Utah may be forced to pick up a $500,000 legal tab for defending its new law restricting abortions. But if private individuals want to help pay the cost, lawmakers want their money.
Rep. Evan Olsen, R-Young Ward, has sponsored HB257, which creates an Abortion Litigation Trust Account within the state's general fund to receive all money from private sources designated for litigation expenses in defending the new law.Earlier in the session, lawmakers passed the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, permitting abortions only in cases of rape, incest, endangerment to the mother's health and in cases of grave defects to the fetus.
Olsen's bill allows the state to accept "grants, gifts, bequests or any other money made available from any private source." The money will be given to the attorney general and can only be used for abortion litigation expenses.
The Utah law is expected to become a test case before the U.S. Supreme Court.Tax revenue shortfall
Gov. Norm Bangerter said Friday he is not ready to start worrying about how much money the state collected in taxes during the last quarter of 1990, even though there is some talk among lawmakers it may be less than expected.
"It would not be totally surprising to me if the numbers did soften some," the governor said during his weekly press conference. "We have some concern but the numbers are going to be what the numbers are going to be."
Bangerter said he expects to have an idea of how close actual tax collections are to budget projections within 10 days. A final tally of tax receipts will be finished the week before the legislative session ends.
If the numbers fall short of what lawmakers anticipated when they approved the current fiscal-year budget last year, that could create problems for them this year.
A shortfall in tax revenues means there would be less surplus money to spend on one-time projects. And a shortfall could also mean the projections used to prepare the governor's proposed budget are too optimistic.
The governor said he used "moderate" estimates in his budget. But he acknowledged that what appeared to be a moderate projection several months ago could now be overly optimistic given the nation's deepening economic woes.Senate confirms 2
The Senate confirmed Friday the appointments of Anne M. Stirba to the 3rd District Court bench and C. Grant Hurst to the Utah State Board of Education.
Stirba, 39, has been an assistant U.S. attorney for the district of Utah since May 1987. She directed the Financial Litigation Enforcement Unit and was responsible for collecting on judgments and defending the federal government on tort claims.
She graduated from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, and received her law degree from the University of Utah in 1978. She was the youngest attorney and first woman ever elected to the Utah State Bar Commission.
She replaces Judge Leonard Russon, who resigned to accept an appointment to the Utah Appellate Court.
Hurst, 50, was appointed to the state school board to replace Richard Maxfield, who resigned last month. Maxfield is now the liaison between the State Office of Education and five applied technology centers located throughout Utah.
Hurst will represent the Holladay-Cottonwood area of Salt Lake County on the nine-member board. He is senior vice president and director of corporate sales. He has served on the Sandy City Council and the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District.
He is chairman of the Sandy Arts Council, a member of the Utah Opera board, chairman of the Utah State Advisory Committee for Vocational Education, chairman of the Jordan School District Education Foundation and a member of the Salt Lake County Committee on Youth.
Both votes were unanimous.Panel shelves trials bill
The House Judiciary Committee shelved a bill Friday that would require juries to determine both law and fact in criminal trials.
After hearing nearly 11/2 hours of debate on the bill both Wednesday and Friday, the committee voted to refer HB171 to interim study.
Former Salt Lake County Attorney Ted Cannon testified on behalf of the bill Friday. He said he believes allowing juries to judge the merits of the law would not hurt the judicial process. "I see no harm in telling them so they could do their jobs better," Cannon said.
Although the bill, sponsored by J. Reese Hunter, R-Salt Lake, would express that juries could judge the merits of the law and merits of applying the law to a particular criminal case, Cannon said he believes jurors do that now.
"I bet you anything they won't go berserk with power of their innate responsibilities and the fact that they take their jobs very seriously," Cannon said.
The bill was backed by Fully Informed Jurors Act-Utah, an affiliate of the national grassroots jury-rights movement.
Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, said the bill would enable juries to "override the Legislature if they don't like the law."
"That would invite anarchy, in my opinion and invite juries to vote against the law," he said.