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Legislature in discussion about prison relocation; public school funding

Legislature in discussion about prison relocation; public school funding

(File Photo)

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Legislature spent a lot of this sessions discussing ideas pertaining to school in different capacities. However, they also had a chance to talk about other issues including the continual discussion of moving the prison.

Here are some of the highlights from the bills discussed.

Lawmakers asked to give commission authority to relocate state prison

Lawmakers could avoid deciding where to relocate the Utah State Prison from Draper under a proposal from House leadership that would leave the choice up to the Legislature's Prison Relocation Commission.

House Majority Assistant Whip Brad Wilson, who is also co-chairman of the commission, asked members of the House GOP caucus Tuesday to turn over the authority to name the site of the $500 million-plus project.

The Republican representatives were hesitant to take action on the proposal. The commission is scheduled to meet Friday but is not expected to have a recommended site before the session ends next month.

Advocates lobby for stronger animal welfare laws

"The animals need a voice. They need us to speak up for them against cruelty."

Those were Salt Lake City resident Karina Ramirez's words Tuesday as she asked state lawmakers to support two bills that would create what Humane Society officials call better animal welfare laws.

Ramirez said she fosters animals in need, and as a passionate animal lover, she's not proud to live in a state that is "so lenient on animal abusers."

"If we could actually boast that we're not one of the worst states for humane laws, I would definitely be proud to say I live in Utah," she said.

Senate panel endorses bill to raise vehicle registration fees =============================================================

Registration fees for all types of vehicles would go up, some dramatically, under a bill a Senate committee approved Tuesday.

Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, said all vehicles have the same impact on the roads and SB231 aims to level the playing field.

Currently, the state charges $43 to register vehicles under 12,000 pounds. The average passenger car weighs about 4,000 pounds.

Under the bill, vehicles powered by gas, diesel and propane would be charged $53. Natural gas and hybrids would cost $103, while electric vehicles would cost $113.

Governor still 'optimistic' about $500M increase to public education

Gov. Gary Herbert said he remains "optimistic" about his proposal to appropriate $500 million in new money for education, despite doubts from lawmakers about whether his funding request can or will be met.

Revised revenue estimates have added another $100 million to the coming state budget, presenting opportunities for several areas of state funding.

"We ought to all be smiling. We ought to be giggly," Herbert said Tuesday. "It means that our economy is growing. It's robust, it's healthy, and we're one of the best, if not the best, most dynamic economy in America today."

Herbert said he hopes the additional dollars will raise the chance that legislators will meet his funding request for public education.

High schoolers may see more incentives for early graduation ===========================================================

Utah lawmakers are getting closer to providing more incentives to students who graduate early from high school.

Utah currently offers a maximum of $1,000 through the Centennial Scholarship program to students who graduate during their junior year. The scholarship is available in different levels to students who graduate at or before the third quarter of their senior year.

SB33 would double the maximum scholarship amount while requiring the Utah State Office of Education to inform parents of students in eighth grade about the options for early graduation.

Class size reduction bill passes Senate

State lawmakers are hoping an extra $10 million will give schools the needed resources to reduce class sizes.

SB106, which would supplement the $115 million spent each year to bring down the number of desks in a classroom, passed the Senate on Tuesday in a 20-9 vote.

The bill would designate 80 percent of the new money the same way as current funds, and 20 percent would be distributed to districts that have both high student enrollment and a property tax base below the state average.

Bill seeking school capital funding equity approved by Senate committee

The Senate Education Committee passed a bill Tuesday that would raise the amount of money some school districts would be required to pay in charter school capital funding.

HB119 would require some districts to pay more than $500,000 in additional funds to support ongoing capital budgets for Utah schools by requiring all school districts to pay a full 25 percent of local property tax revenues, which some districts are doing already.

Bill clarifies law allowing parents to opt children out of school testing

Amid growing controversy surrounding high-stakes summative testing, Utah lawmakers are hoping to clarify a law that allows parents to opt their children out of some school tests.

The Senate Education Committee unanimously recommended a bill Tuesday that addresses some of the challenges teachers and parents have had with the statute.

SB204 would allow parents to excuse their children from "any summative, interim or formative test that is not locally developed," as well as "any test that is federally mandated or mandated by the state."

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