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House OKs panel to oversee renovation of Utah Capitol

With nothing but flowery language of support, a bill sponsored by House Speaker Mel Brown that sets up a commission to oversee renovation of the state Capitol flew through the House on Friday.

A similar bill passed the Legislature in 1997 but was vetoed by Gov. Mike Leavitt. Brown's newer version gives the governor more votes on the preservation commission - which will allocate space in the 80-year-old building - but members of the legislative branch and its appointees still have numbers on the commission over the executive branch.While the commission isn't expensive, what it will recommend no doubt will be. Brown said this summer the legislative and executive branches of government did agree to spend $2 million. That will buy the rebuilding of the story-high, massive granite south steps to the Capitol - the work to be done this summer.

But little has been done to restore the building to its original intentions and almost nothing to bring the steel, concrete and granite-facing structure up to earthquake codes.

Rep. Ray Short, R-Holladay, read the current statute that says the state building department will control all state office space but only with the intent of the Legislature. However, "petty" government infighting has left the Capitol mismanaged, with currently almost a quarter of one wing empty on the first floor because of inter-departmental arguing. "And we're renting space elsewhere while that space goes vacant," Short said.