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Utah lawmakers move to set aside nearly $1.2 million for expanded Capitol security

Utah National Guard soldiers are positioned at the state Capitol for a protest in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021.
Utah National Guard soldiers are positioned at the state Capitol for a protest in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to use nearly $1.2 million to expand security for public officials and the Utah Capitol advanced to the state Senate on Wednesday.

Sen. Don Ipson’s SB222 would set aside $680,000 in ongoing money and $500,000 in one-time money beginning next year for more security training and equipment for the state’s Office of Executive Protection, the division that provides security detail for dignitaries including the governor and other public officials.

The Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee voted unanimously to forward the bill to the full Senate without debate.

“Thank you for bringing this,” Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, told Ipson, R-St. George. “It’s sad that we have gotten to this point where we have to provide so much protection for elected officials.”

The bill comes after state officials heightened security at the start of the Legislature’s 2021 session and temporarily closed down the Capitol to the public in wake of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and amid concerns there could be more protests or violence in Salt Lake City.

While a handful of protesters demonstrated outside of the Capitol for several days at the start of the session, Utah lawmakers saw no major protests come to fruition this year.

Still, heightened Capitol Hill security has persisted throughout the session, with limited doors open for public access and Utah Highway Patrol troopers checking bags before admitting people inside the building.

The bill also clarifies security detail specifically for the governor and the governor-elect in the period of time after the general election and before the official canvass, clarifying that both the governor and the governor-elect and their immediate family members can receive security details “only if there is a demonstrable need or a specifically identified threat to the individual to be protected” during that time period.