5 things on Utah lawmakers’ to-do list

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - After wrapping up their 2014 legislative session last week, Utah lawmakers have identified a number of loose ends they plan to mull further in the coming months.

An early look at some items on Legislature’s to-do list shows a range of issues from health care to liquor laws.

Some of the work stems from bills that didn’t make it through this session, but there are also new topics to be discussed during a series of meetings before next year:

MEDICAID

Lawmakers this year voted to keep a task force going to study the future of Medicaid in the state. They plan in coming months to consider what to do about a coverage gap affecting those who don’t qualify for federal assistance but struggle to afford health care. Gov. Gary Herbert is seeking a federal block grant to help 110,000 low-income Utah residents buy private health coverage instead of enrolling them in the federal program. The Legislature failed to agree on any one Medicaid expansion plan before the end of the session. And federal officials haven’t said whether they will approve Herbert’s plan.

LIQUOR LAWS

Also on the agenda is a review of liquor policy in state restaurants. A bill to strike one of Utah’s unusual liquor laws died this session for the second year in a row. Some say repealing the requirement for some restaurants to mix and pour alcoholic drinks behind barriers or in separate rooms would make the state more fertile for business, but others fear it could encourage underage drinking. For a second year, the push to take down “Zion curtains” didn’t draw enough support from lawmakers.

SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

Lawmakers are set to consider how well the state’s online and distance-learning programs now operate and whether further regulation is needed. The topic arises after a recent audit from the Utah State Office of Education, which found that schools hiring companies to draw students to their online programs neglect to track the students’ progress once parents sign them up. The schools, mostly charters, generally hand over that authority to the companies, according to the audit.

MEDICAL WASTE

The Legislature this year gave approval for a medical waste incinerator to move from a North Salt Lake neighborhood to another unspecified location. It’s the first step in the moving process for the Stericyle plant. State lawmakers are also scheduled in coming months to look into possible effects of medical waste incinerators on Utah communities. They also passed a measure to block similar facilities from going up within 2 miles of existing neighborhoods.

TV AND FILM INDUSTRIES

Utah currently offers tax credits to those coming to the state to produce films. Under a measure that didn’t get a final vote from lawmakers this year, pre-filming endeavors and post-shooting production could also earn the tax credits. The measure would also extend such credits to those filming commercials that would air on national TV. In coming months, lawmakers are expected to debate whether to broaden the range of those incentives. They reconvene in a series of interim meetings in May.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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