SALT LAKE CITY — Several hot issues have been debated and discussed in the Utah Legislative session that began Monday. The issues have ranged from finding solutions to the poor air quality to raising the speed limit on several Utah roads.
Voting Recount Amendment
A measure aimed at providing consistency and fairness in election policy received a favorable recommendation Thursday from the House Government Operations Committee.
HB85 would amend the state election code by changing the formula for determining when a voting recount may be requested by a losing candidate. Currently, a recount can be called for if a candidate loses by less than one vote per precinct. The proposed legislation, sponsored Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, would change the recount criteria to 0.25 percent of total number of votes cast.
This bill would have played a role in the election between Jim Matheson and Mia Love. Under current state law, Love would have had to come within 488 votes to force a recount. Under the proposed law, a 597-vote margin would have allowed for a recount.
Solution for Poor Air Quality
A Senate committee gave a preliminary thumbs-up Thursday to a measure that would create an Internet clearing house for research on air pollution, particularly its impacts to health.
The bill by Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, directs the University of Utah's Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health to establish the website with $50,000 that would come from a legislative appropriation.
The Salt Lake/Davis metro area has just emerged from a month of inversions that state air quality regulators said have been the worst in nearly a decade.
Increasing Speed Limit
A bill to increase the speed drivers can travel on some areas of Utah freeways passed unanimously Thursday in a state legislative committee.
HB83, sponsored by Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, would expand the portion of I-15 where the Utah Department of Transportation may establish a posted speed limit that exceeds 75 mph and would add portions of I-80 and I-84 as well.
Lawmakers hope to get the allocation of funds handled by the end of the week, having passed base budget bills from one body to the other Thursday.
Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, serves as a chairman of the executive appropriations committee, where the final decisions are made concerning the state budget.
Change for the Compensation Model for Legislators
As the longest serving member of the Utah Legislature, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, receives among the lowest compensation.
On average, lawmakers earn $15,000 to $20,000, depending upon mileage and the number of meetings they attend. Hillyard compensation is about $5,000 less, he said.
Currently, Utah lawmakers are paid $117 each day they are in session or attend official meetings. They also receive $95 for lodging and $61 for meals, though few legislators from the Wasatch Front incur those costs.
The price tag for the change, recommended by the independent Utah Legislative Compensation Commission, is expected to be $150,000 annually.
Limit on Anonymous Campaign Contributions
The Utah House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve a limit on anonymous political campaign donations.
The action, if passed by the Senate and then approved by the governor by the end of the session, would amend campaign finance provisions to allow candidates to accept up to $100 from anonymous donors. Anything above that should be given away.
Contributing: Jasen Lee, Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Wendy Leonard, and Marjorie Cortez