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SALT LAKE CITY — A fix to the Count My Vote compromise, the regulation of e-cigarettes and a ban on tattoos for minors under 14 — these are just a few of the topics Utah legislatures tackled this week.
Here are the highlights from these stories, among others:
The House narrowly passed a bill Monday that would allow political parties to pick a primary winner in cases where no candidate gets more than 40 percent of the vote.
Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, said HB313 addresses concerns resulting from the compromise reached last year between lawmakers and backers of the Count My Vote initiative that offers an alternative path to the primary ballot.
Roberts said that alternative — gathering voter signatures to bypass the state's unique caucus and convention system — can result in more than two candidates appearing on a primary ballot and none getting a majority of the votes cast.
His bill would send the top two vote-getters in a primary back to the political party to choose the nominee. It was amended to lower the threshold for taking that action from more than 50 percent of the vote to more than 40 percent.
The wrangling over Gov. Gary Herbert's Healthy Utah alternative for Medicaid expansion continued Monday, with House leaders apparently trying to avoid a Senate hearing on their scaled-down version that passed last week.
With the 2015 Utah Legislature set to end at midnight Thursday, Tuesday is expected to be the final day bills can be considered by a committee. But Senate leaders accused the House of holding onto HB446, known as Utah Cares, so a hearing couldn't be scheduled.
"I'm not sure why. I'm not complaining, but there's no way for us to put it on the committee where it should have gone to," Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said. "We wanted to hold a hearing."
House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, the sponsor of HB446, said the bill was still in the House because he was "still trying to reach an agreement" with the Senate on a compromise between Utah Cares and Healthy Utah.
"I don't know what will happen when we send it over," Dunnigan said. "I'm still meeting with the parties, trying to find common ground. I'm willing. I always have been willing."
The full Utah House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that would tighten regulations on e-cigarette products, including measures to ensure the contents of the cigarettes’ liquids do not stray from what is printed on their labels.
In addition to regulating e-cigarette products, HB415 would require a person to obtain a license in order to sell those products and outline criminal penalties for vendors who violate license requirements.
Bill sponsor Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said current Utah law does not require a license for selling e-cigarette products like it does for tobacco or other cigarette products, so as a result, only clerks, not shops, are being penalized for violating the law and selling to minors.
“So the establishment can continue to sell, and they’ll never be restricted from doing so,” Ray said.
HB415 would give law enforcement “teeth” to address illegal distribution of nicotine products, especially among minors, Ray said.
Additionally, he said current state law does not regulate the content of e-cigarette liquids, so the bill would help counties enforce their manufacturing standards, which are inspected by corresponding health departments.
A House committee pulled back on the progress of two bills Monday that would place new requirements on law enforcement regarding body cameras and surveillance technology.
At the same time, a House panel advanced a bill that would prohibit law enforcement officers from using no-knock forcible entry for drug possession cases, as well as place body camera and uniform requirements for no-knock raids.
HB386, a bill to place body camera regulations that would mandate how and when officers would be required to use body cameras, was unanimously voted to be held and sent to a rules committee for further study.
Bill sponsor Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, said Utah laws do little to regulate body cameras, so it would outline a “lowest common denominator” for law enforcement agencies and require police departments that use the cameras to craft written policies regarding their use. The bill would outline when officers should or should not record.
Meanwhile, Rep. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, also left the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee with contempt Friday after the panel voted to amend his bill, SB226.
Madsen crafted the bill as an attempt to “preemptively” address a powerful and surveillance technology that allows users to “look through walls” with clear and distinct imagery that can be “very invasive and detailed."
He said while the technology is new and not all law enforcement agencies currently use the technology, it is available and has the potential to become widely used in the future.
Madsen said the new technology raises privacy concerns when law enforcement officers have the ability to “peer” inside Utahns’ homes, so the bill would require officers to obtain a warrant in order to use such technology.
“We have to sustain the 4th Amendment standard and protect our citizens’ rights,” Madsen said.
The Senate passed a bill Monday that would allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit.
Utah law allows guns to be openly carried without a concealed firearms permit. But if they put the gun under their jacket, they're breaking the law, said Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, the sponsor of SB256.
His bill would make carrying a concealed gun legal for anyone at least 21 years old. Hinkins removed a provision in the original bill that said the gun could not be loaded.
Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed a similar measure two years ago. SB256 now goes to the House.
The full House passed a bill Monday that would prohibit the tattooing of minors younger than age 14, with or without parental permission.
HB143, sponsored by Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, would allow a person 14 years old or older to get a tattoo, but only if the minor’s parent or guardian grants permission in the presence of the person who would perform the tattoo.
The bill would, however, allow tattoos for medical purposes and establish a civil cause of action for recovery of the removal costs for unlawful tattoos.