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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers passed and reviewed several bills Wednesday and Thursday, including the passing of a bill to change the state tree to a quaking aspen. A committee advanced a bill to restrict the sales of e-cigarettes.
Gov. Gary Herbert told lawmakers that he may veto a bill that is aimed at the Count My Vote initiative even if it passes the Senate.
A Utah pediatrician came to the state Capitol on Wednesday to put the weight of a medical opinion behind a House bill that would regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes.
"Utah children are smoking e-cigarettes at rates that are epidemic," said pediatrician Kevin Nelson. He said state rates for e-cigarettes tripled from 2011 to 2013.
"These are tobacco products. They contain nicotine. They are not safe," he told members of the House Health and Human Services Committee, which voted unanimously to send HB112 to the House for further consideration.
Members of the Utah Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that seeks to increase the rigor of financial literacy education.
Current law requires students to take a one-semester course in financial literacy, but Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, said those courses have been inadequately developed.
Jones referenced the ballooning costs of higher education and growing rates of credit card and student loan debt and said students need greater preparation for the economic realities of today's marketplace.
"Our kids are certainly not getting the information because oftentimes their parents do not have the information," she said.
Jones' bill, SB40, calls for $500,000 to develop statewide standards and an end-of-level assessment in financial literacy. The bill also calls for a program of teacher training and endorsement in financial literacy.
ov. Gary Herbert warned lawmakers Wednesday he may veto a bill aimed at the Count My Vote initiative that would allow voters to switch the state to direct primary elections.
"I respect the people and their desire to have an initiative petition and say we want something different. Let the process play out without any kind of games," the governor said during the taping of his monthly news conference on KUED Channel 7.
The bill, SB54, would allow political parties to avoid the direct primaries called for in the Count My Vote initiative by adopting some changes to the state's unique caucus and convention system for nominating candidates.
The automatic F grade that stung several Utah schools last year may soon be shown the door if a bill sponsored by Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, becomes law.
SB209, which was made public Wednesday, makes several revisions to the state's controversial school grading system, such as excluding alternative high schools from receiving grades and omitting students with severe disabilities from the calculation of a school's graduation rate.
The bill also waives grades for newly opened schools — the first year of an elementary school and the first two years of a new secondary school — and imposes a penalty of a single letter grade for low test participation as an alternative to the automatic F.
Fellow Ogden High School alumnus Rep. Dixon Pitcher remembers being a paperboy for former Lt. Gov. Greg Bell’s family on Jackson Avenue.
“I remember one day that I had just come around the corner on 26th Street, and four of the neighborhood toughs were going to do a number on me, and Greg had showed up at just the right time,” said the Ogden Republican.
Bell intimidated them, and Pitcher was left alone.
“He saved my skin that day,” Pitcher said.
Many other accolades were given to Bell on Wednesday when the Legislature recognized him and his wife, JoLynn, for their dedicated service to Utah for more than two decades.
A bill defining a "teacher" in cases of sexual contact with a student was held yet again Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee in an effort to get the language exactly right.
HB213 would adjust the law on criminal penalties for sexual contact with a student. Instead of the term "teacher," the bill would change the wording to include any employee or volunteer at a school who is at least 18 years old.
All SB41 needs is Gov. Gary Herbert's signature and the quaking aspen will become Utah's state tree.
After both comical and scientific discussion, the House passed the bill Wednesday by a 54-19 vote to change the state tree from the blue spruce to the quaking aspen.
It is only an early step in a long process, but a legislative panel gave unanimous approval Wednesday to enable a controversial medical waste incineration plant to relocate from North Salt Lake to Tooele County.
While most resolutions introduced in legislative sessions are message-oriented and a way for lawmakers to go on record on a particular issue, HR6 is more than just window dressing.
"This is kind of the starting gate," said the sponsor, Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper. "This is not the first step, or the last step."
The resolution was heard before the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee and will now be up for consideration by the full House and Senate.
A state lawmaker has come up with an alternative to the barriers in Utah restaurants often called the Zion Curtain: a sign warning diners that alcohol is being served.
Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, reworked his bill that called for removal of the barrier that separates dining areas from drink mixing and pouring. He proposes that restaurants be able to opt out of using the partition if they post a notice on all entrances and their menus reading: "Notice: This establishment dispenses and serves alcoholic products in public view."
Powell said under his bill, HB285, restaurants and their customers would regulate themselves using free market principles.
A bill to allow the grandchildren of charter school founders to bypass enrollment lotteries sailed quickly through a Senate committee Thursday on its way to final passage.
HB36, sponsored by Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, passed the House last week in a 71-2 vote and was given a favorable recommendation by the Senate Education Committee Thursday. It will now go before the full Senate for consideration.
Contributing: Madeleine Brown, Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Lisa Riley Roche, Dennis Romboy, Benjamin Wood