SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers have advanced a bill that would create stiffer penalties for people caught dealing drugs near homeless shelters.
The bill brought by Democratic Rep. Joel Briscoe makes drug-related crimes committed within 100 feet of a government-funded shelter a felony. It would add homeless facilities to a list of other places where Utah law imposes higher punishments for drug distribution, including schools, parks, libraries and churches.
The legislation was forwarded out of a House committee in a unanimous vote Wednesday but not without people voicing concerns.
Utah Sentencing Commission Director Jennifer Valencia says creating 100-foot buffer zones around homeless shelters could push drug dealers into neighborhoods.
Briscoe acknowledged the need to protect neighborhoods in a statement after the vote and said the goal was to target those who prey on the state's homeless population.
The bill now goes before the full House.