Gov. Gary Herbert may have writer’s cramp. He signed 136 bills into law on Tuesday — including one to enable more toll roads statewide and another to reduce the number of days that residents may shoot off fireworks.
Others will provide contraceptives for low-income parents, change how the state provides information discouraging abortion to women considering the procedure, and erase controversial signs saying restaurants are not licensed as bars.
Herbert has now signed into law 325 bills passed by the Legislature in its general session this year. He is still considering whether to sign about another 200. Most bills take effect 60 days after the end of the Legislature, May 8.
Following are highlights of bills signed Tuesday:
• SB71: Gives a green light to creating more toll roads throughout the state by allowing use of newer high-tech electronic tolling methods. That could include systems with cameras that read license plates, deduct toll amounts from online accounts set up by drivers, or send bills to car owners’ homes.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, sponsored the bill especially to enable tolling to reduce crowding in Little Cottonwood Canyon in his district, when anticipated construction adds a lane there in 2020 or so.
• HB38: Next July may be quieter in Utah. The new law reduces the number of days that Utahns may legally light fireworks from 14 to eight. People would be able to use fireworks legally from July 2-5 and July 22-25 around Independence and Pioneer days.
The bill doesn’t change the hours fireworks can be discharged (from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the days leading up to and following the holidays, and until midnight on July 4 and 24). But it gives cities power to ban fireworks in certain areas depending on fire hazards.
For those who don’t follow the new or existing restrictions, HB38 raises the fines from $750 to $1,000. Scofflaws would also be liable for recklessly causing a fire.
• SB118: Will abandon the state’s current abortion-education materials — including a brochure and a lengthy 1980s-era video — in favor of a new “learning module,” which would be viewed on a digital tablet such as an iPad.
Medical professionals who don’t provide the program and certify a woman has viewed it before an abortion could face a class A misdemeanor charge.
• HB456: Restaurants will no longer need to post signs that say: “This premise is licensed as a restaurant, not a bar.” Bars would still have to display a sign that “clearly states” they are bars and “no one under 21 years of age is allowed.”
Other changes made by the bill will allow the Salt Lake City International Airport to obtain four more bars. Also, Utah Jazz fans will — for the first time — be able to carry a beer from their VIP dinner into the arena.
• HB12: Will provide low-income women with long-acting birth control, such as intrauterine devices. It is estimated to cost $800,000 a year to provide such services to about 600 women, if the state obtains an expected waiver to Medicaid rules.
“The majority of abortions in the state are for unwanted pregnancies. This is going to allow a few women to avoid that unwanted pregnancy by taking away the financial stumbling block,” Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, said during debate. “The savings to the state are going to be immediate” by cutting abortion rates and public assistance.
• SB184: No longer will women be required to visit a doctor to obtain a birth-control prescription. It allows women to obtain the pills directly from a pharmacist.
• HB484: Creates a fund to provide grants for repair and upkeep of Olympic venues in Utah, designed to help the state prepare for another Winter Olympics bid. Separate appropriations bills include $8.5 million in annual funding for that.
• SB154: Prohibits police agencies from creating quotas for tickets or arrests by officers. Sponsors say they had reports from officers from around the state that such quotas often still exist.
• SB208: Bans “gag rules” in contracts used by some insurance companies that prohibit pharmacists from warning consumers when they might save money by paying cash and not using their insurance that would require a higher co-pay.
Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, a pharmacist, said he believes some insurance companies make up for low upfront premiums by sometimes requiring higher co-pays for drugs later — and try to ban pharmacists from warning about it.
• HB361: Gives billboard companies greater leeway to install digital signs and relocate old ones. It was fiercely opposed by cities until it was amended late in the session to give them more time to value and relocate billboards.
Reagan Outdoor Advertising, which pushed the bill, is one of the state’s biggest political donors and gave nearly $80,000 to lawmakers in the last election. The governor has accepted $33,755 in donations of cash and free or discounted sign space from Reagan Outdoor Advertising since 2016.