House defeats school quake safety bill
HB278 • Foes argue requirement is a heavy handed mandate.
Published: February 11, 2013 09:00PM
Updated: February 11, 2013 11:16PM

HB278 • A bill aimed at reviewing the safety of Utah schools in the event of an earthquake was defeated by a single vote Monday, after opponents said the state shouldn’t be imposing new mandates on school districts.

The measure, HB278 first substitute, would have required school districts to do a cursory review — called a “rapid visual screening” — of schools built prior to 1975 when the districts want to issue bonds to build new schools.

The objective would be to identify schools that might be unsafe so further studies can be done, if needed.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask these districts to look at these older buildings,” said Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, the bill’s sponsor. “If we can save one child in this state in the event we have an earthquake, then we have done our job.”

But a number of Republican lawmakers objected. Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem, said the safety inspections would divert money from classrooms. And Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, said it would just be another mandate on schools.

“How often from this body can we compel local organizations to do things that is in their best interest anyway?” said McCay.

The bill fell one vote short of the 38 votes needed for passage. Froerer could try to revive the bill if he believes he can get the necessary votes.

The bill passed last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Gary Herbert because, Froerer said, the requirement could have complicated bond sales that were already in progress.