Briefly at the Utah Legislature

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 28 2012 5:00 p.m. MST

House passes electronic billboard measure

SALT LAKE CITY — A House bill approved Tuesday would pave the way for billboards across the state to become electronic.

"I think it's only right that we allow our billboard industry to keep up with changes in technology," said Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, sponsor of HB87.

Electronic billboards have been a hot topic on the Hill. Some cities, particularly Salt Lake City, have seen the measure as an intrusion on their policies. Salt Lake City placed a moratorium on new electronic billboards last year.

Brown said the bill would not preclude cities and counties from managing the number and placement of billboards. It would allow them to set curfews on electronic billboards on surface streets. The state would regulate signs on the freeways.

The bill also spells out how local governments may use eminent domain to remove and relocate billboards, including negotiating placement and setting values with arbitration.

HB87 passed 55-16 without debate. It now goes to the Senate.

— Dennis Romboy

Alcohol, brain damage and headstones

SALT LAKE CITY — Though his attempt to again create more state-issued liquor licenses isn't going anywhere, Rep. Gage Froerer has maintained a sense of humor.

When asked on the House floor if he wanted to bring up his bill that would create more liquor licenses for fine dining clubs, the Ogden Republican said, "I can't convince anyone in the other chamber that economic development is important in this state. I will not waste your time or any further brain damage to myself."

Lacking a Senate sponsor, Froerer opted to not pursue HB142.

As the House GOP caucus considered a list of bills for funding, it came to Froerer's meausure.

"The $16,000, I think, is for the headstone," he said.

— Dennis Romboy

'Immigration consultant' regulations advance in Senate

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill to regulate non-attorney "immigration consultants."

Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake, said she introduced SB144 to address fraud and risk of identity fraud at the hands of unscrupulous "immigration consultants" hired by refugees, undocumented Utahns as well as legal residents to assist with filling out immigration documents.

SB144, which advanced to the Senate's final reading calendar on a vote of 21-5, would require consultants to register with the state Division of Consumer Protection, undergo criminal background checks and post bonds. It also creates a complaint process for people who have been defrauded.

Robles said the bill had been endorsed by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, The Sutherland Institute and the United Way of Salt Lake.

Senate President Michael Waddoups questioned the need for government regulation in this arena.

"Why should this be the responsibility of the state?" Waddoups said.

Robles said a growing number of people have been taken advantage of by so-called "immigration consultants."

"My biggest concern is identity theft," she said.

According to testimony when the bill was heard in committee earlier this year, immigration consulting services are sometimes offered by one-stop businesses that also sell money orders, prepare taxes and provide translation services.

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