After much pushing and shoving Thursday, Utah legislators decided to bond for $85.3 million next year, clarified the state's new abortion law to give it a better chance before the U.S. Supreme Court and made half a dozen other changes to laws that Gov. Norm Bangerter believed needed fixing.
Overall, the first special legislative session this year had few surprises - with the exception of an override of one of Bangerter's vetoes, the first such override in seven years.The governor had some tough words for his fellow Republicans about the override, which came after he vetoed $592,000 for planning future state construction that was included in an $11 million appropriation.
"The dangerous thing about what they did - and this is aimed at my Republican friends - is that they violated all principles of the line-item veto," Bangerter said, noting that the line-item veto is an issue near and dear to the hearts of the GOP.
The governor also said he'll have the last word. "We will not spend all that planning money," Bangerter said. The list of proposed projects, which he said legislators turned into a "Christmas tree," is being reviewed and only those most likely to be built will receive any money.
By hook and crook, legislators shoved what was $55 million in new state construction into a $48.3 million package (they did that by giving partial funding to buildings with the promise that next year they'll bond for the difference), allocated $14.5 million to water projects and allowed $22.5 million for road work, including partial reconstruction of the causeway to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.
They also gave a two-thirds majority vote to a number of amendments to the state's new, tough anti-abortion law. The vote ensures that the new law, which takes effect April 29, will include the amendments. Thus, in the upcoming federal trial, the new law will be in better shape to withstand constitutional muster, says Bangerter chief of staff Bud Scruggs.
Changes in the new law were technical but also aimed at defusing criticism - which most feel is unfair - that women seeking abortions in Utah face prosecution, even criminal homicide charges.
An interesting sidelight to the abortion debate Thursday: Scruggs warned GOP legislators to be careful what they said in floor debate, fearing that unwise words could lead Supreme Court justices to rule against the law.
Rep. Blaze Wharton, D-Salt Lake, by asking leading questions of bill sponsor Evan Olsen, R-Young Ward, attempted to imply that Utah's law defines life as starting at conception. Some believe such a stipulation would weaken the state's defense of the law.
Olsen hesitated, and House Majority Whip Byron Harward, R-Provo, jumped into the debate saying specifically that the new law doesn't define life at all, neither at conception nor at birth.
Rep. Janet Rose, D-Salt Lake, who opposes the law, said if legislators believe that abortion is murder, then by specifically saying a woman seeking an illegal abortion can't be prosecuted while the doctor who performs the abortion is prosecuted, "you are allowing the person most responsible for the crime to go free while prosecuting the accomplice, just the opposite of what we do in all other laws."
"We've spent millions of dollars on economic development. (Deseret News/KSL-TV) polls show that 64 percent of Utahns believe boycotts by pro-choice groups will hurt Utah, why do we go forward with a lose-lose proposition that only gives Utah a black eye?" she asked.
But Rep. Reese Hunter, R-Salt Lake, said pro-choice advocates only care about one person's choice, that of the pregnant woman. "What about the choice of the unborn child? The child in the womb has as much right to life as the mother."
While not as heated an issue as abortion, state bonding provided the most argument and compromise Thursday. Legislators finally agreed on a package (see list). Some of the projects didn't get all the money, but enough money was allocated so the buildings can be started.
What the legislature did
- Amended Utah's new abortion law, making several technical changes.
- Adopted an $85.3 million bond for 1991-92.
- Overrode one of nine vetoes by Gov. Norm Bangerter.
- Clarified that Utah Transit Authority can collect all taxes owed it in Tooele County.
- Amended the new lobbyist disclosure law so citizens appearing before executive agencies don't have to register as lobbyists.
- Allocated money so legislators who sit on the new Waste Recycling Task Force get paid for their time.
- Ensured tax credits for energy-saving equipment.
- Delayed for one year implementation of an automobile salvage law passed by the 1991 Legislature.
- Passed resolutions recognizing Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, who will be visiting the state later this month, and Ira Huggins, a former legislator who recently died.
Here are the buildings, water and road bonds for 1991-92:
School for Deaf and Blind $2,000,000
U. of U. communication building 6,221,300
SUU science center 3,616,400
Utah National Guard Utah County Armory 885,700
Uintah Basin ATC addition 1,498,000
Northern Utah correctional center 2,729,800
SLC courts complex land purchase 950,000
Ogden/Weber ATC heat plant replacement 1,195,600
USU library addition, phase one 5,672,700
Dixie College library addition 1,600,000
SLCC lifetime activities center, phase one 5,000,000
Liquor control warehouse, phase one 3,000,000
WSU student building, phase one 2,927,000
Box Elder courts building, phase one 2,400,000
Murray B. Allen rehabilitation center 750,000
Animal diagnostic lab, phase one 2,263,000
USU utilities project, phase one 2,500,000
Ogden courts building, land purchase 700,000
Murray Highway Patrol renovation 284,200
Human Services, Clearfield office purchase 960,000
Sevier Valley ATC land purchase 200,000
Repairs and maintenance 949,200 Total $48,302,900
Water bonds 14,500,000
Road bonds, including $3.5 million for
Antelope Island causeway 22,500,000