» View our Utah politics blog, with live updates and analysis of the 2012 legislative sessions.
Internet gambling bills advance out of House
State lawmakers took aim at Internet gambling in two separate bills Tuesday.
Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, said he introduced HB108 as a pre-emptive strike against federal legislation that would legalize online gaming and gambling with handheld devices. The federal bill would legalize Internet gambling unless the state specifically opts out, he said.
"This is just a safety measure to make sure Utah stays gambling free," said Sandstrom, who is running for Congress.
Utah prohibits any form of gambling.
HB108 has not had a committee hearing.
Also Tuesday, the House passed HB40 to eliminate vague wording in state law that some Internet cafes have claimed allows them to run games of chance.
Bill sponsor Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, said those cafes have become "havens for criminal activity." The bill, he said, tightens up the language so cops can police them more effectively.
The bill now moves to the Senate.
— Dennis Romboy
Mammogram bill would provide more information for women
Radiologists would be encouraged to provide patients more extensive breast cancer screening results under a bill passed Tuesday by the Utah Senate.
SB32 would encourage radiologists to include information about a woman's breast density on the report they receive following a mammogram. Right now, the results only tell women if cancer was detected during the test.
Mammograms detect dense tissue but they aren't as effective in detecting cancers in women who have dense tissue. In those case, women would be made aware to consult with their physicians on whether they require followup tests.
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, said while his mother and mother-in-law are both breast cancer survivors and women need this information to make better decisions about managing their health care, he questioned whether a recommendation to health care providers belonged in the Utah Code.
The code should be filled with matters of law, not recommendations.
"I think it's a dangerous precedent. The code would simply explode if every good idea would find its way into our laws," Madsen said. "I can't be a part of trending that direction."
Madsen and Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, voted against the bill, citing the same concerns. Waddoups said he would prefer that that language be part of a resolution rather than "end up with another new volume in the code."
The bill passed the Senate on a 22-5 vote and moves to the House for its consideration.
— Marjorie Cortez
Gov. would get to hire, fire higher-ed chiefs under proposed bill
SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would give the governor the ability to terminate certain higher education leaders is making its way through the House after advancing from the Senate.
Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, is sponsoring SB39, which would require the governor's approval and the state Senate's consent in the hiring of a new Commissioner of Higher Education or president of the Utah College of Applied Technology. The governor would also have authority to fire those leaders.
Currently, the State Board of Regents and UCAT Board of Trustees decide who to hire and fire.
"It's an effort to provide some accountability to the two silos of education that manage a considerable amount of funds," Reid told a House Education Committee on Tuesday.
The governor needs more say in education, Reid said. The bill requires that when terminating a commissioner or president, the governor would have to consult with the board of regents or UCAT board of trustees, though he would not need their consent or approval in making the decision.
"It's not something to be done willy nilly," Reid said. "The truth of the matter is the governor has no real authority over education."
Reid has backed away from other legislation he pursued that would have given the constitutional governance of both higher and public education to the governor.
Reid's bill advanced to the House floor on a 7-6 committee vote.
— Molly Farmer
Lawmakers hold bill that sunsets attorney license requirement
A Senate committee held a bill Tuesday that would remove the sunset date from a statute that prohibits the practice of law without a license. In effect, the prohibition would stand, under the bill, unless legislation was passed to require a regular review.
SB141, which was recommended by the Legislative Management Committee, was put on hold amid concerns raised by Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, that two-thirds of Utahns don't have access to legal representation.
"The reason they don't have access is this statute," Urquhart said, explaining that the law should have periodic review.
The prohibition means nonlawyers can't give legal advice, which would be preferable to people representing themselves in court, he said.
"What this does is make the price of legal services beyond the reach of the average Utahn," he said.
If someone who is not represented in court ends up facing a "highly skilled, highly trained mercenary, you're going to lose your rights," said Urquhart, who is an attorney.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, was unable to attend the hearing Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee.
Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake, a member of Legislative Management, presented the bill at the committee chairman's request.
The statute, he said, helps to ensure that attorneys who serve the public are competent and certified. "I think there's noble justification for the certification requirement for attorneys," said McAdams, who is also an attorney.
— Marjorie Cortez