SALT LAKE CITY — A bill requiring the Utah Department of Transportation to seek approval for financial settlements of $100,000 or more unanimously passed the House on Friday.

HB34 is intended to make "the process more transparent, particularly for the Legislature, so we feel comfortable when there's a settlement that rises to this level," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Julie Fisher, R-Fruit Heights, said.

Last year, state officials were caught by surprise when news surfaced that UDOT had paid out $13 million to an unsuccessful bidder for the controversial billion-dollar-plus project to rebuild I-15 through Utah County.

The contract award had already questioned because members of the winning bid team met privately with Gov. Gary Herbert and made large contributions to his campaign.

"I hope nobody sees this in any way as a condemnation of UDOT," Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, said. "UDOT, despite this one perceived problem, has done a phenomenal job."

The bill requires approval from the state Transportation Commission for settlements of at least $100,000. The governor also has to sign off on settlements of at least $500,000, and the Legislative Management Committee must, too, if the amount is $1 million or more.

Fisher noted other state agencies already have similar requirements. "We've tried to make this process nimble, so it does not tie up any contracting issues," she said, noting UDOT has only had four claims in the past five years that would have been affected.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Lisa Riley Roche