SALT LAKE CITY — A legislative committee embarked on the squeamish discussion of a new way to dispose of human remains that could be covered and regulated under state law and a proposal that would expand civil remedies at the state level for workers filing discrimination claims failed.
Here is a roundup of what's happening during the current legislative session.
Representatives from a trio of activist groups are calling on Gov. Gary Herbert to veto a pair of measures they say could have harsh consequences in Utah's fight against air pollution.
One bill, HB11, proposes to eliminate the political diversity requirement on 28 state boards and commissions, including the Utah Air Quality Board.
"Some of the issues are inherently political," Denni Cawley, executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said at a media event Monday. "If you look at health care and the environment especially, such as pollution, views are often from where you stand politically."
HB11, sponsored by Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, impacts about 29 boards and commissions of the 414 that exist statewide. Of those, Thurston said only 74 have political diversity requirements for appointed members, some which have been in state statute since the mid-1930s.
The sponsor of a bill that would give manufacturers a $60 million tax break that won preliminary Senate approval Monday said he now intends to limit the exemption to just $1.8 million for refineries that produce cleaner Tier 3 fuels.
"We're making great strides, but we can do more to clean up our air," said Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton. "One of the most productive ways we can clean up our air is to move to Tier 3 fuels."
Adams said amending SB197 to focus just on giving refineries a sales tax exemption for purchases of equipment expected to last less than three years will help prod Utah refineries to make those fuels available here.
There's a federal mandate to produce more of the lower sulfur fuels, but the Environmental Protection Agency is allowing companies to average reductions so a Sa
After one resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to set congressional term limits failed in the state Senate, the Utah House issued a more direct call to limit the longevity of federal power.
The House voted 45-27 approve HJR12, calling for term limits in Congress. The resolution requests a convention of the states to amend the Constitution under Article V, similar to HJR3 which failed last week.
HJR12, sponsored by Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, would have a more limited scope, calling specifically for term limits, whereas HJR3 requested a broad convention.
"We have seen some of these calls and they have been fairly broad, had multiple issues involved," Hawkes said, addressing some of the misgivings about other amendment requests. "If you are concerned about this and you want to see a narrow convention, then this is the Article V resolution for you."
A proposal that would expand civil remedies at the state level for workers filing discrimination claims failed to find support from a panel of lawmakers Monday.
HB213, sponsored by Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray, was held by the House Business and Labor Committee following a unanimous vote.
The bill would allow employees with discrimination claims to seek civil lawsuits and action through the state court system, and not rely solely on the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division.
Wheatley described the current process for legal remedy as a backlogged system with only three or four investigators to consider more than 500 annual charges.
A legislative committee Friday embarked on the squeamish discussion of a new way to dispose of human remains that could be covered and regulated under state law.
Thirteen states already allow the alkaline hydrolysis process to be carried out by licensed funeral homes, according to Brad Walker with the Utah Funeral Directors Association.
Walker spoke on HB387 to members of the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee, who voted 9-4 to advance the measure sponsored by Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton.
Handy said alkaline hydrolysis is a new "green" method for disposing of human remains and needs to be carefully regulated.
"We want to ensure that this process is a licensed process by licensed funeral directors and that two guys in a garage don't start doing this," he said.
Alkaline chemicals and heat, sometimes combined with pressure, reduce human remains to a liquid, and dry bones are pulverized.
Walker said the process is completely different from cremation and should not be legally attached to that particular process. The carbon footprint is much less than a cremation, he said.
Contributing: Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Lisa Riley Roche, Ryan Morgan