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Lawmakers pass Operation Rio Grande funding during special session

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – During a special session Utah lawmakers passed two bills dealing with Operation Rio Grande.

One allows for transferring of funds while the other allows a street for the homeless safe space to remain closed. During the special session, some lawmakers who ended up supporting the bill did express doubts about certain issues.

Rep. Merrill Nelson (R-Grantsville) noted he supported the effort because there was nothing better to tackle the problem. He also voiced concern on what would happen if other cities begin to expect the same in the future.

“Should the state be involved in policing and cleaning up a city park, and regulating crime on a city level,” said Rep. Nelson.

Marjory Leader Brad Wilson sponsored the bill which allowed $4.9 million to be transferred from The Department of Corrections to The Department of Workforce Services which is directly involved in the operation.

He noted how bad the situation was just a few weeks ago.

“We had open air drug dealing, we had street that were littered with drug paraphernalia,” said Majority Leader Wilson.

Both bills passed with overwhelming support in the house and senate, and are now on their way to Governor Herbert’s desk to be signed.

Lawmakers said they will have to wait until the budgeting process during the regular session before they can figure out how they plan to pay for the state’s portion of the operation for two years.

The state owes $5.5 million per year and other agencies will be expected to pay their portions as well. House Speaker Greg Hughes points out that two thirds of the funding has already come form existing funds or offsets.

Senate President, Sen. Wayne Niederhauser said it’s important they don’t let up on their commitment.

“If you let up a little bit that void is going to be filled and we don’t want that to happen again,” said Sen. Niederhauser.

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