Legislative Roundup

Utah Capitol Illustration
(Graphic by Autumn Mariano)

The 2015 session of the Utah Legislature begins Jan. 26. Here are some hot topics that may be up for discussion.

  1. Utah officiators could cite beliefs to refuse to marry same-sex couples

A proposed resolution and bill calling for changes to the Utah Constitution would allow officiators to refuse to perform marriages if the marriage is contrary to their beliefs.

The resolution, HJR5, would amend the state constitution to broadly protect religious groups and individuals from performing or recognizing any rite, ceremony or service that is inconsistent with their beliefs.

The proposed bill, HB66, uses similar language.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said they are unnecessary since the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion.

Rep. Jake Anderegg, who proposed both, said he could not comment on the resolution and bill because they are undergoing revisions.

  1. Legislators say gas tax is on the table to fill transportation deficit

A possible gas tax increase is on the minds of Utah lawmakers as they look toward the 2015 Legislative Session.

The idea was discussed during a recent transportation legislative forum sponsored by the Utah Highway Users Association.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser called the tax “the second most hated tax in Utah,” which may explain why it hasn’t been raised since 1997.

The current gas tax is at 24.5 cents per gallon, a value that has lost 40 to 50 percent of its value since the last increase.

The tax would help reduce a state transportation budget deficit of $11 billion.

  1. Lawmaker wants to add firing squad back to Utah death penalty options

Ten years after the use of firing squads for execution was banned in Utah, a Clearfield lawmaker wants to bring it back.

Rep. Paul Ray said it is more humane than lethal injection since the prisoner would die instantly.

The proposed bill, HB11, would allow a firing squad to kill death-row inmates if the state cannot obtain the drugs for lethal injection 30 days before execution.

Rep. Mark Wheatley of Murray opposes the proposal, calling the method “outdated” and “barbaric.”

The proposal comes in light of botched lethal injection executions in Arizona, Oklahoma and Ohio.