New Utah laws: Extra hotel tax, end of car safety checks
By MICHELLE L. PRICE
Dec. 29, 2017
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah drivers in 2018 will save some money after lawmakers eliminated a required car safety check, but visitors to hotels, motels and campgrounds will feel a slight pinch in their pocketbooks under a new tax.
The changes are among a handful of new laws taking effect Monday in Utah.
Most of the roughly 500 laws passed by Utah legislators in 2017 took effect in May, a default date marking 60 days from the end of Utah's short legislative session. A few dozen more took effect July 1, the start of Utah's new budget year.
Here's a look at some of the new laws taking effect in 2018:
CAR SAFETY INSPECTIONS
Utah drivers will no longer be required to get periodic safety inspections to keep their vehicles on the road. The new law brings Utah into line with a number of other states that have scrapped such requirements. Lawmakers said the tests, which cost $15 and included checks of brakes, headlights and windshields, don't make streets safer.
The law still allows counties to require regular emissions tests for cars.
In exchange for cutting the safety inspections, the law makes permanent a rule declaring it a primary offense not to wear a seat belt.
HOTEL ROOM TAX
Lawmakers created a new state hotel room tax to bolster outdoor recreation. Currently, only counties, cities and towns tax stays at hotels, motels, campgrounds and other temporary lodging. The 0.32 percent tax will be imposed along with local hotel and sales taxes, and is expected to generate as much as $5 million annually.
For a $100 a night hotel room, a tax of about 32 cents would be imposed. About half of the states and the District of Columbia impose a state hotel tax, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Some of the money generated from Utah's tax will go toward hospitality education programs, but most of it will help fund Utah's Office of Outdoor Recreation, which hands out grants between $5,000 and $150,000 for governments or nonprofits that build recreation infrastructure such as walking paths, hiking trails and rock climbing routes.
Another new law says authorities can sell abandoned guns or give them to a firearms dealer for sale or to the Bureau of Forensic Services for testing.
But law enforcement officials can only destroy a gun if its condition prevents it from being sold or if it's associated with a notorious crime.
"I never saw the need for a perfectly good firearm to be destroyed," the law's sponsor, Republican Rep. Brad Daw of Orem, told lawmakers during a hearing on the measure.
CLEAN FUEL INCENTIVES
One new law offers a $1.8 million tax break for Utah refineries taking steps to produce cleaner gasoline, known at Tier 3 fuels. Refineries would be eligible for the tax break if they purchase and use equipment that moves them to Tier 3 fuel by 2020.
Lawmakers said it's a major incentive that will help improve air quality along the Wasatch Front, where cold air traps tailpipe emissions and other pollutants above bowl-shaped mountain basins. If every car switched to Tier 3 fuel, it would be the equivalent of removing four out of every five cars from roads, according to Republican Rep. Brad Wilson, one sponsor of the proposal.
Follow Price on Twitter at https://twitter.com/michellelprice