Governor signs 80 bills Monday, including solar credit phase-out

Monday , March 20, 2017 - 7:40 PM

By MICHELLE L. PRICE, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gov. Gary Herbert signed 80 bills on Monday, including measures that simplify licensing for food trucks and get rid of a state law that bans the “advocacy of homosexuality” in schools.

Herbert has started churning through the 535 bills Utah lawmakers passed this year before wrapping up their annual session March 9.

The Republican governor signed more than 80 bills last week, and by late afternoon Monday, had signed 80 more, hitting a total of 183 this year. He has until March 29 to sign or veto legislation, or allow it to become law without his signature.

Highlights from the bills Herbert signed Monday:

SEX EDUCATION

The measure stripping the “advocacy of homosexuality” from Utah’s sex education law was driven by a court challenge from LGBT-rights groups. The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality Utah sued last fall, saying the law creates a “chilling culture of silence that stigmatizes LGBTQ students” and exists only to express disapproval of being gay. A number of states have similar laws, but few others are moving to overturn them, according to Equality Utah. The new law replaces Utah’s ban on the “advocacy of homosexuality” in schools with a ban on the “advocacy of premarital or extramarital sexual activity,” which already is generally outlawed.

FOOD TRUCKS

Herbert signed a bill that aims to prevent food trucks from needing to obtain multiple licenses from different cities in order to stage their mobile businesses around the state. The law includes reciprocity measures so trucks don’t need to get separate business and health department permits and licenses in each city. It also bars cities from passing any restrictions on how close food trucks can be near restaurants.

SOLAR PANELS

Herbert signed a measure into law that gradually winds down the $2,000 tax credit that homeowners can receive when they install rooftop solar panels. The credits apply to income taxes, which are the main source of funding for education in Utah. The measure from Republican Rep. Jeremy Peterson limits the credit to $1,600 next year and scales it back every year until its $400 in 2021. Any systems installed after that will not be eligible for the tax credit. Peterson says the industry has taken off, and with more and more residents installing the panels, the state missed out of $20 million in tax revenue last year.

PHYSICAL RESTRAINT IN SCHOOLS

Another new law stipulates that a school employee may not physically restrain a student to prevent property damage. The employee must be acting out of self-defense or to prevent injury or harm to the student or another individual. Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, a Salt Lake City Democrat and retired teacher, sponsored the measure and says she hopes it will reduce the risk of injury to students by limiting the use of restraint. Moss said the bill also eliminates an antiquated part of state law allowing corporal punishment of students if parents give written permission.

COTTAGE FOODS

A measure from Republican state Rep. Scott Sandall, of Tremonton, exempts small producers of homemade baked goods, jams, jellies and other non-hazardous goods from state food safety inspections. Cottage food producers who sell homemade goods would still have to register with the state, get a food handler’s permit and follow state food labeling requirements. The inspection exemption would not apply to those who make homemade products involving raw seed sprouts, foods from an animal or that require time or temperature controls. Sandall said he wanted to ease regulations on those small, home-based businesses.

This story has been corrected to show that the tax credit will phase down in 2021 and not be eligible for solar installations after that.

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