Partial Medicaid expansion plan passes, other happenings on the hill

Partial Medicaid expansion plan passes, other happenings on the hill

(Jordan Allred, Deseret News, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers passed several bills on Monday, including a bill to create a statewide student safety tip line and a bill to give tax credits to employers who hire homeless people.

Various committees also advanced bills on Friday and failed to advance State School Board election reform bills.

Partial Medicaid expansion plan passes Senate

The Utah Senate voted 19-6 Monday for a partial Medicaid expansion plan that also gives Gov. Gary Herbert the ability to seek a federal block grant to pay for the proposal he rolled out last month.

Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, amended his SB251 to allow the governor to negotiate with Washington, D.C.

Herbert's Healthy Utah plan would seek a block grant from the federal government to cover about the same number of needy Utahns as accepting the full expansion of Medicaid offered under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Bill passes to create statewide student safety tip line

A bill to create a statewide tip line for students to report and receive help in dealing with violence, threats or suicide gained unanimous approval from members of the Utah Senate on Monday.

SB232, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, creates a commission to study the logistics and feasibility of creating a dedicated phone line, which would allow school faculty, parents or students to make anonymous calls to licensed clinical social workers.

The bill originally called for the dialing code 311 to be set aside for the tip line, but it hit a snag as municipal officials worried residents were already familiar with 311 as a nonemergency public safety line.

House approves bill to prepare Utah to hold 2016 presidential primary

A bill giving the state the go-ahead to prepare to hold the nation's first presidential primary in 2016 was approved Monday by the House.

HB410, sponsored by Rep. Jon Cox, R-Ephraim, said the bill gives Utah the option of holding an online election for president should lawmakers decide next year to pick up the estimated $1.6 million price tag.

Currently, the state can join a regional Western states primary usually held in February or, as was done in 2012, add the presidential race to the June primary ballot.

House passes bill to give tax credits to employers who hire homeless people

A limited number of tax credits would be available for employers who hire homeless people in a bill passed by the Utah House on Monday.

HB140, sponsored by Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake, narrowly survived the House, advancing to the Senate on a vote of 38-36.

Employers who hire homeless people could be eligible for tax credits of $2,000. The employee must be continually employed for nine months for the employer to qualify, and the employer must have paid the worker at least $4,000 in wages during that period.

Panel advances bill to create plan to keep national parks open

A Senate committee unanimously recommended a contingency plan for managing federal facilities, should something like the partial government shutdown in 2013 happen again.

In cases of fiscal emergency, HB133 would allow the governor to work with the federal government to keep national parks, monuments, forests and recreation areas open and maintained.

Bill would put hold on governance changes in unincorporated S.L. County

Legislation that presses the pause button on annexations and incorporations in unincorporated Salt Lake County until November 2015 was held up as a "kumbayah" bill Friday.

The compromise measure freezes boundaries of the unincorporated county, with the exception of an annexation to Holladay that is underway.

It also respects the work of a group of residents seeking to incorporate Millcreek Township into a city. The group recently filed signatures with the county to restart the process of placing the issue before voters.

Panel advances campaign finance reform bills

Candidates for public office who fail to report campaign contributions on time might have to pay fines.

And a newly revised House bill would also require candidates in contested races to report donations within three days when an election or political convention is 30 days or fewer away. The measure is designed to make late infusions of cash into campaigns more transparent.

The Senate Business and Labor Committee combined bills sponsored by Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, addressing campaign finance disclosures. It voted unanimously to endorse the bill.

HB246 would impose a $50 or 15 percent fine, whichever is higher, on campaign contributions that aren't reported within the 30-day period required by law. There currently isn't a penalty for failing to meet the deadline.

Committee fails to advance State School Board election reform bills

Utah's frequently criticized method of electing State School Board members will live to fight — or be fought — another year after a bill creating direct elections failed to gain majority support in a Senate committee Friday.

The Senate Education Committee was evenly split 3-3 on HB223, effectively halting the bill as lawmakers head into the final week of the 2014 Legislature.

HB223 was one of three bills seeking to change the way school board members are elected and appeared to be in a strong position heading into the final days of the session after clearing the House with a 57-15 majority. But all three bills ultimately failed to clear their respective hurdles Friday.

Contributing: Madeleine Brown, Marjorie Cortez, Lisa Riley Roche, Dennis Romboy, Benjamin Wood

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