Tom Smart, Deseret News
The Utah State Capitol, Jan. 25, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Utah: Land of the ski, home of the inversion

Not to be outdone by Colorado, Utah House members voted Friday to make skiing and snowboarding the state’s official winter sports.

“You may ask why we need another state symbol,” said Rep. Steve Elisaon, R-Sandy, who sponsored the measure.

State symbols, he said, represent land and people, and this is the first one to tie both together.

Eliason noted the ski/snowboard industry brought $1.2 billion to Utah last year, up 67 percent since the 2002 Winter Olympics. Utah is the third most visited ski destination in the country and 40 percent of Utah homes have a skier or snowboarder, he said.

Even given all that, Eliason said he decided to run the bill after he saw Colorado had designated skiing as its official sport.

Eliason had no trouble getting his bill passed. But Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley, wondered if he had considered ice fishing, bobsledding, tubing, car crashing and breathing through an inversion.

— Dennis Romboy

Intergenerational poverty reporting bill advances in Senate

The Senate gave preliminary approval Friday to a bill that would require the Utah Department of Workforce Services to examine its public assistance data with the aim of creating policies to end intergenerational poverty.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, said he feared the study would be no more effective than research into “why marriages fail or why kids drop out of school.”

“I doubt the results will be honestly worth the effort,” he said during debate on the bill’s second reading in the Senate on Friday.

But the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, said changes in practice and policy are needed. Regardless of whether a family’s poverty is chronic or episodic due to a job loss or illness, public assistance programs are administered the same.

“If we don’t do something different, we know the next generation of children will be victims of poverty and the next generation of children will be victims of poverty,” said Reid, sponsor of SB37.

— Marjorie Cortez

Light to dim on longer fireworks celebrations

Igniting fireworks legally for an entire month in the summer may soon be over.

The Utah House passed a bill Friday that changes the time period back to three days before and three days after the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day. Fireworks also are allowed on New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Lawmakers last year expanded the dates and permitted a new class of aerial fireworks. Those fireworks remain legal, but HB33 changes the hours they may be set off.

“We love these new fireworks. We just don’t love them at 3 a.m.,” said bill sponsor Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville.

The measure restricts use to the hours of 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., except for the New Years holidays when it extends to 1 a.m.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

— Dennis Romboy

Senate passes bill to give governor bigger role in higher education hires, termination

The governor and Senate will play a greater role in hiring and termination of the state’s Commissioner of Higher Education and president of the Utah College of Applied Technology.

SB39, passed Friday by the Utah Senate, would require the approval of the governor and the consent of the Utah Senate for the hiring of both higher education administrators. The hiring of these individuals has been the sole purview of the Regents or the members of the UCAT board.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, also would authorize the governor, in consultation with the State Board of Regents and UCAT board, to terminate the higher education commissioner and UCAT president.

The bill moves to the House for further consideration.

— Marjorie Cortez

Senate passes House, state school board district boundary fixes

Senate President Michael Waddoups said he was a bit taken by surprise when Senate members of the Utah Legislature’s Redistricting Committee broke into applause Friday after the passage of a pair of bills to fix minor errors in the boundaries for the Utah House of Representatives and the Utah State Board of Education on Friday.

“They were thrilled their work is finally done,” Waddoups said.

The House and Senate had to fast-track the passage of the bills, SB125, HB286 and HB287 to correct redistricting boundary errors discovered by county clerks to give counties ample time to prepare ballots. The Senate bill addressed needed corrections in State Senate districts.

The boundaries were passed in a special session of the Legislature last year, as necessitated by the 2010 Census counts.

— Marjorie Cortez