Wednesday night was expected to be hectic as usual during the final day of the 2004 Utah State Legislature. A midnight adjournment deadline meant actual "work" had to be done by then, but many legislators generally spend some time visiting with one another after the 45-day marathon ends.
Wednesday morning saw vigorous debate over the final tweaking of an $8 billion budget for fiscal 2005. Legislators approved the general appropriations act on Tuesday, one that funds most state agencies and programs.
Still being debated as of noon on Wednesday was the $2.1 billion education funding bill, mainly because of an amendment added by members of the House that would give bonuses to part-time school employees.
The appropriations bill passed after lawmakers agreed to divert more than $4 million in cable and satellite TV taxes from cities to the state. Still in limbo is Gov. Olene Walker's reading program, or rather, how and where to fund and spend the $30 million budget for the program.
The new state budget does, as expected, include a $2 million allocation to help Hill Air Force Base. It includes $1.5 million for purchase of private land in the base's flight path, and $500,000 for creation of a lobbying committee targeted at convincing Congress and the Base Realignment and Closure Committee that Hill shouldn't be targeted for closure.
As the final days wrapped up, legislators agreed to stricter DUI enforcement standards by passing two bills, one sponsored by Rep. Dana Love (R-Syracuse).
HB128, which was modified greatly since Love introduced it weeks ago, says anyone with a previous DUI conviction is not allowed to drive with a blood alcohol content higher than 0.05 percent if minors are in the car. Though Love's original proposal was even stricter, supporters of the move were generally satisfied with the final bill.
One other passed bill, SB58, is also aimed at toughening drinking laws in the state. It no longer allows a patron to purchase a pitcher of beer if they are alone, setting the "serving" standard maximum at one liter of beer at a time. Both bills passed in the Senate on Tuesday.
The controversial UTOPIA measure, SB66, passed the House on Tuesday.
That clears the way for the 18 communities currently considering the telecommunications project the right to continue their involvement. Any new entities interested in UTOPIA, however, are now required to get voter approval before entering into a bonding agreement.
Farmington Rep. Marda Dillree confirmed on Tuesday that she is retiring this year after six terms in the House. Dillree, who serves as chair of the House Rules Committee, is continuing an on-going battle with cancer. Colleagues expressed appreciation for her 12 years on the Hill.
A quick look at the measures that passed or failed include, in the passed column, bans on state funding of abortions and partial-birth abortions, a bill and proposed constitutional amendment on same-sex marriages, prohibition of guns on campuses, and definition to some degree of parental rights. Efforts to urge Congress to get the United States out of the United Nations, defining hate crimes, tuition tax credits for parents with children in private schools, and an amendment empowering legislators to call themselves into special sessions all failed.
A recap of how local lawmakers fared with their efforts this year will appear in the Clipper next week.