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Registry-Killer Bill May Resurface

In what they called an “Urgent Alert From The Legislature,” Equality Utah Manager of Public Policy Will Carlson is warning that SB299, the bill sponsored by Sen. Greg Bell to replace Sen. Buttars’ thwarted attempt to kill the Salt Lake City Domestic Partner Registry, will be substituted with a much harsher bill Wednesday morning, March 5.

“Yesterday the Senate passed a bill that would have required Salt Lake City to rename their domestic partner registry, but would have allowed the registry to go forward,” the statement began. “We have just been informed that when this bill is considered by the House tomorrow morning, an amendment will be introduced to turn it into the earlier version that Senator Buttars introduced. If that amendment is adopted by the House and approved by the Senate, Salt Lake City’s registry will be halted and family members of city employees may lose their health coverage.”

Wednesday is the final day of the 2008 legislative session and, under suspension of the rules, bills can slide through without public input and on a single vote. “Message bills” are those most likely to go through in such a manner.

Buttars had sponsored a bill, SB267, to kill the domestic partnership registry within days of the registry being unanimously approved by the Salt Lake City Council. After Buttars’ comments that were perceived as racist, much of his more controversial bills were sent back to committee, including SB267.

Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, drafted a last-minute bill under suspension of the rules to address the registry. After late-night meetings with Salt Lake City representatives, Bell amended his bill to ensure that the registry would not be killed and that concerns the bill would affect the city’s “adult designee” benefits ordinance. The bill sailed through the Senate and landed on the House floor on Monday, where it sat until an evening House floor session Tuesday night.

Any representative can make a motion to replace the bill with different language on the House floor and a vote could be taken immediately. That bill would have to go back to the Senate for approval, but seeing that all Republican senators co-sponsored Bell’s bill, it is likely the Senate would act immediately and pass the bill through to the governor.

Gov. Jon Huntsman has hinted that he would veto such a bill.

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