Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The Utah State Prison and surrounding area in Salt Lake County Friday, March 8, 2013.

SALT LAKE CITY — The House approved the latest version of a bill taking the first steps to relocating the Utah State Prison on Thursday that no longer includes a prohibition against considering bids for a privately run new facility.

SB72 passed the House 51-22 and now goes to the Senate. 

The bill, long-debated in the Senate this session, was amended Wednesday in the House by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, to eliminate the possibility of privatizing the operation of a new prison.

After the change was rejected by the Senate, a conference committee recommended taking out any reference to privatization. Noel supported that action Thursday, saying it had the support of county and law enforcement officials.

Noel also spoke in favor of replacing the Draper prison, which has stood at the Point of the Mountain for more than five decades.

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The state's Prison Relocation and Development Authority has recommended the move despite costs estimated as high as $600 million, citing lower operating costs in a new facility, as well as economic development opportunities on the 700-acre site.

"I know there are people who don't like the whole idea," Noel said. "I like the idea of moving forward."

Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem, said she still had concerns about the possibility of a privately run prison, citing problems in for-profit detention facilities in other states. 

Lisa Riley Roche, Twitter: dnewspolitics