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SALT LAKE CITY — In this last look back on the legislative session, lawmakers addressed officer benefits, tightened surveillance and forcible entry laws, slackened public record access and more.
Legislature approves expansion of death benefits to families of fallen officers ================================================================================The Utah Legislature unanimously passed a bill Thursday night to expand death benefits to families of peace officers and firefighters who die in the line of duty.
HB288 would increase the lump sum spouses of officers killed in the line of duty receive from $1,500 to an amount that would equal the fallen officer’s final average salary. It would also offer continuing health coverage for the spouse, as well as the officer’s children until they either marry or reach the age of 26.
The bill would also instruct employers to designate a person to aid surviving spouses with the death benefit application process.
he Utah Legislature passed two bills Wednesday that would place tighter requirements on law enforcement regarding forcible entry practices and surveillance technology.
The Senate voted unanimously to pass SB82, a bill prohibiting no-knock forced entries in drug possession raids. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, would require officers to announce themselves before a forced entry in drug possession raids.
SB82 would also require officers to wear clothing that clearly identifies them as law enforcement when executing forcible entries, as well as body cameras if their agency has the equipment.
The Senate also voted unanimously to pass SB226, which would require law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant before using powerful surveillance technology that allows users to “see through walls,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs.
Bill slackens state public records restrictions ===============================================The Utah Legislature passed a bill Thursday that would encourage greater government transparency by relaxing some of the state’s records laws.
SB157, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, would make records of significant complaints against certain telemarketing businesses filed with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection open to the public.
The bill would also ease the process of appealing a denial of records requests by a political subdivision, such as a school board, city, town or county. It would allow a resident who is denied access by a local government entity to appeal to the State Records Committee.
Bramble has said that the bill rose out of concerns that surfaced with the investigation into former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff, who have been accused of personal entanglements with people tied to allegations of telemarketing fraud.
SB157's House sponsor, Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, said the bill would act as a tool to more easily “expose these bad actors” and warn the public.
The bill would provide a mechanism for the public to screen records of such businesses if at least 50 complaints about a business have been filed or if a consumer files a lawsuit seeking $3,500 or more in damages.
Despite the work of a fourth-grade class, the Utah Legislature rejected a bill that would designate the golden retriever as the official state domestic animal.
A bill to tighten regulations on e-cigarette products awaits Gov. Gary Herbert’s consideration.
The Utah Legislature passed HB415 late Thursday night, which would require a person to obtain a license to sell e-cigarette products and outline criminal penalties for vendors who violate license requirements.
It would also give the Utah Department of Health the authority to determine product quality, nicotine content, packaging and labeling standards for e-cigarette liquids.
Current Utah law requires a license to sell tobacco products but not specifically for e-cigarette products. As a result, bill sponsor Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, has said only clerks, not shops, are being penalized for violating the law and selling to minors.
A bill to make cockfighting a felony in Utah passed the Utah Legislature on Wednesday.
SB134 would make it a class A misdemeanor on the first offense, a class B misdemeanor on the second offense, and a third-degree felony on the third offense.
During debate in the House late Tuesday night, the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapelton, said while he has voted against this bill in previous years — as this is the third year in a row the Legislature has considered it — the bill now protects bird breeders and spectators who attend game fowl fighting events, and it only targets the organizers of the cockfighting events.
Gibson said Utah is the only Western state where cockfighting is not a felony, and the current class B misdemeanor is not enough to discourage cockfighters from coming to the state.
The Legislature passed a bill Wednesday that would clarify that a person is guilty of prostitution not only when engaging in sexual activity with another for money but also for trade of goods.
State law specifies that a person can be charged with prostitution for selling sexual activity for a fee, but it does not clearly state the crime can be committed for the equivalent of a fee. HB238 would refine the law to specify that.
Bill sponsor Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, has said clarifying the law will aid law enforcement in prosecuting those guilty of prostitution.
The House and Senate both unanimously voted to pass HB238 and send it to Gov. Gary Herbert for consideration.