Utah legislative session ending after beer, Medicaid deals

Utah legislative session ending after beer, Medicaid deals

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers were set Thursday to end their annual legislative session after scaling back a voter-approved Medicaid expansion, passing a long-awaited update to the state’s hate crimes law and reaching a deal to increase the alcohol level in beer.

Measures on other hot-button issues failed to pass, like a ban on LGBT conversion therapy.

Lawmakers also passed two anti-abortion measures. A ban on most abortions after 18 weeks of gestation sparked the promise of a lawsuit if it’s signed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert.

A proposal barring the procedure if the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome would only go into effect if courts uphold a similar ban elsewhere.

Lawmakers decided to postpone action on sweeping tax reform during their 45-day session, but included plans in the state’s $19 billion budget to ensure that action happens later this year.

Some the lawmakers’ decisions this year sparked protest, such as the move to shrink Medicaid to cover fewer people and the failure of the conversion-therapy ban.

Lawmakers defended the Medicaid decisions as essential to controlling long-term costs. On conversion therapy, they vowed to continue the conversation.

Alcohol is often a touchy issue in the state where members of the predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, avoid it.

This year, though, the state reached a deal to slightly increase the amount of alcohol allowed in beer at grocery and convenience stores, from 3.2 percent to 4 percent.

On guns, lawmakers approved a bill that strengthens the state’s “stand your ground” law by saying that people do not have a duty to retreat if firing in self-defense.

But a gun-control proposal allowing police to temporarily confiscate guns of those deemed to be a threat, known as a red-flag law, died without a hearing.