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 - 3 February 2020

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Dear Friends:

This is GrassRoots’ first legislative update of this year’s General Session of the Utah State Legislature. We hope to be sending weekly updates on legislative happenings during the session, and will be concentrating on bills that we find to be friendly to the principles of limited, constitutional government on one hand, or, on the other hand, friendly to big, intrusive government. As you may know, the principles of GrassRoots are summarized as Limited Government, Constitution, Representative Government, Free Market Economy, Participatory Republic, Family, and Separation of Powers.

We would encourage and challenge you, if you see one or more bills that interest you, contact your representative and/or senator about it/them. We think they usually hear enough from paid lobbyists (some would say more than enough), but they may not hear enough from you.

At this time (one week into the session), there are about 360 numbered bills for this session on the Utah Legislature website, maybe about half of the bills that will be numbered by the end of the session which, under the Utah Constitution, will go for 45 days. Here are some bills and issues that we consider to be noteworthy.

Parental rights and stewardship, and 2 bills

Parents (not government schools and associated bureaucrats, not government social workers), are the natural and rightful stewards of the raising, nurturing, discipline, and education of their minor children. While we suppose most parents are imperfect, so are most government folks, so we should be careful not to intrude on or regulate the natural territory of parents without good cause.

Is it ever right to seize children from parents, and-or to terminate parental rights? In some cases, yes.

But seizure of children from parents should only be done based on probable cause to believe that this is necessary to the child’s safety and well-being. This is consistent with the constitutional principle that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or thing to be seized” (Utah State Constitution, Article I, Section 14; see also US Constitution, Fourth Amendment).

And parental rights should not be terminated without due process of law, including, if demanded by the parents, jury trial. (See Utah State Constitution, Article I, Sections 7 and 10; see also US Constitution, Fifth and Sixth Amendments, and consider the proper application of these principles to parents and families.)

Here are 2 bills that, we believe, are steps in the direction of respect for parental rights and stewardship:

HB14, “School Absenteeism and Truancy Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Snow, would:

  • establish which absences from school are considered in determining if a minor is truant (see lines 71-77);
  • take away certain pre-existing powers of a government school bureaucrat to issue a notice of compulsory education violation to a parent of a school-age minor (see lines 111-116); and
  • limit the conditions under which a school district or charter school may impose administrative penalties on a school-age minor who is truant (pre-existing code: any school-age minor; HB14: only grade 7 and above (see lines 168-172)).

HB14 awaits consideration by the House Education Committee, and is currently scheduled as Item #1 on the agenda of today’s (February 3rd), 2pm meeting at 30 House Building.

We consider it a step in the right direction to eliminate the imposition of administrative penalties for minors in grade 6 and younger.

It is also a step in the right direction for us to make it more difficult to charge parents with the Class B misdemeanor related to compulsory education violation. Should we really be tossing parents in the slammer for 6 months or fining them $1000 for failure to get their children to school?

GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on HB14.

HB33, “Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Proceedings Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Lisonbee, would:

  • limit the circumstances for when a petition for termination of parental rights may be filed under Title 78A, Chapter 6, Part 3, Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Proceedings; and
  • require the court to take into account certain statutory provisions and kinship preferences in abuse, neglect, and dependency proceedings.

HB33 awaits consideration by House Judiciary Committee.

Our general tendency should be to assume that it is best for children to remain with their parents, or if the parents are unfit, then with near family where possible. GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on HB33.

Other bills catching our attention

HB100, “Veterans Treatment Court Act”, sponsored by Representative Snow and Senator Hillyard, would:

  • empower the Judicial Council to create a veteran treatment court in certain circumstances;
  • provide the requirements for establishing a veteran treatment court;
  • provide the requirements for creating policies and procedures for a veteran treatment court;
  • specify that “A veterans treatment court shall include continuous judicial supervision using a cooperative approach with prosecutors, defense attorneys, substance abuse treatment services, the Department of Corrections, and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Justice Outreach Program, as appropriate, to promote public safety, protect participants' due process rights, and integrate veteran treatment programs with the justice system case processing” (lines 86-91);
  • address eligibility for participation in a veterans treatment court;
  • address admission, modification, termination, and completion in a veterans court;
  • address domestic violence offenses;
  • state that there is no right to participate in a veterans treatment court; and
  • provide a severability clause, in case any part of the bill is held invalid.

