Legislature: Bills on wildfire prevention, custody battles, and banning felons from school board

By KSL.com | Posted - Feb 8th, 2013 @ 1:59pm



SALT LAKE CITY — During the second week the 2013 Legislative session, several bills were passed ranging from wildfire prevention to allowing teenagers a choice in a custody battle.

Custody Amendment

After intense debate, the Utah Senate passed a bill that would allow children 14 years and older to tell a judge their preference in child custody decisions in cases of divorce.

While a child's position could be given "weight," it would not be the "single controlling factor," according to the amendment.

No Felons on School Board

The House passed a bill 47-27 Thursday intended to keep felons convicted of sex crimes against children from running for a local or state school board.

The sponsor of [HB64](http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/HB0064.html "HB64 — Felon's Right to Hold Office"), Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City, said she was contacted by many people in her district concerned about a school board candidate on the 2012 ballot who had been convicted of sex abuse against a child.

That candidate, Richard Wagner Jones, lost his bid for a seat on the Granite School District board after his status as a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty in 1990 to sex abuse of a child became public.

GRAMA Fees

Rep. Brain King, D-Salt Lake City, has introduced a bill that would require fees to be waived for Government Records Access and Management Act requests if the information benefits the public good.

Under current law, any government entity issuing a public document through GRAMA "may fulfill a record request without charge" but is not required to waive the fee.

In response to concerns that some may abuse the system if the bill passes, he noted that government agencies will still determine whether the information benefits the public good.

Vehicle Registration Citations

Motor Vehicle Registration Enforcement Amendments" href="http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/SB0137.html" target="_blank">SB137, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, would prohibit a local government from enacting ordinances or leveling fines that conflict or are more stringent than state motor vehicle registration requirements.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously Thursday. Weiler said if he does not observe a course correction on the part of municipalities, he may return in the 2014 legislative session with amendments to allow people who are harassed in this manner to seek civil damages.

Wildfire Prevention

Utah lawmakers joined state forestry and law enforcement officials Thursday to tout a pair of bills designed to help prevent and fight wildfires.

House Speaker Margaret Dayton, R-Orem is sponsoring [SB62](http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/SB0062.html "SB62 — Governor's Fire Suppression Authority"), which would authorize the governor to use "all water sources as necessary for fire suppression," and [SB120](http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/SB0120.html "SB120 — Target Shooting and Wildfire Regulations"), which would allow the state forester "to restrict or prohibit target shooting in areas where hazardous conditions exist."

Adoption Tax Credit

Utah parents who adopt special needs children internationally or from other states would be eligible for a one-time $1,000 tax credit under a bill endorsed Thursday by the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, said [SB31](http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/static/SB0031.html "SB31 — Special Needs Adoption Tax Credit") would equalize the playing field with parents who are already eligible for the tax credit — those who adopted the children within Utah or from another state.

Canyonlands Protection

The debate over instilling more protections for the Greater Canyonlands area will continue for months to come after the Senate Natural Resources agreed Thursday the idea needs additional study.

The resolution called for the Utah Legislature to acknowledge the recreational and economic value pumped into the state through the pristine, undeveloped nature of the Greater Canyonlands area.

Contributing: Mary Mellor, Marjorie Cortez, Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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