SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers start their annual session Monday with plans to restrict late-term abortions and expand the state’s limited medical marijuana law. Another bill would relax a law that requires restaurants to prepare alcoholic drinks behind a barrier or wall or in an area out of view.
Those proposals are among the hundreds of bills that legislators will filter through during their 45-day session, in addition to setting the state’s roughly $14 billion budget.
A look at some of the issues lawmakers are expected to tackle before their session ends at midnight March 10:
ABORTION AND PLANNED PARENTHOOD
Republican Sen. Curt Bramble of Provo is working on a bill that would restrict abortions after the time when a fetus can feel pain, which anti-abortion advocates say happens around 20 weeks into development. That assertion is disputed by medical research. Republican Sen. Margaret Dayton of Orem said she’s working on a bill to cut all taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood.
The move follows the release of secretly recorded videos by a California anti-abortion group that alleges Planned Parenthood officials in other states sold fetal tissue to researchers for a profit. Planned Parenthood has denied wrongdoing and has filed a lawsuit against the Center for Medical Progress.
Gov. Gary Herbert has tried to block some federal funds to the organization’s Utah chapter, but Dayton wants to strip away more funding. Details of both proposals have not yet been released.
Utah lawmakers have three medical marijuana proposals in the works. In 2014, the state approved a very narrow program allowing people with severe epilepsy to use cannabis extract oil if they get it from other states. The program is set to expire this summer and lawmakers will vote in the coming months on a proposal that would keep it running for five more years.
Another bill lawmakers will consider would allow those with cancer, HIV, AIDS and certain chronic pain conditions to use cannabis extract oil. It would also allow the oil to be produced and dispensed in Utah under tight control.
A third proposal, the most arguable, is a revival of a sweeping plan that lawmakers voted down last year. The proposal from Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, would allow those with chronic or debilitating conditions to use edible marijuana products, thought it would ban smoking pot. Some Republicans have said they worry it’s too broad and there’s not enough science to show marijuana is a safe or effective treatment. On Thursday, Herbert said he thinks its common sense to allow people to use marijuana for medical reasons, but the process should be regulated and there should be research to support the idea.
For several years, lawmakers and members of Utah’s hospitality industry have pushed to repeal a requirement that some restaurants mix or pour alcoholic beverages behind a barrier such as a low wall or in a separate room out of the view of the public. The requirement was part of a compromise in 2009 that rolled back some of the state’s strict liquor laws.
Supporters say the barriers keep restaurants child-friendly and distinct from bars but critics say they’re silly and harm the state’s reputation as it tries to attract tourists. The barriers have been nicknamed “Zion curtains,” a reference to the Mormon church, which instructs members to avoid drinking alcohol.
Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, has a proposal this year that would allow restaurants to remove the barriers if they prepare the drinks in an adults-only seating area, such as a partitioned bar. Restaurants would have to post a sign warning: “Notice: This establishment prepares and dispenses alcoholic products in public view.”