HB100 passed the House Judiciary Committee 7-0 on January 30th, and awaits consideration on the House 3rd reading calendar.

From our study of the bill so far, we have several concerns with HB100:

We question the propriety of “authorizing” the Judicial Council to create courts (including “veterans treatment courts”) given the constitutional requirement that “The judicial power of the state shall be vested in a Supreme Court, in a trial court of general jurisdiction known as the district court, and in such other courts as the Legislature by statute may establish” (Utah State Constitution, Article VIII, Section 1). It seems inappropriate for the Legislature to delegate to the Judicial Council the power to create any courts. This should only be done by the Legislature.

We think that “continuous judicial supervision using a cooperative approach with prosecutors, defense counsel, corrections, substance abuse treatment services, and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Justice Outreach Program” seems likely to:

  • blur the separation of executive and judicial powers that should exist between a court and executive entities such as prosecutors;
  • interfere with the relationship between defense counsel and client, and even compromise the integrity of that relationship; and
  • through a court’s “cooperative approach with . . . the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Justice Outreach Program”, increase federal control of our state in matters where state and local sovereignty should reign supreme.

We believe that HB100 creates unequal treatment under the law as veterans are treated differently from other citizens. Indeed, this looks like state-sponsored discrimination.

HB100 looks wrong on principle. At the same time, we are still trying to understand the differences between the veteran treatment court established by HB100, and the old (also objectionable) veterans court that would apparently be superceded or replaced or succeeded by the veterans treatment court. GrassRoots tentatively favors a “no” vote on HB100.

HB131, “Rent Control Jurisdiction Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Dailey-Provost, would repeal a provision prohibiting a county, city, or town from enacting an ordinance or resolution that would control rents or fees on private residential property.

HB131 awaits consideration by the House Business and Labor Committee.

We do not want excessive interference by the state in matters of local government. But neither do we want excessive interference by local government in matters of individual self-government, freedom of association, and the free market. Local governments should be held to the constitutional principle that “Private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation” (Utah State Constitution, Article I, Section 22; see also US Constitution, Fifth Amendment). The existing provision in Utah Code, that HB131 proposes to repeal, defends this principle against violations by local governments. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on HB131.

SB39, “Affordable Housing Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Anderegg, would (according to the bill’s long title):

  • modify the allowable uses for a community reinvestment agency's housing allocation;
  • modify the requirements for distributing money from the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund;
  • authorize the Housing and Community Development Division (the division) to partner with one or more housing authorities or other entities to provide rental assistance;
  • authorize the division to partner with the State Board of Education and one or more housing authorities or other entities to identify and to provide rental assistance to families with children who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness;
  • allow low-income housing tax credits to be assigned to another tax payer;
  • modify the distribution of excess money in the Unclaimed Property Trust Fund;
  • appropriate in fiscal year 2021: to the Department of Workforce Services -- Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund as a one-time appropriation: from the General Fund, $20,300,000; and
  • appropriate to the Department of Workforce Services -- Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund as an ongoing appropriation: from the General Fund, $10,000,000.

SB39 awaits consideration by the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee.

We are still trying to understand the various details and implications of this bill. But is it a good idea to increase taxes or maintain high taxes to forcibly redistribute wealth for rental assistance? We have our doubts. We would prefer a $30 million tax cut. GrassRoots tentatively favors a “no” vote on SB39.

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

PS Do you want to contact a legislator? Go to and click on “Legislators”.

Do you want to read and follow legislation yourself? Go to and click on “2020 General Session Page” then click on “2020 Bills”.

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Do you have friends that would appreciate this legislative update? Please feel free to forward it to them.

Would you like to help us with review of legislation in a small or large way? Consider taking a special look at bills sponsored by your own representative or senator. Please contact us with your findings and/or with any questions we might be able to help you with.

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