SALT LAKE CITY — A special session is happening Wednesday on Utah's Capitol Hill to determine how to keep Utah's national parks open until Thanksgiving. What happens could hinge on the latest deal from Washington.
The situation created by the federal government shutdown is sparking three bills to fund the re-opening of the state's national parks. If a deal is reached in Washington, those bills should not be necessary.
The Legislature has to sign off on the $1.7 million the governor wired to Washington. That money opened the five big national parks and a few more through next week.
"I think all of us are hopeful there will be a resolution but I don't think we can rely on that. We have people who are booking into Thanksgiving, so what this bill does is allow the parks to be open through Thanksgiving."
But Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, is also sponsoring a bill that sets another $7 million aside to extend time to Thanksgiving if necessary.
"I think all of us are hopeful there will be a resolution but I don't think we can rely on that," Adams said. "We have people who are booking into Thanksgiving, so what this bill does is allow the parks to be open through Thanksgiving."
Adams said Wednesday morning he was aware of the possible deal in Washington, but wants to be prepared just in case.
The question a lot of people have is: Will the state be repaid for putting up this cash?
In Washington, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have taken steps to make sure that happens. But Adams said the state can handle the loss if Utah is not paid back — and it could be political fodder for a long time if that happens.
The money is coming from a Department of Natural Resources account called the Sovereign Lands Management Fund. The $24 million in the account is from mineral leases.