SALT LAKE CITY -- A Senate panel has moved forward legislation that originally would have curbed the negotiations between UTOPIA and Macquarie Capital, a worldwide capital investment group.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, presented the bill to the Senate Business and Labor Committee on Monday, which in its original form would have said that UTOPIA cities could not issue utility fees on their residents -- regardless of whether they were using UTOPIA or not -- to recoup debt made for the day-to-day operation of their telecommunications services.

The bill, however, was amended by the committee to allow for that provision to take place and then was moved forward to the full body of the Senate.

"I gave both options because I can support both options," Valentine said to the committee.

Valentine originally drafted the bill to allow for cities to issue utility fees to pay for debt made by the city to build the infrastructure, much like what Provo residents do with their fee for iProvo, but would not allow for the fee to be used for advancement of the system.

Last week, a number of mayors from UTOPIA cities met with Valentine and explained to him if he moved forward with his original proposal it would end negotiations between UTOPIA and Macquarie. Valentine then drafted an amendment to allow for the provision that cities can also issue a utility fee to pay for continuing costs, not only debt which was put into the bill by the committee.

"Please do not ruin negotiations before they actually begin," said Gary Crane, city attorney for Layton. "It is a great opportunity. We are delighted that they would even look at us."

UTOPIA and Macquarie announced a pre-development agreement in December. The ramifications of the agreement could lead to a public/private partnership that would finish the build-out of the network with none of the future debt accruing on the backs of the taxpayers or UTOPIA cities.

Macqaurie Capital manages a number of public/private partnerships globally including airports, roads, rail, ferries, sea ports, communications (i.e. TV, telephone, radio) infrastructure, gas fields, water, electricity, retirement communities and more.

Senate Bill 190

Sponsor: Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem

What it does: Clarifies what circumstances a municipality can issue a utility fee for city owned telecommunications developments

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-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can connect with Billy by email at bhesterman@heraldextra.com or by

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