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SALT LAKE CITY — Local lawmakers passed bills this week, including a bill to clarify the role of local school board members and a bill to limit panhandling on state-controlled roads. They also reviewed bills on raising the minimum wage, raising registration fees on natural gas and other energy saving cars and a bill that would allow the state to extend extra help to refugees that settle in Utah.
A Salt Lake City catering company set a new minimum wage for its workers this month, and a Utah lawmaker wants the state to do the same for everyone who holds a job.
Utah Food Services, the caterer for the Salt Palace Convention Center and South Towne Expo, bumped its hourly wage to at least $10.10, nearly $3 more per hour than Utah's current rate of $7.25.
Owners Robert and Susan Sullivan say raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do.
"Lower wage earners in Utah and throughout the country need higher pay to meet the costs of the basic necessities of life," Robert Sullivan said.
House Republicans delayed a discussion Tuesday about whether to support a resolution calling for the Utah State Prison to be moved from Draper, freeing up nearly 700 acres for development.
Last week, the House GOP caucus decided it wanted more information before taking action on the resolution being drafted by Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, a member of the state's Prison Relocation and Development Authority.
Although the resolution was expected to be on the agenda of Tuesday's House caucus, it was not discussed. Wilson, who made a pitch to Senate Republicans at their caucus Tuesday, said he now wants to wait until his resolution is finished.
Local school board members should act in the interest of an entire district, but their primary concern is the will of the voters who elect them.
That emphasis is the crux of a bill sponsored by Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, and approved Wednesday by the Utah House.
Draxler said he was motivated to run HB250 during interim meetings of the Education Task Force. He said task force members learned that in some instances, local school board members felt pressured to publicly agree with the decisions of their board, even when those decisions conflicted with their personal views or the views of their constituents.
"There may be a little confusion on the duties of a school board member," Draxler said. "This in no way diminishes the responsibility of a school board member to also look out for what is good for the school district as a whole."
A bill aimed at allowing motorcycles to ride between vehicles in stopped or slow-moving traffic stalled in a legislative committee Wednesday.
Several members of the House Transportation Committee said they had safety concerns about HB281, and they voted 7-1 to table the measure until more study is done.
Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, and three fellow Latino legislators — all Democrats — reinforced their desire for a full expansion of Medicaid and discussed bills they're sponsoring during a news conference Wednesday at the Capitol.
“I think it’s a travesty. It’s immoral on many levels that so many of our individuals in the state of Utah have no access to health care because the Legislature is sitting on this,” said Robles, Senate minority caucus manager.
Aggressive panhandling or activities that impede traffic on state roads, off-ramps or underpasses would be prohibited under a bill narrowly endorsed by a House committee Wednesday.
The House Transportation Committee voted 5-4 to give HB101 a favorable recommendation. The bill takes aim at panhandling, but its sponsor, Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, said it is also a public safety measure that applies solely to roads controlled by the state.
A bill that would raise registration fees for natural gas, electric and hybrid vehicles received a favorable recommendation Wednesday from a Senate committee.
Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, said SB139 is designed to have those driving such vehicles help fund roads because they aren’t paying as much or any gas tax for road maintenance.
Responding to the need for greater personal financial literacy in the state, a coalition of students, educators, lawmakers and finance professionals gathered in the Capitol rotunda Wednesday to urge legislative action.
The event, hosted by the Utah JumpStart Coalition, was held in support of SB40, which calls for a $500,000 appropriation to improve the quality of financial literacy instruction for high school students through training and certification of teachers and an end-of-level assessment.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services would be able to extend a limited number of services for refugees under a bill endorsed Wednesday by a House committee.
The federal government funds services such as English language instruction, emergency assistance and treatment for victims of domestic violence for eight months after a refugee's arrival.
HB321 would authorize the Department of Workforce Services to extend the period of time the state could offer those services for individuals who need them. The House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee gave unanimous support to bill, sponsored by Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland.
A House bill would establish criteria to determine whether the speed limit on a section of freeway could be raised to 80 mph.
The two members of the Senate Transportation and Public Utilities Committee who stuck around long enough to vote Wednesday did so in favor of allowing speed limits along more stretches of freeway to be raised as high as 80 mph.
HB80 would allow the Utah Department of Transportation to establish higher speed limits on freeways after performing a study.
Contributing: Dennis Romboy, Lisa Riley Roche, Benjamin Wood, Madeleine Brown, Marjorie Cortez