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Law and order — Hate crimes

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The highly volatile hate crimes bill, which has been voted down consistently since 1999, will be back in 2006.

However, this year's bill could have a better chance. Longtime sponsor Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, is presenting HB90 — a hate crimes bill without the categories that have held up past legislation.

The new bill would create an aggravating factor if a victim was selected primarily because of membership in a group.

Litvack is actively working on garnering support for his bill and hopes to have a Republican co-sponsor soon. Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. are encouraged by the proposed changes.

"In the past . . . legislators went into the session already dug in," he said. "The fact that it is something new, people are approaching it with an open mind."

Litvack said the comprise is an effort to give law enforcement a usable tool to punish those who commit hate crimes. At the same time it's an effort to address criticism of opponents who have said the categories — race, color, disability, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, age and gender — would leave out victims who don't fall into a category.