Legislative Update: Summer 2016
Unmanned Aircraft Over Wildfires
During the special session on July 13, the Legislature considered legislation related to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles over restricted wildfire airspaces.
Throughout this summer’s wildfire season, we’ve seen numerous instances of drone interference in efforts to fight fires throughout the west and here in Utah, firefighting aircraft have been grounded a number of times as a result of drones. This puts members of the pubic and their property at risk, in addition to endangering the lives of those working to put out these fires as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In 2016, Rep. Kraig Powell sponsored HB 126, that would prohibit an individual from flying an unmanned aircraft in certain areas during a fire and provide criminal penalties for violations.
Because of persistent problems just this year, a new bill was proposed and presented to the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee during July interim. The new bill would modify the penalties of the earlier bill and authorize authorities to shoot down or jam the signals of drones flying too close to wildfires. HB 3003 passed favorably out of committee and was supported by the full Legislature and signed by Governor Herbert.
Controlled Substance Database Revisions
In 1995, the State of Utah instituted a controlled-substance database to consolidate information of all such prescriptions within the state. The purpose was to identify over-utilization and misuse of controlled substances.
A number of years ago, concerns were expressed that some law enforcement officers were accessing the database for investigative purposes in violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of those whose private information was being viewed and searched.
In 2015, the Legislature passed SB 119, which required law enforcement officers to obtain a search warrant, requiring probably cause, in order to run a search on an individual in the database. This necessary protection inadvertently led to a situation where probation and parole officers were unable to access the database pursuant to their duties. Parolees and probationers agree to searches and supervision as a condition of their release and therefore are not eligible for the same Fourth Amendment protections against searches and seizures as the population at large.
During July interim, Sen. Todd Weiler presented a revision to the Health and Human Services Interim Committee that would allow for access to the database by parole and probation officers without the requisite warrant. The committee voted favorably to recommend SB 3001, sponsored by Sen. Weiler, with House sponsor Rep. Dan McCay, to the full Legislature, which then voted in favor of the bill later that day during the Special Session.
New State Fair Park Stadium
During the third special session of 2016, the Utah Legislature unanimously voted to support HB 3002, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Hollins and appropriating $10 million of the $17 million needed to build a 10,000 seat stadium at the state fair park. The additional funds necessary to build the facility will include a $3 million contribution from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, $2 million from Salt Lake County, $1 million from Salt Lake City, with the remainder coming from private donations.
The stadium will serve as the home of the Days of ’47 Rodeo and will be used throughout the year to attract other large events, concerts and sporting competitions. It is expected to be completed during the summer of 2017.
Additional interim highlights can be found here.