Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
FILE — Attendees listen in the House gallery during the final night of the Legislature at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature closed out its 2017 session at midnight Thursday having passed more than 500 bills, including alcohol reforms and a last-minute change to the state's bigamy ban.

Here's what lawmakers accomplished — and what they didn't — during the 45-day session:


A bill aimed at tightening the rules for alcohol and another that would loosen them were sent to the governor's desk for final consideration.

One proposal would allow Utah restaurants to prepare alcoholic drinks in full view of adult customers, easing a longtime rule that requires restaurant workers to mix and pour drinks behind a barrier.

The other bill would give Utah the strictest DUI threshold in the nation by lowering the limit for a driver's blood-alcohol content to .05 percent, down from the U.S. standard of .08 percent.

Tax overhauls

GOP legislative leadership pushed hard for a tax reform package that would have restored the full sales tax on food, reduced how much Utahns could earn before losing their income tax deductions, and cut both the sales and income tax rates.

But after new data surfaced showing that raising the 1.75 percent state sales tax on food would have little impact on the volatility of the key revenue source, leaders dropped the proposal.

A statewide transient room tax was imposed for the first time, adding about 32 cents to a $100 room bill. The $5 million or so expected to be raised would be used to pay for an outdoor recreation grant program.

In addition, the complicated formula used to calculate the gas tax was adjusted to compensate for steep drops in wholesale fuel prices. The change is expected to increase the cost of gas about 0.6 cents per gallon beginning in 2019 and 1.2 cents a gallon in 2020.


The general consensus among the state's education leaders was that public and higher education were treated well during this session.

Lawmakers approved a 4 percent increase to the value of the weighted pupil unit, the basic building block of education funding. They also appropriated $68 million for enrollment growth — $64 million in ongoing funding and $4 million in one-time money.

Other highlights for public education include $2.6 million for educator license fees, formerly paid by teachers; $5 million for teacher supply money; and $3 million for kindergarten enrichment programs.

For higher education, lawmakers authorized a 2 percent raise for faculty and staff of the state's colleges and universities. State funds will also cover an 8 percent increase in health insurance costs — the same compensation bump provided for other state employees.

In addition, the Legislature approved $62 million for operations to help address a nearly 2 percent expected increase in enrollment growth and $31 million for building projects.


Lawmakers approved a bill requiring doctors to tell women that a medication-induced abortion could be halted after taking just one of two pills, though doctors' groups say there is no conclusive data to back up that claim. Another bill that initially looked to ban doctors using telemedicine to remotely prescribe abortion-inducing drugs made it through the Legislature after the abortion-related language was removed from the bill.


The Senate passed a bill in the final minutes of the session to leave those convicted under Utah's bigamy law facing harsher penalties for other crimes such as domestic abuse. Utah's current polygamy law bars married people from living with an extra spouse or claiming to have a second purported "spiritual spouse."

Sex education

Lawmakers supported a proposal to get rid of a state law that bans the "advocacy of homosexuality" in schools, a move driven by a court challenge from gay rights groups.


Two proposals by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, that seek to crack down on pornography easily made it through the Legislature. One proposal allows pornography distributors to be sued if a minor exposed to the material says they were hurt by it, while the other requires public libraries to install blockers on their wireless networks to prevent people from viewing obscene content.


Legislators considered two bills this year addressing concealed-carry permits for guns. One allowing those 21 and over to carry concealed weapons without a permit died after its sponsor stepped away from it. A proposal to lower the minimum age to obtain a concealed-carry permit from 21 to 18 received final approval on the last day of the session.

Public lands

GOP legislators incensed by the designation of Utah's new Bears Ears National Monument passed a resolution calling for President Donald Trump to undo it. The move led to a falling out with the outdoor recreation industry, which pulled the lucrative Outdoor Retailer trade show from the state out of protest.

Big bonds

A $1 billion, four-year bond to speed up transportation projects largely along I-15 passed with little debate. So did a separate $100 million bond to pay for infrastructure development at the new prison being built west of Salt Lake City International Airport, despite concerns about the increased price tag for the 4,000-bed facility that will replace the Utah State Prison in Draper.

Safety inspections

Lawmakers voted to eliminate a requirement that cars undergo periodic safety inspections, joining a number of other states that have scrapped such rules in recent years. Eliminating the vehicle safety inspections is expected to save drivers $25 million a year.

In return for cutting the $15 inspections, $1 will be added to registration and renewal fees. Those funds will be used to hire more Utah Highway Patrol troopers, pay overtime and buy equipment.


Legislators approved about $10 million to help with three homeless resource centers to deal with Salt Lake City's overflowing downtown shelter. Two new shelters will be built in the city, and a third is planned elsewhere in Salt Lake County. Legislators also passed a proposal offering tax credits for affordable housing projects.

Contributing: Associated Press