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5 interesting bills discussed by lawmakers this week

By | Posted - Feb. 8, 2014 at 9:32 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Dozens of bills filter their way through the House and Senate every day during Utah's annual legislative session. Here are five interesting bills from Friday that all Utahns should be aware of.

SB173 — Defining child custody in suspected domestic homicide cases

Sen. Todd Weiler hopes no family in Utah will face the question of what to do with the children when one parent is suspected of killing the other.

The Woods Cross Republican is sponsoring SB173, which would make it possible for concerned parties or the state to petition that children be placed in protective custody if their custodial parent is a suspect in such a murder, without the current requirement that abuse or neglect be proven.

Weiler said the bill was inspired by Pelle Wall, son of University of Utah scientist Uta von Schwedler, who has maintained his father killed his mother since she was found dead in an overflowing bathtub in September 2011.

The Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee unanimously advanced the bill Friday.

SB113 — Making cockfighting a felony

A bill seeking to make cockfighting a felony in Utah was met with opposition Friday.

About 20 people, mostly men, raised their hands Friday when asked who was opposed SB112, sponsored by Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, which would increase the penalties for participating in game fowl fighting to a third-degree felony and attending a fight to a class B misdemeanor.

Davis has long made the argument that by not following suit of its neighboring states and designating game fowl fighting as a felony, Utah will become a magnet for the practice, bringing with it a fringe of crime, violence and drug trafficking.

The bill passed out of committee with only one nay vote, which came from committee Chairman Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs.

HB57 — Changing how shelter animals are 'put down'

A Senate committee gave a favorable recommendation Friday to a bill that would limit the use of carbon monoxide gas as a method of euthanasia at animal shelters.

HB57, sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, calls for carbon monoxide gas to be used only when another method of euthanasia would cause unnecessary stress to the animal or endanger the person performing the procedure.

The bill passed the House Wednesday and will now go to the Senate.

HB292 — Controversial school grading program and the disabled

Students who are mentally and physically disabled could be excluded from Utah's controversial school grading program if a bill heard in a House committee Friday becomes law.

HB292, sponsored by Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, would exclude a student from the calculation of a school's graduation rate used in school grading if that student is part of an individualized education program, or IEP.

Menlove said she was motivated to sponsor the bill after speaking with a school principal who expressed concern that schools were motivated by school grades to advance students who are otherwise allowed by federal law to remain in high school until their 22nd birthday.

The House Education Committee voted to advance HB292 with a favorable recommendation to the full House.

HB80 — Raising the speed limit on all highways

The House approved a bill Friday that would allow the speed limit to be raised as high as 80 mph on highways and freeways throughout the state.

Rep. James Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, the sponsor of HB80, said Utah has increased the posted speed limit to 80 mph on nearly 380 miles of freeway over the past five years.

Dunnigan said his bill would permit UDOT to increase the speed limits on some sections of freeways in urban areas from 65 mph to 70 mph or 75 mph, and to 80 mph in less-populated areas of the state.

The bill passed the House 63-8 and now goes to the Senate.

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