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Governor Calls Third Special Session

Judy Fahys
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is asking lawmakers to meet in special session on Wednesday to consider bills on nine issues.

Illegal drones are blamed for raising the cost -- and hazard -- of the Saddle Fire in southwestern Utah this summer more than once. So Governor Gary Herbert will ask lawmakers to approve legislation to address the problem.

He favors a fix that would allow law enforcement officials to fine anyone caught flying unmanned crafts into wildfire-restricted terrain. It also would give officials clear authority take down errant drones.

“That concerns the governor to the point that he was willing to call a special session on this and several other issues,” says Jon Cox, Herbert’s communications director.

State lawmakers will take it up as one of nine bills in a special session Herbert has called for Wednesday.

The governor is also asking lawmakers to appropriate $10 million dollars towards building a new stadium at the Utah State Fair Park.

“These are being drafted by legislative attorneys right now,” says Cox “and those will be available to the public before the special session.”

Also among the nine special-session bills is one to give tax incentives for a company building a data center – just like the one the social media company Facebook is reportedly eyeing for Utah or New Mexico. Others would tweak criminal justice reform legislation and clarify grandparents’ visitation rights.

“We don’t view these as very controversial,” says Cox. “And this gives the Legislature the ability to look into these issues more and come up with solutions.”

Cox says Wednesday’s lawmaking won’t be an added expense for taxpayers, because this year’s third special session is happening during a day when lawmakers already planned to meet. Otherwise, the lawmaking session would cost tens of thousands of dollars each day.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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