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Briefly at the Utah Legislature

Proposal to open more government meetings stalls

SALT LAKE CITY — An attempt to make it more difficult for local government entities and school boards to skirt Utah's open meetings law stalled in a House committee Monday.

Rep. Craig Frank, R-Cedar Hills, proposed requiring appointed subcommittees of two or more members to issue public notice, hold open meeting and keep minutes.

"My goal here is greater transparency and greater accountability," he said in presenting HB111 to House Government Operations Committee.

Utah League of Cities and Towns representative Lincoln Sheets said the open meetings law already covers those situations.

Lynn Pace, an attorney for Salt Lake City and a Holladay City Council member, said the legislation makes it difficult for local officials to know when they are safe and when they are not, he said.

"What this bill does and what concerns us is that it takes all of the informal stuff and makes it a public meeting," he said.

Linda Peterson, president of the Utah Foundation for Open Government, supports the bill. Also, the Utah Media Coalition gave the measure a "bright light" rating for its benefit to open government.

Peterson said the bill would help the public understand how decisions are made by cities and school boards.

The committee adjourned without taking a vote on HB111.

"We'll keep it warm and see what the committee wants to do," Frank said after the meeting.

— Dennis Romboy

Buy you a drink, commissioner?

SALT LAKE CITY — A state representative is proposing that at least 40 percent of the Utah liquor commission be drinkers.

HB193, sponsored by Rep. David Doughty, D-Salt Lake, also states that no more 60 percent of commissioners could be from the same political party.

A five-member commission currently oversees the Utah Department of Beverage Control. But after state audits last year revealed financial mismanagement in the agency, lawmakers are considering revamping the system.

Doughty's bill, which was introduced Monday, calls for 40 percent of commissioners to be "regular" consumers of alcohol for at least one year before being appointed. The bill defines regular as using alcohol not less than once a month. It calls for commissioners to verify their regular alcohol use to the governor in an affidavit.

— Dennis Romboy

Bill would let 14-year-olds share their views in child custody cases

SALT LAKE CITY— The full Senate will consider a bill to allow children 14 years old and older to tell judges, in cases of divorce, their preference for a custodial parent.

The Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee on Monday endorsed the bill, after rejecting an amendment by its sponsor to lower the age to 12. The current statute allows children 16 and older to address the court.

Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake, said her intent in amending SB139 was to "give voices to children."

But Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said he worried about giving younger children unreasonable expectations.

In a previous interview, Robles said most 14-year-olds can appropriately express their preferences in custody proceedings. Some states allow children as young as 12 to address judges on the issue, she said.

— Marjorie Cortez