SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The sponsor of an Arizona-style immigration law in the Utah House is revising his bill because of the high price tag for enforcement.
Mandates for police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop will be limited, said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem. That should significantly reduce the cost.
Instead, the revised bill will allow an officer to use discretion about checking citizenship for people stopped for misdemeanors.
Felons would still have to be checked, and illegal immigrants with a felony detained for deportation.
"We're not going to water down the bill," Sandstrom said. "But this will alleviate some concerns."
Revisions are also being made at the request of Gov. Gary Herbert, Sandstrom said. He did not specify what changes the governor requested.
In a statement, Herbert's spokeswoman Ally Isom said the governor "felt strongly" local government should not be burdened with the cost of enforcement.
Currently, House Bill 70 would cost local governments between $5 million and $11 million per year, according to the Legislature's fiscal analyst. That cost would primarily be to check citizenship status and detain suspected illegal immigrants.
The state would incur a cost of just under $1 million per year.
The revised bill could have a hearing as soon as Friday, he said. The original bill was scheduled for a hearing Wednesday afternoon.
South Ogden Police Chief Val Shupe told The Deseret News of Salt Lake City leaving enforcement decisions to departments could create confusion if some cities enforce it aggressively and others decide not to enforce it.
House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrrace, said the changes will not allow police departments and sheriffs to opt-out of the program. It will give law enforcement more flexibility in implementing the law, however.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said any bill costing the state or local government's money will have a more difficult time in a tight budget year. But a high price doesn't necessarily signal a bill's death.
"If we believe something is good policy, we will find a way to fund it," she said.Tags: