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Some controversial bills end up in legislative junkyard

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 3:03 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Ross Romero knows how it feels.

The Salt Lake City Democrat watched his high-profile ban on teen cell phone use in cars be watered down by amendment after amendment until time ran out.

Despite the disappointment, Romero took a pragmatic view.

"I made concession after concession because I thought that's what my colleagues wanted, but in the end it just caused confusion," he said. "But as I work on this through the interim, all this will provide background on how to overcome these misunderstandings next time."

It's a familiar story, especially for a member of the minority party, but during the 2010 Legislature, bills from both parties fell by the wayside.

Two things could define every legislative session: the bills that pass and the bills that just don't make it.

In political parlance, it is hard to ever call a bill "dead," because in the many layers of legislative limbo, proposals can always find new life.

By the final gavel Thursday night, however, many of the issues that caused so much controversy faded away, some to fight another day, others forever abandoned.

Remember the headlines? "Bill says car seats not needed," "Referees could need background checks" and "Legislation targets ticket scalpers."

Those are just a few of the controversial bills that were diluted or never approved.

A bill that would have made it state policy to kill every wolf ever found in Utah was watered down at its first hearing. In the end, what started as a potentially unconstitutional bill was passed as a strongly worded letter to federal wildlife officials.

Another bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, caused a stir by proposing that car seats would not be required for children in certain situations. The bill overwhelmingly failed on the floor of the House.

"There was a lot of misinformation out there," Herrod said. "Up here it often seems like facts don't matter. In this case, people had already made up their minds."

In the end, Herrod's bill joined campaign contribution limits, background checks for referees, a ban on ticket scalping and many other bills in the legislative junkyard.

Like Romero, however, Herrod vowed to resurrect his proposal next year.

"I'm going to continue to work to get people to understand," he said.

e-mail: jsmith@desnews.com

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