Department of Transportation may make the higher speed limit permanent on two sections of I-15, between Mills Junction and Scipio, and between Fillmore and Cove Fort.

The department will continue to study the impact of the higher limit on two other sections of I-15 south of the I-70 junction through 2014.

A bill being drafted for the next session by Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, would allow UDOT to test the 80 mph limit on portions of I-80 to Wendover, as well as sections of both I-15 and I-84 in northern Utah.

Lawmakers question rule against human-form targets at public shooting ranges

State lawmakers questioned a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources practice of forbidding human-form targets at its public gun ranges Wednesday.

State law does not define or prohibit what types of targets may be used at public shooting ranges.

DWR doesn't have a formal policy against human-form or silhouette targets but the practice goes along with its philosophy for hunter's education classes dating back to their inception in 1957, said DWR marketing coordinator Robin Cahoon. The course, she said, teaches hunters not to point guns at people or anything they don't intend to shoot.

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"We don't want people having accidents and shooting other people," Cahoon told the committee.

The DWR neither provides nor allows gun owners to use their own silhouette targets at its ranges during public shooting hours. It does allow police departments or concealed weapons permit instructors to use them for training courses in off hours, she said.

Cahoon said this is the first time the issue has come up. She said the DWR is willing to talk to legislators and constituents about it.

Lawmakers object to Herbert alcohol commission nominee

Utah lawmakers are balking at one of Gov. Gary Herbert's nominees to the expanded state alcohol commission because she is a member of his cabinet.

Herbert nominated state Department of Commerce Executive Director Francine Giani to the seven-member board last month. She was scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday but her name was not on the agenda.

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Sen. John Valentine, chairman of the Senate Business and Labor Confirmation Committee, said lawmakers have concerns about the head of one state department serving on the commission of another department.

As the result of several scathing audits that showed mismanagement and possible criminal behavior, the Legislature restructured the DABC this year. It made the executive director directly accountable to the governor and expanded the liquor commission from five members to seven.

The commission is set up to be an independent body, Valentine said. Having a cabinet member on the board "muddies the waters so much that it becomes too much of a closed system," he said. "The lines get really blurred."

Public lands dispute heats up

Utah's public lands fight against the federal government is beginning to gather steam on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers were briefed Wednesday about efforts to establish a commission to help navigate policy makers through the fray.

Kathleen Clark, director of the Public Lands Coordinating Office, said her office is working in consultation with a number of experts on the establishment of the commission, which would provide guidance and answers as the state moves forward its demands to have the government cede authority to Utah over the control of federal lands under management of agencies like the Bureau of Land Management.

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"It has become very clear to us that this is not just a Utah battle," she told members of the Legislature's Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R- West Jordan, sponsored last session's HB148, which is setting the stage for this newest fight.

The measure, which Ivory said he making traction in other Western states because of the push-back over federal land ownership, sets aside money for Utah to sue the federal government if certain lands aren't relinquished. It exempts Utah's national parks and congressionally-designated wilderness areas.

Clarke said she expects to back before lawmakers in November with the blueprint for establishing the Utah Public Lands Commission.

Contributing: Dennis Romboy, Lisa Riley Roche and Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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