- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah’s governor has signed more than half of the 474 bills state legislators passed during the 2016 session.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has until March 30 to sign or veto the remaining measures approved this year.

He approved such proposals as funding for a California coal shipping port and gun safety training for some public school students. But the fate of many other bills remains to be seen.

The governor also can allow legislation to become law without his signature if he doesn’t take action by the end of the month. So far, he hasn’t vetoed any measures.

A look at some of the bills Herbert has signed:

GUNS IN SCHOOLS

Utah public school students could soon receive training on what to do if they encounter a weapon or if a gunman enters their school. If schools or districts choose to offer the class, parents would have to first give consent for their children to participate. Only 5th through 12th graders would be able to attend the class. Under the law, no real guns could be used in the training sessions.

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GUEST WORKER PROGRAM

Utah lawmakers considered repealing a guest worker law that passed five years ago but was never implemented. The program was set to take effect in 2017 but requires a federal waiver, which lawmakers say seems unlikely. Instead of repealing the 2011 law, lawmakers decided to push the start date to 2027. They said by keeping the law on the books, they hope to pressure Congress and the White House to pass a comprehensive immigration program or approve Utah’s law.

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OAKLAND COAL

Despite opposition from California residents and environmental groups, Utah is moving ahead with constructing a coal shipping port in Oakland. The law sets aside more than $50 million in taxpayer funds to acquire a deep-water port to export Utah coal overseas. The governor and Utah lawmakers have said the port would be a worthwhile investment and would help rural Utah’s coal country. A California lawmaker who represents the Oakland area has voiced opposition to the proposal.

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WELFARE DRUG TESTING

Utah requires welfare applicants to undergo drug testing or screening, a policy that critics say stigmatizes the poor and wastes money because few welfare applicants use drugs. After three years, Utah spent $93,000 on the program and found less than 2 percent of those flagged as likely drug users actually tested positive for drugs. This compromise law overhauls the program so people receiving welfare would take a drug test only if a social worker recommends it.

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DRONES NEAR WILDFIRES

Drone owners who fly their aircrafts within a few miles of a wildfire could face jail time under a new law. As drones become more prevalent, so too do instances in which hobbyists fly the devices near wildfires to take photographs or simply view the fires up close. Officials have said the practice could disrupt life-saving measures, as firefighting planes and helicopters can’t risk colliding with the unmanned aerial devices and are instructed to pull out until the drones are gone.

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OKTOBERFEST

Two years ago, Utah’s liquor board considered denying an alcohol permit to a ski resort’s Oktoberfest celebration, saying the permits appeared to be designed for events put on by charitable organizations that benefit the community. The board reversed course after critics complained it spoiled a popular annual event and only enhanced the perception that Utah is unfriendly to drinkers. This law aims to avoid a similar situation, requiring the liquor board to approve an event if it meets permit requirements.

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