County Watch |

County Watch

With ranchers in eastern Summit County resisting a Logan representative’s efforts to stiffen the penalty for animal cruelty this week senators were still debating the issue.

Republican Rep. Scott Wyatt is sponsoring a bill that would increase the penalty for extreme cases of animal cruelty from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Wyatt’s House Bill 61 exempts from prosecution those who work in accredited zoos, with livestock or with rodeo animals "in accordance with accepted husbandry practices."

Ski resort bill stalled on the Hill

Among the issues being debated this year by Utah lawmakers is whether guests at ski resorts in the state should be allowed to sue when they are injured in terrain parks.

Though some attorneys oppose the legislation, the state Senate passed a bill that could make it more difficult for people to sue ski resorts. Skiing and snowboarding have changed since skier-liability laws were enacted in the 1970s, said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan. He adds that Senate Bill 135 updates the statute.

Gordon Strachan, an attorney in Park City who represents ski resorts in court, asked him to sponsor the legislation, Hillyard said.

The bill was awaiting final debate this week in the House of Representatives.

Summit senator wants BlackBerry numbers kept private

State Republican Sen. Beverly Evans, who represents portions of Summit County, is partly responsible for a bill recently passed by the Utah Legislature that could restrict members of the public from receiving senators’ BlackBerry numbers.

Taxpayers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars providing senators with the handheld, digital communications devices. But House Bill 258, recently signed by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., allows lawmakers not to release their BlackBerry numbers, Ogden Standard-Examiner Editorial Page Editor Don Porter said.

"It’s ridiculous," Porter said.

HB 258 also prevents the public from receiving "certain telephone numbers" at governmental agencies, he said, adding that he was "disappointed" that the governor signed the bill.

"Government shouldn’t be about secrets. Government should be about opening up the process," Porter said. "They shouldn’t be doing things in secret it’s a pretty sad state of affairs as far as I’m concerned."

A Northern Utah lawmaker contacted him after an editorial in the Standard-Examiner criticized the Senate for keeping the numbers secret, Porter said, adding that the legislator thought the BlackBerries were donated to the Senate.

"Here’s a lawmaker voting on the legislation and he doesn’t even know the taxpayers paid for those things," Porter said. "I just don’t believe that’s right."

But Republican Sen. Allen Christensen, who represents portions of eastern Summit County and voted for HB 258, defended senators’ rights last week to keep the Blackberry numbers private. Kamas Republican Rep. David Ure also supported the legislation. Democratic Rep. Ross Romero, who represents portions of Snyderville, did not vote on HB 258.

The bill is one of many sponsored by lawmakers this year that tweaks Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA).

"We needed a clarification to make sure that we were in compliance with GRAMA, that we were having access to the appropriate things but also protecting access," Evans said during a recent interview.

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