SALT LAKE CITY — The House GOP caucus finally lent their support Thursday to move the Draper prison for development, although some Republican lawmakers still do not endorse the bills. The House also passed a bill to restrict cities from banning certain dog breeds and a committee advanced a bill allowing school districts to swap up to four school days for teacher training.
U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson also made his final appearance as a congressman in front of the Utah Legislature.
U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, who is not seeking re-election this year, told Utah lawmakers Thursday that politics in Washington is becoming more polarized at a time when voters are more independent than ever.
Utah's only Democrat in Congress said that trend must change.
"Good ideas come from both political parties," Matheson said in his final report to the Utah House as a seven-term congressman. "The way to move forward is by extending a hand, not by drawing a line in the sand."
A bill making it clear that teachers and school faculty can intervene if they a believe a student is at risk of committing suicide gained preliminary approval Thursday from the Utah Senate.
HB23, sponsored by Rep. Steven Eliason, R-Sandy, amends current law regarding youth suicide prevention to provide clarity for educators.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, the bill's Senate sponsor, said the current law is ambiguous and has led to some educators feeling uncomfortable approaching students exhibiting warning signs of self-harm.
After debate on the balance between local control and individual rights, the Utah House voted 43-28 to pass HB97, which would prohibit cities and towns from banning certain breeds.
Bill sponsor Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said 10 Utah cities and towns have breed-banning ordinances aimed at pit bulls.
King said aggressive tendencies should be looked at on a dog-by-dog basis and that the American Veterinarian Association agrees one breed isn’t more aggressive than another.
The Capitol rotunda echoed Thursday with voices touting the importance of treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders.
And joining in the chorus were cries for full Medicaid expansion.
Hundreds gathered in the rotunda for the sixth Rally for Recovery, organized by Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness and the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Utah.
Supporters held signs that read "Mental Illness Matters" and "Recovery Equals Hope." They also wore shirts printed with "U4ME," Utahns for Medicaid Expansion.
The House GOP caucus voted Thursday to support moving the Utah State Prison from Draper after members were assured they're not being asked yet to choose a new site or come up with funding.
But at least three representatives of the majority party still voted against endorsing a pair of resolutions, HCR8 and HJR19, on the issue sponsored by Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, a member of the state's Prison Relocation and Development Authority.
"We've studied this ridiculously long," Wilson said, citing a report distributed to the caucus nearly two weeks ago after members asked then for more time to consider whether the move is a good idea.
School districts would be able to swap instructional days for teacher training under the terms of a bill that has passed the Senate and gained House committee approval Friday.
SB103, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, would allow a school district to use up to four classroom days for the purpose of educator professional development.
During the economic recession, much of the funding for professional development days was cut from the public education budget as a cost-saving measure. Osmond said the economic realities in the state do not allow for restoration of professional development days, but his bill would provide flexibility for school districts to set aside days within the academic year for training and preparation.
A panel of lawmakers agreed Friday that a two-mile buffer should exist between Stericycle and any potential residential neighbors should the medical waste incineration facility move from North Salt Lake to Tooele County.
SB196, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-North Salt Lake, received unanimous approval by the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee and now advances for further consideration.
The measure would impose a two-mile buffer between a medical waste incineration facility and any residential development.
Contributing: Madeleine Brown, Lisa Riley Roche, Benjamin Wood, Amy Joi O'Donoghue