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Legislature: Parking Garage, Yes; Medicaid Funding, No

   |  Posted May 24th, 2006 @ 8:59pm



 

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Legislature approved spending $15 million to build another parking garage at the Utah Capitol on Wednesday but refused to come up $2 million to restore emergency dental benefits for more than 40,000 Medicaid recipients.

Both items were on lawmakers' agenda in a special session called by Gov. Jon Huntsman, who also sought a 3.5 percent pay hike for executive state officeholders. House Republicans, angry at Huntsman for forcing the vote on Medicaid funding, were holding off action on the executive pay raises.

Huntsman's plan to restore dental services for the aged, blind and disabled ran into legislators' reluctance to reopen a state budget approved in March. Senate Republicans said the Medicaid program already was running a $10 million deficit for the fiscal year.

Legislators defended the parking garage by saying they were reallocating money set aside for the Capitol's restoration to pay for it. Ultimately, however, legislators said they'd cover the cost by borrowing for it.

The Legislature also waded into securities regulation by passing a measure intended to help Internet retailer Overstock.com Inc. and other Utah companies fight stock manipulation.

The bill, intended to fill a gap in federal enforcement, provides for $10,000 daily fines against broker-dealers who aid investors in an illegal form of short selling -- or betting on a stock's decline.

"It is a devious practice that destroys companies," said Rep. James A. Ferrin, R-Orem, a securities adviser who said he's never sold stocks short.

Short selling is legal. It lets investors borrow stock hoping the share price declines, so they can return it to brokers and pocket the difference. But Overstock.com asserts it has been a target of illegal naked short selling, where investors short stock they don't actually borrow.

The bill approved by the Legislature fines brokers who accumulate too many unsettled stock trades in a company over five trading days.

Typically, brokers send IOUs instead of shares through a stock clearinghouse when the shares aren't available. Some never settle a trade, allowing short sellers to profit without having to assume risk.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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