Carter Williams, KSL.com, File

Elective abortion ban among hundreds of new laws signed by Utah governor

By Sahalie Donaldson, KSL.com | Updated - Apr. 1, 2020 at 11:04 p.m. | Posted - Apr. 1, 2020 at 2:31 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert concluded signing bills passed during the Utah Legislature’s recently completed session, including legislation pertaining to the disposal of fetal remains, a penalty reduction for polygamy, and an elective abortion ban with a trigger clause that will only take effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Utah lawmakers passed 510 bills throughout the 45-day general session that ended at midnight on March 12. Herbert vetoed five bills and didn’t act one one, which went in effect without his signature.

Herbert explained in a letter to Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, that he vetoed four of the five bills because “they amend tax policy in a time of economic uncertainty.”

He had until the end of Wednesday to sign or veto the bills.

Herbert signed one of the more controversial bills — a sweeping abortion ban with a few exceptions — on Saturday.

SB174, sponsored by Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, will only go into effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. It will only allow abortions in cases of rape, incest, “substantial impairment” of the mother’s health, or if the fetus has a lethal birth defect or severe brain abnormality that would render it in a vegetative state.

Anyone who performs an abortion that doesn’t fall under these exceptions could face a second-degree felony charge.

Herbert signed another controversial bill Saturday that has to do with the disposal of fetal remains.

SB67, sponsored by Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, requires health care providers to either bury or cremate aborted and miscarried fetal remains.

Like SB174, the bill passed along party lines and was opposed by abortion-rights groups — in this case arguing that the legislation will increase a woman’s trauma by forcing a decision on how she wanted the remains to be disposed.

Bramble said the woman would receive a form asking how she wants the remains to be taken care of, but emphasized that she could choose not to select a method at all if she preferred.

Other bills Herbert has signed include SB102, which drastically lowers the penalty for bigamy between consenting adults while enhancing penalties for crimes committed in concert with bigamy like sexual abuse, domestic violence or fraud.

Sponsored by Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, the new law drops the penalty for bigamy from a felony — punishable to up to five years in prison — to an infraction, which is less severe than some traffic tickets.

Henderson said the law’s purpose is to drive victims of abuse in polygamist communities out of the shadows so they can get aid, explaining they would have been less inclined to do so before out of fear of the felony penalty.

The bill earned a great deal of support from lawmakers in both the Senate and the House, but it encountered resistance from some victim advocate groups that were concerned reducing the criminal penalty would actually embolden perpetrators of crimes in polygamous families.

Herbert also signed SB97, which tightens the rules for what can be requested for a personalized license plate — legislation that came about after controversy regarding vanity plates erupted when a picture of the license plate DEPORTM was posted to Twitter.

The new law, sponsored by Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, expands restrictions to include a provision saying requests should be denied when they disparage a group based on race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, citizenship status, or physical or mental disability.

Plate requests can currently be denied when they carry connotations offensive to “good taste and decency or that would be misleading.” The Utah Division of Motor Vehicles details this as meaning requests that reference drugs; are sexual, vulgar or derogatory; suggest ideas dangerous to public welfare; or disrespect “race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage, gender or political affiliation.”

The law also allows for vanity plates that reference a state symbol such as the Utah firearm.

Other notable bills signed

  • HB262 eliminates the prosecution of children 11 and under, while carving out exceptions for those who commit serious offenses like murder, aggravated arson, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault. Instead of receiving jail time, young children will be diverted to juvenile court for nonjudicial accountability and rehabilitation such as mental health services.
  • HB222 expands alternative school breakfast programs in Utah schools. The bill was actually defeated in a Senate committee, but after public outcry it was brought back and amended to meet committee members’ concerns. From there, it easily cleared both legislative houses. The law expands the percentages of students who qualify for free and reduced-price school lunch.
  • SB59 shifts Utah to daylight saving time year-round as long as Congress allows it and surrounding states do the same. The law will only take effect if at least four Western states also adopt daylight saving time year-round. Congress must also act to give the state the daylight time option. The legislation is one among many daylight saving bills to appear during the Legislature throughout the years, however, it is the first to pass.
  • HB207 is designed to combat the rising price of insulin and prevent dangerous side effects of rationing insulin supplies by allowing pharmacists the ability to dispense an emergency supply. It also caps copayments for insulin at $30 per month, unless insurers place the treatment in their lowest-cost drug tier, waiving deductibles.
  • HB32 provides more than $16 million for new “crisis centers” across the Wasatch Front. The centers will be open 24-hours a day and give people experiencing mental health episodes and needing emergency care a place to go instead of being sent to jail cells or hospital emergency rooms. The law will also expand mobile outreach teams in rural parts of the state.
  • SB200 is a compromise deal negotiated between lawmakers and backers of a voter-approved citizens initiative creating an independent redistricting commission to recommend new legislative, State School Board and congressional boundaries following each census. The law will require the independent redistricting commission to adopt rules banning partisan gerrymandering and will allow the group to draw maps creating the proposed boundaries, however, the Legislature gets final say on approval.

Bills Vetoed

  • HB59 would have incentivized replacing diesel burning semitrailer trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles with cleaner options by extending a tax credit for qualifying vehicles due to lapse this year, but phasing out the monetary amount throughout a 10-year period.
  • HB278 pertained to signs, barriers, fencing and transportation facilities related to the Jordan River. It would have also required the posting of specific signs.
  • HB269 — another tax credit bill — would have created a nonrefundable gross receipts tax credit for some commercial energy systems using hydrogen electrolysis systems.
  • HB332 would have created the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program.
  • HB356 would have modified certain provisions related to railroads, such as repealing the state sales and use tax exemption for fuel sales to a rail carrier when being used in a locomotive engine.

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