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SALT LAKE CITY — During the interim session, lawmakers tackled a bill requiring state prisons allow inmates to sign up to be organ donors, and a proposed change to Utah's concussion law. Beetles overrunning a state park and child poverty were also discussed.
Bill would let inmates sign up as organ donors
A bill requiring state prisons to offer inmates the opportunity to sign up as organ donors was unanimously backed Wednesday by lawmakers.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy,sponsored a similar bill during the 2012 Legislature that was passed by the House but didn’t make it to a final vote in the Senate before the session ended.
The Department of Corrections has since started asking inmates if they want to be organ donors if they die in prison, both when they are initially processed and during medical procedures. But Eliason said without the law, future prison administrations might not continue the program.
The medical form will be reviewed to ensure it makes it clear to inmates there are no penalties for not participating — or any incentives for signing up.
Eliason said there is no cost to the state for the program.
Lawmaker says children in poverty should be highest priority
Intergenerational poverty is a "societal sin of the worst kind," Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, said Wednesday.
Reid's remarks came after lawmakers in the Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee were presented with a report on intergenerational poverty by the Department of Workforce Services. The report was made in compliance with SB37 — sponsored by Reid and passed during the 2012 legislative session — which directs the DWS to establish and maintain a system to track poverty in the state.
According to a recent report, there are 364,833 individuals living in poverty in Utah, or 13.2 percent of the state's population. The number of individuals under the age of 18 who live in poverty is 136,751, just under 16 percent of the state's child population.
Lawmakers tangle over beetle
A group of frustrated, concerned and even some angry Utah lawmakers agreed Wednesday to sound off over a federal proposal to set aside more than 2,000 acres of state park property in Kane County to protect a species of beetle.
The proposal would shut out the more than 50,000 campers, wildlife watchers and off-roaders who annually visit the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park each year — mostly out of state visitors who eclipse the county's population seven times over.
Potential closure of one of Utah's state parks looms even as the once struggling parks and recreation division has survived consecutive rounds of budget cuts to generate an additional $1.5 million in revenue in the last fiscal year — emerging above painful layoffs and belt-tightening to operate out of the red.
As it is now, state park employees monitor the beetle populations, which Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation Director Fred Hayes said inhabit an area far from the dunes where off-roading occurs. The division, he added, has offered to put up fencing and has already worked to mitigate any impacts from the park's visitors, but a federal designation would essentially boot the division off the land.
"If we pull out, the beetle will be lost," he said.
Lawmakers propose changes to Utah's concussion law
Lawmakers proposed a change to Utah's concussion rule that would exempt property owners, including cities, from liability.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, is seeking to modify the Protection of Athletes with Head Injuries Act, to put organizations in charge of their own events, regardless of where they are held.
The proposed changes, Wall said, "puts the burden of watching the kids on the sponsor of the events." He said the move would further protect taxpayer dollars.
The original act, requiring school-sponsored activities to follow a strict concussion management plan that includes medical attention and removal from play following a concussion, passed through the Legislature in 2011.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche, Ben Wood, Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Wendy Leonard