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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers passed several bills on Thursday, the 10th day of the 2014 Legislature, including a beer tax bill to require some money be allocated into prevention programs, a preschool bill to help at-risk kids and a charter school bill that extends enrollment preference to its founder's grandchildren.
The House passed a bill Thursday requiring local governments to spend at least 10 percent of beer tax revenues on programs intended to prevent underage and binge drinking.
"The principle here is simply we need to prevent some problems before they occur on our highways, in our schools and in our homes," the sponsor of HB40, Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, said.
A bill to extend preschool services to at-risk students through private investment cleared its first hurdle Thursday after surviving a lively committee hearing that questioned the government's role in early education.
HB96, sponsored by Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, would establish a School Readiness Board that would oversee contracts with private investors and award funding to public, private or at-home preschool programs through a grant process.
Utah's Democratic lawmakers renewed their call for greater investment in education Wednesday, while also offering criticisms of school grading and an expensive proposal by House Speaker Becky Lockhart to increase technology in schools.
At a meeting at the state Capitol, members of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses presented the education-related bills they are sponsoring this year and championed the role of trained educators in guiding student success.
"There’s a lot of talk in the Capitol about public education," Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said. "Sometimes there’s action, which has often accomplished little more than making the lives of educators more stressful and difficult."
Lawmakers Thursday gave their first nod of approval to a bill that would make it easier for the grandchildren of a charter school's founder to attend that school.
Many of Utah's charter schools rely on lotteries and waiting lists to meet the demand for enrollment, but current law allows for a student to bypass that process if their parent is a school founder or a member of the school's governing board.
Under the terms of HB36, sponsored by Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, that provision would be expanded to include the grandchildren of board members as well.
Animal advocates encouraged lawmakers at the state Capitol Thursday to pass a bill that would upgrade the penalty for game fowl fighting in Utah to a felony.
The state's current penalty for game fowl fighting, commonly known as cockfighting, is a class A misdemeanor. But SB112 would make it a third-degree felony.
Members of the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of Utah, as well as citizen lobbyists met with lawmakers in the House to show support for the bill.
Contributing: Morgan Jacobsen, Lisa Riley Roche, Benjamin Wood