MEASURE FINING PARENTS OF HABITUAL TRUANTS SENT TO INTERIM STUDY
Parents would face fines of up to $250 for habitually truant children under HB320, with home school and private school qualifying as a valid excuse for being out during public school hours. The bill was intended to shepherd school-skippers back to class; such tactics are used in Oklahoma. Proponents said the measure gives teeth to compulsory-education laws requiring students 6 to 18 years old go to school and would have cut daytime crime. Opponents feared governmental intrusion and wanted truancy suspects referred to juvenile courts, not justice courts.
SPONSOR: Rep. Duane Bourdeaux, D-Salt Lake City. The executive director of Colors of Success, a prevention and intervention youth development program, was elected to the House in 1996.
ACTION: The Senate sent to bill to interim study.
LAWMAKERS DEREGULATE IN-HOME DAY CARE, SAYING PARENTS KNOW BEST
Who knows best when it comes to regulating day-care providers? That question got heated debate from those who provide day care in their homes, parents, child advocates and lawmakers. SB26 would have deregulated in-home care in Utah, putting the responsibility on parents to decide whether a provider is qualified. However, the bill was amended to create a three-tier licensing system, one that requires minimal standards for people caring for more than four children and no state licensing for those with less than four.
SPONSOR: Sen. Leonard Blackham, R-Moroni, a turkey farmer, said the constituents he represents in Sanpete, Sevier, Juab, Millard, Beaver, Piute, Wayne and Garfield counties know what's best for their children and don't need the state meddling in the decision.
ACTION: After a tug of war about amendments, both legislative bodies approved the bill.
BORROW UP TO $240 MILLION MORE TO FUND ROAD PROJECTS
How to finance a $190 million shortfall in the $2.83 billion Centennial Highway Fund? The gap was caused by I-15 reconstruction bids exceeding earlier estimates. GOP legislative leaders determined the Utah Department of Transportation is, in fact, about $14 million short in promised cost-savings, just as Democrats asserted earlier. Demos also wanted to cut $27 million from the West Davis Highway, but Republicans made sure the governor's pet project stayed alive.
INSTIGATOR: Gov. Mike Leavitt got the ball rolling by offering to transfer $40 million to I-15 reconstruction from delaying the West Davis Highway, which legislators gladly accepted. But the 13-mile section of Leavitt's proposed 120-mile Legacy Highway wasn't abandoned, and lawmakers heeded Leavitt's plea to keep all other Centennial projects on schedule.
ACTION: Additional bonding of $190 million, on top of the $600 million borrowed last year, to keep I-15 and other highway projects on track. The Legislature agreed to borrow up to $50 million more if anticipated federal funds don't materialize.
SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES DRAW SCRUTINY IN SENATE
Bills creating new state license-plate decals seemed innocent enough: a snowmobile and a snowboarder. Snowmobile and snowboarding groups would receive any profits. Soon, more plate bills were introduced, one raising money for soil conservation districts and another aiding two children's organizations. Some senators worried the state would lose money. To have any hope of moving the bills out of the Senate, sponsors had to ask the benefitting organizations to pay for the production and administrative costs.
CRITIC: Several senators warned that organizations across the state would flock to future Legislatures asking for special plates as ways to raise money. One of the most persistent voices against the measures was Sen. Nathan Tanner, R-Ogden, who is completing his first Senate term. He worried that lawmakers would open the door to extremists who might win the legal right to force their own symbols onto the Utah plate.
ACTION: Three of the four Senate license-plate bills made it to the governor's desk. The snowboarder wasn't one of them.
STICKING UP FOR CITIES, BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY I-15
The minority Democrats took the I-15 bull by the horns and rode it into the ground. Alleging that Republicans had planned poorly and were turning their backs on community issues surrounding the $1.59 billion freeway reconstruction project in Salt Lake County, the Democrats filed eight bills to bring relief. Ultimately, they made little progress but may have succeeded in garnering local political support that could pay off in this fall's election.
INSTIGATOR: House Minority Leader Dave Jones, D-Salt Lake City. Jones, a member of the House since 1988 and in his second year as minority leader, wanted to use the state's purchasing office to help businesses along the freeway corridor and to charge speeders an extra $10 for each ticket and use that money to help Salt Lake County communities offset road construction impacts.
ACTION: Businesses affected by I-15 will not get state loans. Heading into the final day, only one of the eight bills - creation of a traffic-safety task force - had been approved. But two of the measures passed in the session's final hours, including the $10 surcharge on moving violations.
SENATE REPUBLICANS RESIST INTERNET VOTING
Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell, D-Granite, is an IBM executive with an eye on technological advances. Howell offered a nonbinding resolution encouraging the state to explore Internet voting, which he believes would increase participation in the electroal process by helping disabled people, church missionaries serving out of state and others gain access to the ballot.
SPONSOR: Sen. Scott Howell, D-Granite, is in his sixth year as the Democrats' Senate leader and in his eighth year in the Senate.
ACTION: The resolution was shot down on the Senate floor. However, a bill allowing Weber County to participate in a federal Internet-voting pilot project was passed by the legislature. That bill was sponsored by a House Republican.
NUCLEAR-WASTE PROPOSAL PROMPTS LAWMAKERS TO PROTECT HOMEFRONT
Not in our backyards you won't. That's what Utah lawmakers told proponents of two waste initiatives. Attracting the most attention was a plan, backed by a consortium of utility companies from the Midwest and South, to store spent nuclear-fuel rods on the Skull Valley Goshute Indian reservation in Tooele County. Lawmakers discussed a law - SB144 - to discourage the project and regulate it, should it go forward.
SPONSOR: Senate Majority Leader Craig Peterson, R-Orem, ran SB144 with the full support and encouragement of Gov. Mike Leavitt. Peterson, an engineer who has served in the Senate since 1988, was opposed in the Senate by a handful of lawmakers who said Utah should encourage nuclear-waste disposal as a potential source of revenue.
ACTION: One of the last speeches delivered on the Senate floor by Sen. John Holmgren, R-Bear River, was in opposition to SB196. Holmgren, who is retiring, said Utah should consider accepting nuclear waste, primarily because it could make a lot of money. Despite his protest, SB196 passed the Senate 22-5 and flew through the House 66-0.
REPUBLICANS REFUSE TO HEAR BILLS ON RESTRICTING CONCEALED WEAPONS
Legislators again refused to take up the issue of controlling concealed weapons. Gov. Mike Leavitt wanted legally permitted handguns restricted in some manner, saying they didn't belong in churches or schools. But after gun rights-advocate Sen. Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, asked for, and received, a legislative attorney's opinion saying concealed weapons can't be constitutionally restricted, the movement to do something about concealed weapons fizzled in the 1998 Legislature.
INSTIGATOR: Senate President Lane Beattie, R-West Bountiful, worked long and hard on a concealed-weapons bill this session, only to pull the measure in the last week. Beattie believes some restrictions on legally permitted handguns should be imposed. But he came to the conclusion that his bill, which would allow churches, public schools and homeowners to ban such weapons from their property, couldn't survive in the House.
ACTION: After Beattie pulled his bill, Senate Democrats threatened to amend a noncontroversial weapons bill into a Beattie-like measure. But Republicans threatened to kill other Democratic bills, so the concealed-weapons issue was never debated in the 1998 session.