Utah prison relocation bill takes step forward
The full Senate will now debate a proposal to set up an authority to seek bids to move the Utah State Prison after a committee gave the bill a green light Wednesday, though there was discomfort with its funding scenario and how much power the governor will have to shape its executive board.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, presented the Senate Judiciary Committee with a second revision of SB72, which he said clarified the structure of the Prison Land Management Authority's 11-member board the "hottest point right now."
The proposal allows Gov. Gary Herbert to appoint eight of the 11 members, who will be split into two subcommittees. The members will be drawn from the Department of Corrections, the Governor's Office of Economic Development, two construction experts, two real estate experts, the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, and one at-large representative. The Senate president and speaker of the House will each appoint a member, as will Draper City.
Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, and Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay, voted against the bill. Jones said she was particularly concerned about over-representation of real estate and construction interests. Several members gave the bill a favorable recommendation, but said they may change their votes on the floor.
Sen. Stephen H. Urquhart, R-St. George, said the bill gives "way too much decision-making authority [to] the governor's office."
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said he believes the prison is due for upgrades and that it may be time to move it, but is concerned about funding the half billion project. Jenkins has said funding will come from up to $20 million in reduced labor and operational costs, land sales, tax increment sharing and borrowing.
Hillyard said in his 33 years on the Hill, he could not ever recall an instance when a project's projected savings ever materialized as promised. "I don't think that is going to happen," he said.