Lawmakers discuss animal cruelty, health care reform, immigration bills

Lawmakers discuss animal cruelty, health care reform, immigration bills

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Richard Piatt reportingA push to make animal cruelty a felony in Utah is going forward, but not without protests from the most vocal animal-rights supporters.

That bill, along with a comprehensive health system reform bill, and yet another immigration-related bill, made progress at the state Capitol today.

Sadie, the dog stabbed in the nose earlier this week, made a trip to the Capitol today on behalf of the latest animal cruelty bill. Her owner, David Reynolds, has worries about the man who did it being capable of much worse. "These guys who habitually torture animals will most likely turn on their family," he said.

But Senate Bill 117 is not giving comfort to some animal lovers. The same people who pushed "Henry's law" last year are outraged at this latest proposal. It removes some acts of violence that currently constitute abuse, and makes animal cruelty a felony only on a second conviction.

The bill was crafted as an attempt at a compromise, with protections for the agriculture community.

The full Senate now will consider it, while a competing bill that does call for stricter penalties was put off.

The House of Representatives unanimously passed the first step of health system reform today. A ceremonial event in the Gold Room trumpeted a one-year study on how to make health care more affordable and available.

House Minority Leader Brad King said, "We are united in understanding that now is the time to act as the state of Utah to make a difference in some real and rational reform in health care."

The immigration issue once again filled one of the larger meeting rooms at the Capitol. Senate Bill 81 is known as an "omnibus" bill with penalties for employers who hire illegals, stronger local law enforcement powers, and more.

Theresa Martinez, a professor at the University of Utah, said, "The arguments on the other side are more punitive and not about what's just and more humane."

William Christopherson of the American Legion said, "I'm not saying illegals don't do what's right. But what about our regular immigration? It seems like that has gone down the tubes."

Frustration over immigration is not going away: This is just one of several bills on the subject that are advancing this session.

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