- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - During the first two weeks of the 2014 legislative session, Utah lawmakers focused heavily on budget discussions, with nine appropriations committees with different jurisdictions delving into the nitty-gritty of what money is available and where it’s going this year.

Legislative leaders said the early deep dive will make it easier as later on as they put the final touches on the budget. It also means that lawmakers are just starting to look into hundreds of bills that have been introduced.

As lawmakers move into the third week of their 45-day session, here are five things to know about what’s coming up:

PRISON RELOCATION

A committee of lawmakers and community leaders voted Wednesday to recommend moving Utah’s state prison from its location in the southern Salt Lake City suburb of Draper. The committee is suggesting that building a new prison can meet the state’s corrections needs while freeing up the Draper real estate for development. Before the committee takes further steps, the Legislature has to approve the move and allocate some money. Rep. Brad Wilson, a Kaysville Republican who sat on the prison relocation committee, is working on a resolution supporting the move. If Wilson’s legislation is unveiled next week, lawmakers will once again debate the move, which they’ve been kicking around for more than a decade.

TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, a Republican from Provo, has been previewing her ambitious plan to infuse technology into Utah schools. The yet-to-be-release proposal would give thousands of students tech devices, set up wireless networks and train teachers. But some are balking at the project’s cost, which could be as high as $300 million. Lockhart, who is in her last term at the Legislature, says learning is headed this direction and everything should be on the table when looking to fund the project. The speaker is putting the final touches on the proposal, which is expected to be unveiled sometime in the coming week.

“REVENGE” PORNOGRAPHY

The Utah House on Monday is expected to debate and cast a final vote on a bill that criminalized so-called revenge pornography, where people share sexually explicit photos or videos of former romantic partners online in order to humiliate them. Salt Lake City Democrat Rep. Marie Poulson is sponsoring the bill, which would make it a felony to harm people by sharing such images without their consent. Poulson says women are frequently targets of such sharing, and it can cause some to lose their jobs. Two states have already passed similar laws and similar bills have been introduced or planned in at least six other states in the past year.

PRESCHOOL

A proposal to pay for preschool for at-risk children is expected to go before the full Utah House in the upcoming week. The bill, from Draper Republican Rep. Greg Hughes, sets up private companies to give out grants for preschool programs in classrooms or at homes that meet a variety of criteria. If the programs are successful in keeping those kids from needing special education classes later on, Utah will repay the companies that funded the grants. The bill cleared its first hurdle Thursday by winning approval from an education committee, but conservative groups are speaking out against the idea. They argue the state should not use public money for private programs such as preschool.

AIR QUALITY

Air quality is expected to be a major focus for lawmakers this year. A bipartisan group of lawmakers have already announces at least 15 proposals addressing wood burning, public transit, cleaner burning fuels and alternate fuel vehicles. The Utah Senate has already approved a bill that requires half of all state passenger vehicles to run on alternate or high-efficiency fuel by August 2018. But with so many bills in the works, Lockhart says legislative leaders want to schedule it so that many of them will be heard on the same day or in the same week, as they did with gun bills last year. That could start to happen as soon as next week.


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