Bill restricting grass at new government facilities fails on last day

Mar 7, 2023, 7:06 AM

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The bill that would restrict turf on new government facilities failed in the Senate this afternoon with a 14 to 10 vote on Friday, March 3, 2023. (Utah State Capitol complex. Paul Nelson, file)

(Utah State Capitol complex. Paul Nelson, file)

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake.

Rep. Doug Owens’ bill to restrict turf on new government facilities failed in the Senate Friday afternoon with a 14 to 10 vote. 

Floor sponsor Sen. Wayne Harper (R-Taylorsville) described the bill as the “next iteration” of last year’s legislation to limit water use on state-owned facilities. This version, HB272, included schools in the turf limitations, with exceptions for playing fields and recreation areas. It would have limited grass to less than 20% of the landscaped area and banned grass from parking strips and inside parking lots.

The bill would have applied to all public facilities statewide — something that gave Sen. Evan Vickers (R-Cedar City) pause.

“I applaud the effort to try to conserve and save, but I’m concerned about the one size fits all concept,” Vickers said. 

More senators echoed this with worries that the mandate would treat all cities the same when their needs were different. 

Sen. Scott Sandall (R-Tremonton) also expressed concern that the approach was too restrictive too quickly. Sen. Derrin Owens (R-Fountain Green) shared Sandall’s sentiment that the bill was a “stick rather than a carrot” approach, mentioning other legislation that encouraged conservation in different ways. 

“I think we should tap the brakes just a little and see that play out,” said Sen. Derrin Owens said. 

With 10 yays, 14 nays and 5 absent, the bill is returned to staff for filing. 

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Bill restricting grass at new government facilities fails on last day