Here are 5 high-profile bills Utah’s governor just signed into law

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Gov. Gary Herbert addresses the Senate at the close of the Utah Legislative session, March 13, 2020.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed 151 bills Saturday, bringing his total to 334 from the recently completed legislative session. The governor has until April 1 to veto or sign legislation passed during the session.

Below are five of the most noteworthy bills Herbert recently signed into law.

Polygamy decriminalized

Herbert signed SB102, which reduces the penalty for consenting adults engaging in polygamy. The bill was passed by the Legislature overwhelmingly, and was sponsored by Sen. Deidre Henderson.

SB102 makes polygamy an infraction, which is lower in severity than some traffic tickets. It can still be a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison if the polygamist is found to have committed fraud, domestic violence, sexual abuse or human smuggling.

The practice had been considered a felony for much of Utah’s history, even for consenting adults.

And as required in Utah’s constitution, polygamy will still officially be considered a crime.

Abortion trigger bill

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade — the legislation that legalized abortion across the country — Utah will ban elective abortions. That is the substance of SB174.

The law allows Utah to ban all elective abortions with exceptions for rape, incest and the health of a mother. But that law would only take effect if the Supreme Court does away with a law that’s been in place since the 1970s. The Utah Legislature passed the bill along party lines.

SB174 could also lead to the prosecution of women who attempt an abortion in their own home.

Fetal remains

Health care facilities are now required to dispose of fetal remains through either burial or cremation.

SB67 stipulates that women who either get an abortion or miscarry must turn over the remains to their health care facility. From there, the fetal remains must be disposed of in one of the aforementioned ways.

The Utah House tried to give a third option for women who miscarry, letting hospitals dispose of those fetal remains with other biological waste. But the Senate said no.

Under the law, women would also be given “the right to determine the final disposition of the remains of the aborted fetus before performing an abortion.”

Redistricting compromise

The rewriting of Proposition 4, which called for an independent redistricting commission, is now law.

SB200 represents a compromise that allows Herbert and the Legislature to appoint a seven-member commission that, after a once-a-decade census, would design recommended congressional and legislative districts.

Prop 4 originally required the Utah Legislature to vote yes or no on the commission’s maps and explain its reasoning should it decide to reject them. SB200 takes away that requirement. The maps are only a recommendation.

The new law also lets the commission create its own rules about how to make sure that partisan politics or the wishes of a candidate don’t drive the decisions. This is softer than Prop 4, which outright banned the commission from drawing districts to promote a political party or protect incumbents.

Custom license plate rules

After news stories highlighted vanity license plates around Utah with offensive words or phases, Herbert signed into law SB97, which bans plates that disparage anyone based on race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, citizenship status or a physical or mental disability.

The bill tightened the restrictions that the Department of Motor Vehicles already had, which didn’t allow personalized plates that are “offensive to good taste and decency.”

In recent years, the state had approved license plates that read “NEGROS” “J3WBRNR” and “FÜHRER,” while rejecting applications for plates such as “COFFEE” and “MERLOT.”

Return to Story