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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, File

Bill exempting search and rescue for 'reckless' behavior advances

By | Posted - Mar. 6, 2017 at 6:54 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers advanced a bill that would exempt coverage for "reckless" behavior in search and rescues and a bill that would end home confinement as a sentencing option for most DUI offenders.

And despite pleas from educators, the Utah PTA and some House Education Committee members to drop letter grades for schools, a committee voted to advance the education bill.

Here's a roundup of what's happening on the hill:

Bill would eliminate home confinement as sentencing option for most DUIs

A bill that would end home confinement as a sentencing option for most DUI offenders was advanced by a Senate committee Monday, but only after a scramble for a quorum.

"I'm not sure how sitting around your house is paying back society," the sponsor of HB162, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, told the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee.

The bill eliminates home confinement as a sentencing option for first-time offenders, as well as those convicted a third or subsequent time. Home confinement while wearing an alcohol monitor would be an option for second-time offenders.

Eliason said sentencing those convicted of driving under the influence to home confinement, which means wearing an ankle monitor and still being able to go to work, school or church, is not an effective deterrent.

Air quality board asks for veto on outdoor cooking bill

The Utah Air Quality Board wants Gov. Gary Herbert to veto a legislative measure that would exempt outdoor cooking from restrictions on bad air days, asserting it interferes with enforcement of wood burning at a time when it is looking to cut pollution wherever it can.

"HB65 will make existing rules surrounding solid-fuel burning difficult or impossible to enforce. For example, enforcement of solid-fuel burning during a no-burn period could be circumvented by individuals claiming to be warming a can of beans," the board said in a letter to Herbert.

The board discussed concerns over the measure in a regularly scheduled meeting last Wednesday and then convened in a teleconference Friday to vote on sending the letter to Herbert. They were in unanimous agreement.

The letter was delivered to Herbert's office late Friday.

Bill exempts coverage for 'reckless' behavior in search and rescues

Outdoor enthusiasts in Utah may soon be able to purchase an inexpensive search and rescue card that exempts them from paying for the cost of a search and rescue operation should they get in trouble.

A legislative proposal aims to tweak that coverage and says people are off the hook for paying the expenses — provided they didn't engage in intentionally reckless behavior.

Sevier County Sheriff Nathan Curtis said people would be surprised at how often there is incredibly zany behavior prompting search and rescue operations.

In testimony before the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee on Monday, Curtis said there were some men in Grand County who attached a slingshot to their vehicle in an attempt to catapult across a canyon.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, is sponsoring HB272 to address those instances.

The measure passed 6-1 and advances to the Senate.

School testing, accountability bill moves forward despite concerns about letter grades

Despite pleas from educators, the Utah PTA and some House Education Committee members to drop letter grades for schools from a proposed student testing and school accountability initiative, the committee voted Monday to advance the bill to the House.

While many people who addressed the latest version of SB220 noted it was a substantial improvement over the current process, letter grades for schools remain a sticking point.

"If you pass this bill out, will one of you be brave enough to take out the school grades?" asked LeAnn Wood, education commissioner for the Utah PTA.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, who has worked extensively with the Utah State Board of Education and other stakeholders on the school accountability and student assessment initiative, said SB220 makes many improvements over the current system.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said he was troubled by various parties who received many changes they wanted in the legislation but refused to support it because of one aspect.

The legislation, he said, moves Utah "light years forward."

The committee voted 12-2 to send the bill to the House for further consideration. A previous version was approved by the Senate.

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche, Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Marjorie Cortez


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