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 - 2 March 2020

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Dear Friends:

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

At this time (5 weeks into the session), there are about 740 numbered bills for this session. Read on for coverage of some bills that we consider noteworthy.

A bill catching our attention this week:

HB271Substitute, “Firearm Preemption Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Maloy and Senator Bramble, would:

  • create the Firearms Preemption Enforcement Act;
  • clarify preemption of the field of firearms regulation by declaring that “the Legislature occupies the whole field of state regulation of firearms and ammunition” (see lines 58-62, 211-215);
  • outline violations of legislative preemption (see lines 386-390);
  • provide for civil action for a violation of legislative preemption, and outline remedies for violating legislative preemption (see lines 386-388, 403-427); and
  • specify that “Immunity from suit of each governmental entity and its employees or agents is waived with respect to the provisions of Title 78B, Chapter 6, Part 22, Firearms Preemption Enforcement Act” (see lines 206-208).

HB271Substitute passed the House 55-15 on February 28th, and awaits action by the Senate.

State agencies and local governments have at times attempted to infringe on rights of self-defense as recognized in our state and national constitutions. HB271Substitute would void, and provide remedies against, some of these attempts. GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on HB271Substitute.

Updated bill status:

HB114Sub3, “Early Learning Training and Assessment Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Waldrip and Senator Millner, replaced HB114Sub2, and would:

  • provide programs and assessments to “improve early learning in literacy and mathematics”; and
  • appropriate $10 million annually for these new programs (less than the $17+ million proposed in the Sub2 version).

Coverage of HB114Sub2 may be found in our updates of February 10th and February 24th. Despite some changes from the Sub2 version, HB114Sub3 still looks like a prescription for more top-down management of our schools by the (distant) State Board of Education and for more spending.

HB114Sub2 passed the House 39-31 on February 13th, but was replaced by HB114Sub3, which passed the Senate Education Committee 5-1 on February 25th, and awaits consideration on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

We would prefer more local control of our schools. Also, we would prefer a $10 million tax cut to the spending prescribed by HB114Sub3. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on HB114Sub3.

*HB136, “Safe Storage of Firearms Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Weight, would create additional criminal offenses relating to storage of firearms. Additional coverage of HB136 may be found in our updates of February 17th and February 24th.

HB136 seemingly survives for the moment, as a motion to table the bill failed the House Judiciary Committee 3-7 on February 24th. HB136 may still be considered again by this committee.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on HB136.

HB323Substitute, “School Mental Health Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Eliason and Senator Millner, replaced the original HB323, and would:

  • create the Public Education Mental Health Screening Grant Program (grant program) to provide grants to participating local education agencies (LEAs) to implement mental health screening programs for participating students;
  • require the State Board of Education (state board) to: a) in consultation with the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, approve a mental health screening program to be administered annually to students in a participating LEA; b) make rules for an application process for LEAs to apply for a grant under the grant program; c) select, and award grants to, participating LEAs; and d) annually report on the grant program to the State Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Education Interim Committee;
  • permit an LEA to use Teacher and Student Support Program money to match money distributed to an LEA for school-based mental health support;
  • remove the fund matching requirement for an LEA that has a school-based mental health support plan that is approved by the state board after a certain date; and
  • permit the state board to use funds appropriated for school-based mental health support to pay an employee to administer the program and oversee mental health personnel in LEAs.

Coverage of the original HB323 may be found in our update of February 24th.

HB323Substitute passed the House Education Committee 5-4 on February 25th, and awaits consideration on the House 3rd reading calendar where it is circled.

Our earlier concerns with the original HB323 remain in the Substitute version. Should young students in government schools be routinely screened for mental health problems? We think not. This proposal seems prone to invasion of privacy and-or to training our young people to devalue their privacy.

Most would characterize improvement of mental health as a worthy goal. But are increased grants awarded by the (distant) State Board of Education a good answer? Is this kind of social planning, taking control from individual taxpayers and families, and filtering resources through the State Board of Education, likely to improve mental health? The likely answer to these questions is “no.”

Furthermore, knowing the historical results of large-scale social planning, we have reason to suspect that we may not even like the social planners’ definition of what constitutes “good mental health.”

We continue to be skeptical of any additional growth in the influence of the (distant) State Board of Education over LEAs. If LEAs want to implement mental health programs, we wonder why they should not pay for such programs themselves instead of having the state tax-payers bear the burden. The full cost of such programs is not fully understood, or worried about, by the local government entities running them. After all, much of the funding is not coming directly from them. Ultimately such handouts (by the state) increase social planning by distant bureaucrats, decrease accountability and transparency to the tax-paying citizenry, and compromise and distort local sovereignty and self-governance. In the words of former US Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, “[N]o State or local government can accept funds from the Federal and remain independent in performing its functions, nor can the citizens exercise their rights of self-government under such conditions” (speech entitled “The Proper Role of Government”). The same could reasonably be said of local government entities (including LEAs) accepting funds from the State.

GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on HB323Substitute.

SB39Substitute, “Affordable Housing Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Anderegg and Representative Potter, replaced the original SB39, and 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, associations of governments, 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; and
  • appropriate in fiscal year 2021: a) to the Department of Workforce Services -- Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund as a one-time appropriation: from the General Fund, $20,300,000; and b) to the Department of Workforce Services -- Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund as an ongoing appropriation: from the General Fund, $10,000,000.

SB39Substitute passed the Senate 16-11 on February 26th, and is scheduled as Item 2 on the agenda of the Monday, March 2nd, 8am meeting of the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee. Location: 20 House Building.

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 SB39Substitute.

SB74, “Family Planning Services Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Kitchen and Representative Eliason, would require the Division of Health Care Financing to apply for a Medicaid waiver or a state plan amendment to extend family planning services to certain low-income individuals (specifically those having “an income level that is equal to or below 250% of the federal poverty level”). Additional coverage of SB74 may be found in our update of February 24th.

SB74 passed the Senate 23-1 on February 25th, and is scheduled as Item 1 on the Monday, March 2nd, 4pm meeting of the House Health and Human Services Committee. Location: 210 Senate Building.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on SB74.

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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