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5 techy things in the Utah Legislature

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5 techy things in the Utah Legislature

By Liesl Nielsen, KSL.com | Posted - Feb. 24, 2018 at 12:28 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — While politicians deliberate the fate of the future on Utah’s Capitol Hill, hundreds of bills and proposals pass through committee after committee.

Here are five tech-centric bills in the House and Senate that could affect Utahns:

HB371: Make way for self-driving cars in Utah

A House bill wants to explicitly allow drivers to take their autonomous vehicles for a spin on Utah roads.

Though self-driving cars are not prohibited locally, the bill, sponsored by Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, would unequivocally allow their use, as well as provide protocol in case of an accident. The bill also requires an autonomous vehicle to be properly titled, registered and insured — though what that would entail is still undefined.

How insurance might change in a world of autonomous vehicles is still unclear, but Spendlove hopes the bill is a step forward in the right direction and will help prepare Utah for changes that are already happening in the automotive world.

The bill passed out of committee on a unanimous vote and will head to the full House for its consideration.

HB59: No-fly zones for drones around Utah prisons

A House bill seeks to establish no-fly zones near Utah prisons.

Some U.S. and international prisons have experienced security breaches when drone operators deliver things like drugs or cellphones to inmates. Similar security breaches have not yet been reported in Utah, but supporters hope the bill could pre-emptively address the issue.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, would prohibit drones from carrying any item to or dropping any item inside the property of a correctional facility, as well as flying in a way that would interfere with its operations or security.

Those working for the mosquito abatement district or in some other official capacity would not violate the no-fly zone.

The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. It will proceed to the full Senate for the body’s consideration.

SB104: $2.5 million incentive program to keep tech students in Utah

A Utah Senate bill could offer debt relief to local college grads who work in a STEM field in-state.

Program participants would have 25 percent of any remaining tuition costs and fees erased each year they work for a Utah employer. Supporters of the initiative hope the program would incentivize students to pursue educational and career opportunities in five still-undecided tech categories — then keep their talents in Utah.

While the Utah tech community is growing quickly, local companies are finding it difficult to retain and attract enough talent to fill the jobs they have available.

“The number of new jobs that need to be filled are outpacing the number of new people universities are producing with those skills,” said Aaron Skonnard, CEO of local tech company Pluralsight.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, hopes the incentive program would at least help retain local talent.

The bill would appropriate $2.5 million for the program. The House Rules Committee supported the bill Feb. 12 and moved it to the full House for its consideration.

SB146: Up to $1 million in funding for Silicon Slopes Tech Summit

The Silicon Slopes Tech Summit drew 5,000 for its inaugural conference in 2017, then nearly tripled in size the following year as 14,000 attendees swarmed the Salt Palace Convention Center for two days of keynotes and workshops with local and global tech leaders.

The conference has since set an ambitious goal to attract 40,000-50,000 attendees in the next three to five years.

A Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, wants to help the conference reach its goal by making available up to $1 million in ongoing funding.

Supporters of the bill hope the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit can help fill a hole left by Outdoor Retailer, which brought a lot of visitors and revenue during its biannual shows.

The bill would modify provisions that apply to disbursements from Utah’s Industrial Assistance Fund, but the money may also be allocated and managed by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

SB56: Autonomous truck platooning on local roads

A Senate bill wants to allow trucks to be connected by a new self-driving technology that links multiple vehicles in a “platoon,” allowing them to speed up, slow down and brake automatically and in-sync.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, would change the “two-second rule" for safe following distance, which requires there be a minimum distance “so that at least two seconds elapse before reaching location of the vehicle directly in front.”

Harper wants to add an exemption to the "two-second rule" for trucks linked in a platoon so that the vehicles can follow closely behind one another. Exemptions for funeral processions and traffic traveling under 35 mph already exist.

A Senate committee passed the proposal through at the end of January.

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