Utah will henceforth be symbolized by the Gila monster after Gov. Gary Herbert added his signature to a bill honoring the venomous, reclusive lizard as the state reptile.
Passed during the final minutes of the 2019 legislative session, HB144 was among the list of 92 bills approved by Herbert on Wednesday and adds the Gila monster to a list of state symbols that already includes the California gull, topaz, coal and the square dance.
While the Gila monster is native to the southwest United States and northwest Mexico, it’s natural habitat includes only a sliver of Utah in Washington County. The reptiles are also instinctively reclusive, making sightings rare even in those areas.
HB144 was sponsored by Santa Clara Republican Rep. Lowry Snow at the request of students from Lava Ridge Intermediate School, who lobbied legislators to approve the bill through correspondence and committee testimony.
“I have so much enjoyed these emails from these fourth-graders,” Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said during the Senate debate of HB144. “I did not know the Gila monster stored its fat in its tail, and I felt like we had something in common.”
Other bills signed by Herbert on Wednesday include:
• HB57, which requires that a warrant be secured to obtain a person’s electronic information and data.
• HB294, which increases the cost to renew a Utah driver license, but extends the renewal period from five years to eight years.
• HB430, which prohibits the practice of female genital mutilation.
• HB433, which expands the scope of the planned Utah Inland Port to allow satellite locations outside of Salt Lake County.
• SB69, which requires ticket resellers to disclose their status as a secondary market.
• SB100, which legalizes electronic driver licenses in the state and directs the Driver License Division to study the production and distribution of digital alternatives.
• SB242, which adds Utah to the states that will hold a presidential primary on March 3, 2020 — what is known as “Super Tuesday.”