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 - 8 February 2016

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Dear Friends:

This is GrassRoots’ second weekly legislative update of this year’s General Session of the Utah State Legislature.

At this time (two weeks into the session), there are about 480 numbered bills for this session. Here are some bills that we consider to be noteworthy.

Education bills catching our attention this week

SB45, “Compulsory Education Revisions”, sponsored by Senator Alvin Jackson and Representative Anderegg, would eliminate criminal (class B misdemeanor) penalties for a parent of a truant school-age child.

SB45 passed the Senate Education Committee 6-1 on January 29th, and awaits consideration by the full Senate on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

The traditional family (not the government school bureaucracy) is the fundamental unit of society for the support, teaching, and nurturing of children and other minors. Government should avoid unwarranted interference in the functioning of families and with the prerogatives of parents. Reducing the ability of government school bureaucrats to coerce parents with Class B Misdemeanor threats would be a welcome change in policy.

GrassRoots approves of a “yes” vote on SB45.

SB101, “High Quality School Readiness Program Expansion”, sponsored by Senator Millner and Representative Last, would:

  • require the Department of Workforce Services to determine eligibility for an Intergenerational Poverty Scholarship;
  • create the Student Access to High Quality School Readiness Programs Grant Program to expand access to high quality school readiness programs for eligible students;
  • create the Intergenerational Poverty School Readiness Scholarship Program;
  • establish early childhood education training;
  • require the State Board of Education to contract with an independent evaluator to conduct an ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of high quality school readiness programs;
  • appropriate: a) to the State Board of Education - State Office of Education - Initiative Programs as an ongoing appropriation: from the Education Fund, $9,000,000; and b) to the Department of Workforce Services - Office of Child Care as an ongoing appropriation: from the General Fund, $2,500,000.

SB101 passed the Senate Education Committee 6-0 on February 4th, and awaits consideration by the full Senate on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

This is another example of putting more money into the hands of a distant State Board of Education to be centrally controlled and administered, with local LEAs expected to jump through the State Board’s hoops to get “their share” of the money.

Should we expand the reach of the government school system to an ever-younger population? Or should we leave the responsibility of raising small children to their natural guardians, their parents? Should we build up ever more government bureaucracy, with its attendant costs to the taxpayers? Or should we trust the virtues of truly private, voluntary efforts?

SB101 puts more power into the hands of the distant State Office of Education—power that would better be put into the hands of local parents and taxpayers.

GrassRoots approves of a “no” vote on SB101.

Vehicle impound bills

HB80, “Vehicle Impound Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Fred Cox, would:

  • repeal the requirement that the Motor Vehicle Division or a peace officer shall seize and take possession of any vehicle that is being operated on a highway without owner's or operator's security in effect for the vehicle except in certain circumstances; and
  • leave peace officers with discretion that they may seize vehicles as allowed in pre-existing Utah Code.

HB80 passed the House Transportation Committee 10-1 on February 3rd, and awaits consideration by the full House.

In some cases, we believe that seizure of a vehicle is inappropriate, and even police-state-ish. HB80 looks like an incremental improvement in our seizure code.

GrassRoots approves of a “yes” vote on HB80.

HB120Substitute, “DUI Enforcement Funding Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Eliason and Senator Bramble, would:

  • increase the administrative fee for impounding a vehicle due to an arrest, citation, or referral for administrative action for driving under the influence or reckless driving;
  • allocate the funds from the increased impound fee to the Department of Public Safety Restricted Account; and
  • appropriate in fiscal year 2017: to the Department of Public Safety - Highway Safety as a one-time appropriation: from the Department of Public Safety Restricted Account, $423,200.

HB120 Substitute passed the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee 10-0 on February 3rd, and awaits consideration by the full House of Representatives.

Funding for DUI enforcement sounds like a proper use of tax monies. Also, the proposed increase in the impound fee may be reasonable if due process is ensured.

However, we continue to be concerned with the proliferation of administrative fees and fines in the absence of an actual conviction for wrong-doing, or other evidence of due process. In more and more cases, it seems that our constitutional rights to jury trial are being circumvented by administrative powers of imposing fines and fees.

We also continue to be concerned when fees and fines effectively collected by law enforcement go to law enforcement without an explicit act of appropriation by a legislative body. We fear that such situations tend to corrupt and distort law enforcement priorities.

GrassRoots approves of a “no” vote on HB120Substitute.

Another bill catching our attention

SB100, “Traffic Fines Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Hillyard and Representative Anderegg, would:

  • limit amounts received by local governments from traffic fines to 25% of the local government's revenues (and require that any excess be remitted to the state’s General Fund); and
  • allow the state auditor to monitor compliance.

SB100 passed the Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology Committee 5-0 on February 1st, and awaits consideration by the full Senate on the Senate on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

When more than 25% of a local government’s revenues come from traffic fines, we might suspect that law enforcement priorities have become corrupted. We believe it is likely that this bill will help remove at least some corruption from current law enforcement priorities in certain localities. (Having said this, a lower figure than 25% specified by SB100 may be more appropriate.)

GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on SB100.

Updated status on bills mentioned in last week’s GrassRoots update

HB160 was replaced by HB160Substitute, “Justice Court Judge Qualifications Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Craig Hall, and would:

  • require justice court judges to have graduated from law school;
  • make provision for those cases where there are no candidates meeting the law school graduation requirement; and
  • grandfather in current justice court judges until their next retention election.

HB160Substitute passed the House Judiciary Committee 10-0 on February 5th, and awaits consideration by the full Senate.

We consider the Substitute version of HB160 to be an improvement over the original bill, since it at least makes provision for cases in which there are no candidates meeting the law school graduation requirement. However, we still think there is no compelling reason to limit justice court judges to law school graduates.

With all due respect to the training of an attorney, we believe that it would be unwise to eliminate 90+% of our population from consideration for such positions of trust. Anyone (attorney or not) with a good command of the English language and reasonable degree of life experience and reasoning skills can understand our statutes, and our state and national constitutions; law school graduates do not have a monopoly on such qualifications.

GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on HB160Substitute.

SB12Substitute, “Passenger Carrier Requirements”, sponsored by Senator Mayne, would:

  • define "private passenger carrier"; and
  • prohibit a person from driving a motor vehicle as a private passenger carrier unless the person has a valid taxicab endorsement or a commercial driver license.

SB12Substitute passed the Senate 24-1 on February 2nd, and awaits consideration by the House Business and Labor Committee.

We still do not believe there is a compelling need for government to punish people who peacefully give other people rides without a government-issued license.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on SB12Substitute.

SB59, “Antidiscrimination Act Revisions”, sponsored by Senator Weiler and Representative Rebecca Edwards, would modify the Utah Antidiscrimination Act by providing for “reasonable” accommodations for an employee for the known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related conditions unless it creates an “undue hardship” for the employer.

SB59 passed the Senate 18-9 on February 2nd, and awaits action by the House Rules Committee.

With proposals like SB59, we should ask ourselves: “Do I believe that I, or my neighbor across the street, has moral authority (authority in the eyes of God) to employ force in this manner? Would this be a moral use of force by an individual?” If not, then neither is it a moral use of force by the people’s agent, the government.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on SB59.

If you have any questions about these bills, 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
Vice-Chairman, Bill Review Coordinator, Utah GrassRoots

Don Guymon
Chairman, Utah GrassRoots

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