Grass Roots
Committed to Promoting the Principles of Limited Government, Constitution, Representative Government,
Participatory Republic, Free Market Economy, Family and Separation of Powers

Legislative Updates - 10 March 2014

<< All 2014 updates

Dear Friends:

As we approach the last few days of the 2014 General Session of the Utah State Legislature, history might indicate that another hundred bills will pass in short order; of the 700 bills and resolutions filed each year, usually more than 300 pass into law—many without adequate reading, discussion, and understanding.

It would be well for us to remember James Madison’s description, in Federalist No. 62, of the evils of fast-changing laws:

The internal effects of a mutable policy are . . . calamitous. It poisons the blessings of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulged, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is to-day can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed?

Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising and the moneyed few, over the industrious and uninformed mass of the people. Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest reared not by themselves but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few not for the many. . . .

No government any more than an individual will long be respected, without being truly respectable, nor be truly respectable without possessing a certain portion of order and stability.

These timeless remarks by James Madison should be remembered by our state legislators as they are asked to vote on numerous bills during the last few days of the session. While some of these bills may be good, there is also something to be said for a mostly-unchanging, stable set of laws.

Now, here are some updates on bills mentioned in past GrassRoots updates:

HB38Sub2, “Resource Stewardship Amendments,” would create a new position of state coordinator of resource stewardship to be filled by appointment by the executive director of the Department of Administrative Services. This coordinator is to work to implement and report on “best practices and stewardship efforts”—specifically “to improve air quality.” (See our update of March 3rd for additional details.)

HB38Sub2 passed the House 61-11 on Feb 24th and the Senate 2nd reading 19-4 on March 5th, and is now on the Senate 3rd reading calendar.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on HB38Sub2.

HB73, “Living Wage Amendments,” would increase Utah’s “minimum wage” to $10.25/hour.

HB73 passed the House Health and Human Services Committee 9-0 on March 3rd, and is in the House Rules Committee.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on HB73.

HB96, “Utah School Readiness Initiative” would create the School Readiness Special Revenue Fund, and appropriate to this fund $5 million to fund and award grants to certain early childhood education programs.

HB96 passed the House 49-24 on Feb 11th, and the Senate Education Committee 4-2 on March 4th, and awaits consideration by the full Senate. HB96 now has a Senate sponsor: Senator Bramble.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on HB96.

HB223, “School Board Election Provisions” and HB228Substitute, “Utah State Board of Education Elections and Reporting Amendments” would repeal the involvement of the governor and the nominating and recruiting committees in the selection process for the State Board of Education. HB223 would provide for nonpartisan election of Board members, while HB228 would provide for partisan election of State Board members.

HB223 passed the House 57-15 on March 5th, but failed the Senate Education Committee 3-3 on March 7th, and is probably dead for this session.

HB228 failed the House Education Committee 6-7 on Feb 24th, but was then reconsidered and passed the House Education Committee 8-5 on March 3rd, before failing the House 33-41 on March 7th. HB228 is probably dead for this session.

Either HB223 or HB228Substitute would have made a great improvement in the process for electing the State Board of Education.

HB236, “State School Board Nomination Revisions” would specify that the list of candidates for a State Board of Education position that is submitted to the governor by the nominating and recruiting committee shall include “the person currently serving in that position if that person is seeking reelection”.

HB236 passed the House 53-20 on March 5th, but failed the Senate Education Committee 2-4 on March 7th, and is probably dead for this session.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on HB236.

HB318, “Rights of Parents and Children Amendments” would permit a parent to request a jury trial in a proceeding for termination of parental rights, and would require the court to grant that request.

HB318 passed the House 46-27 on March 3rd, and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.

GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on HB318.

HB356Substitute, “New Convention Facility Development Incentive Provisions” like the original HB356 (see our weekly update of February 24th), would enact the New Convention Facility Development Incentive Act, and establish a tax credit for the owner of a new convention hotel or a local government entity.

The substitute version of the bill would also create a “Hotel Impact Mitigation Fund.” Up to $2.1 million dollars would be paid out of this fund annually to mitigate “affected hotels' losses of hotel guest business attributable to the qualified hotel room supply being added to the market in the state.”

The fiscal note still estimates that “Enactment of this bill may forgo about $2.9 million in FY 2016 sales tax revenue and around $75 million over the life of the tax credit (construction and occupancy).” The favored business(es) might be able to avoid that amount of taxes.

HB356Substitute passed the House 53-21 on March 4th, and the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee 6-0 on March 7th, and awaits consideration by the full Senate. HB356Substitute now has a Senate sponsor: Senator Adams.

It seems that some of our legislators have part-way figured out the “law of unintended consequences” of this proposed government manipulation of the marketplace; they now understand that government assistance to a favored business might unfairly affect existing businesses that will face competition from the favored business. Unfortunately, their answer is some more government interference: the Hotel Impact Mitigation Fund.

If taxes are so high, and regulations so intrusive as to discourage investment within Utah’s borders, then we should work to reduce unneeded spending, taxes, and regulations across the board, to the benefit of all.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on HB356Substitute.

SB39Substitute, “Home School Amendments,” would ease various regulations on home-schooling parents (see our update of February 17th for additional details).

SB39Substitute passed the Senate 22-5 on March 3rd, and the House Education Committee 9-4 on March 6th, and awaits consideration by the full House. SB39Substitute now has a House sponsor: Representative Knotwell.

GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on SB39.

SB42, “Early Childhood Education” sponsored by Senator Osmond, would establish the High Quality Preschool Pilot Program to fund certain preschool programs that serve intergenerational poverty students, and appropriate $3 million (amended down from $6 million earlier) to the State Board of Education fund the program.

SB42 passed Senate 20-6 on March 6th, and is in the House Rules Committee. SB42 now has a House sponsor: Representative Menlove.

A $3 million tax cut would be better than another new program to be administered by the (distant) State Board of Education. GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on SB42.

SB43, “Intergenerational Poverty Interventions in Public Schools,” would create the Intergenerational Poverty Interventions Grant Program, and appropriate $5 million to the State Board of Education to fund it (see our update of February 17th for additional details).

SB43 passed Senate 25-1on February 25th, and the House Education Committee 13-0 on March 5th, and is now in the House Rules Committee. SB43 now has a House sponsor: Representative Gibson.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on SB43.

SB46Sub2, “Administrative Subpoena Requirement Modifications,” would require a law enforcement agency to receive a court order to collect electronic communication records involving specified crimes, while repealing language that “the prosecutor may issue an administrative subpoena” to an electronic communications system or service provider.

SB46Sub2 passed the Senate 25-0 on February 28th, and the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee 8-0 on March 5th, and is now in the House Rules Committee.

GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on SB46Sub2.

SB131Substitute, “Student Leadership Grant” sponsored by Senator Osmond and Representative Briscoe, would extend the repeal date for the Student Leadership Skills Development Pilot Program by one year (from 2016 to 2017), and appropriate $500,000 to the program.

SB131Substitute passed the Senate 24-2 on March 3rd, and the House Education Committee 12-1 on March 6th, and is in the House Rules Committee.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on SB131Substitute.

Here are a couple more bills that have caught our attention:

SB54Sub2, “Elections Amendments” sponsored by Senator Bramble and Representative McKay, would:

  • enact a severability clause that “If any provision of 2014 General Session S.B. 54 or the application of any provision of 2014 General Session S.B. 54 to any person or circumstance is held invalid by a final decision of a court of competent jurisdiction, the remainder of 2014 General Session S.B. 54 shall be given effect without the invalid provision or application. The provisions of 2014 General Session S.B. 54 are severable” (possibly reflecting a concern that SB54 may be, or be declared by a court to be, unconstitutional);
  • define a qualified political party as a registered political party that: a) permits voters who are unaffiliated with any political party to vote for the registered political party's candidates in a primary election; b) permits a delegate for the registered political party to vote on a candidate nomination in the registered political party's convention remotely or permits the designation of an alternate delegate; c) does not hold the registered political party's convention before April 1 of an even-numbered year; and d) permits a member of the registered political party to seek the registered political party's nomination for any elective office by seeking the nomination through the registered political party's convention process, seeking the nomination by collecting signatures, or both;
  • provide that candidates for elective office shall be nominated in direct primary elections, unless the candidates are to be listed as unaffiliated on the general election ballot, or are nominated to be on the general election ballot by a qualified political party; and
  • describe petition requirements for appearing on a primary election ballot for nomination as a candidate for an identified political party.

According to the fiscal note for SB54, enactment of this bill could increase staff time and facilities costs, to both state and local governments, to verify signatures. The fiscal note does not mention it, but SB54 seems likely to bring about additional costs due to an increased number of primary elections.

SB54Sub2 is a very significant change in law, with about 1600 lines, amending 13 sections of code, and enacting 7 new sections of code.

SB54Substitute passed the House 49-20, and the Senate 21-7, both on March 5th, and awaits consideration by the Governor.

SB54Sub2 would significantly regulate political parties, even to the extent of dictating who may vote in a primary, and, on the basis of the signatures of a couple per cent of the party’s membership, who is to be on a primary ballot for that party’s nomination. This seems to be an unwarranted intrusion into the governance of political parties. GrassRoots favored a “no” vote on SB54Sub2, and now requests that the Governor veto it.

SB256, “Asset Forfeiture Amendments” sponsored by Senator Stephenson and Representative Knotwell, would:

  • provide that if the prosecuting attorney does not file a forfeiture complaint within 60 days after the seizure, the property shall be promptly returned and no further prosecutorial action may be taken;
  • require that a prevailing property owner shall be awarded reasonable legal and attorney costs;
  • establish limitations and procedural requirements regarding the transfer of seized property to the federal government, including specifying that “The court may not authorize the transfer of property to the federal government if the transfer would circumvent the protections of the Utah Constitution or of this chapter that would otherwise be available to the property owner”; and
  • limit the amount of forfeited property that may be applied to prosecutorial attorney fees to 20% of the value of the property or the actual amount of attorney fees, whichever is less.

SB256 passed the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee 5-0 on March 3rd, and awaits consideration by the full Senate.

SB256, while leaving some bad forfeiture provisions in place, would provide some additional protections to innocent property owners, including making it more difficult to transfer forfeiture cases to federal jurisdiction (where innocent owner protection is significantly less). As currently drafted, GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on SB256.

If you have any questions about GrassRoots’ position on these bills, or related matters, please contact either of us or any other member of the Board of Utah GrassRoots.


Steve Stromness
Board Member, Bill Review Coordinator, GrassRoots

Don Guymon
President, GrassRoots

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