Lacey Smith

Analysis of Selected Senate Bills

In Current Events, Politics on February 12, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Utah’s Legislature is in full swing. To help you get involved, we are analyzing selected House and Senate bills with a short summary and a position (strongly oppose to strongly support). If one of these issues concerns you, please contact your legislator and talk to them about it. You can find out who your legislature is by visiting the Utah State Legislative District Map site.

Here are the selected Senate Bills:

Bill No Bill Title Analysis Position
12 Age Limit for Tobacco and Related Products Increases the age of legality for purchasing tobacco, e-cigs, and paraphernalia from 18 to 21. Legal adults should be able to purchase legal products, no matter how distasteful society might find them and no matter how bad they may be for your health. Oppose
37 Statewide Online Education Program Revisions Requires the state to provide notice about the Statewide Online Education Program. Parents should know there are options for educating their children. Support
39 Home School Amendments Changes the affidavit requirements for a homeschooling “excused absence” from public school and requires a district to test a homeschool student for grade-level prior to their entering the public school system following homeschooling. One of the primary purposes of this bill: to change the affidavit requirements, will significantly lessen the burden on homeschooling families. Strongly Support
42 Early Childhood Education We oppose  all early childhood “education” programs, especially pilot programs which are not backed up with strong research. Children learn best through play. If the state wants to increase school readiness, they should do it by encouraging play, not through an expensive program with a price tag of $6 million annually. Additionally, this program is targeted towards economically disadvantaged students, which creates a special class of citizens, applying the law inconsistently among all citizens. Strongly Oppose
43 Intergenerational Poverty Interventions in  Public School This bill appropriates $5 million annually to fund grants to combat “intergenerational poverty” through public schools. While poverty is a problem faced by all states and countries, government is not the proper place to combat this through special programs which are funded by taking money from taxpayers. Strongly Oppose
47 Emergency Management Act Amend This legislation reduces the barriers of entry for an out of state business entering the state following an emergency to help with emergency response. While this legislation could potentially bring in needed services, this essentially penalizes in state services companies for being located in state. This bill should be expanded to exempt all Emergency Response services companies from income, sales and use taxes during state emergencies Support w/reservations
60 Fuel Excise Tax Amend Reduces the overall fuel tax and changes how fuel tax is assessed (as a percentage rate tied to the cost of fuel). Although we generally support tax decreases, usage taxes (like gasoline tax) is one of the least offensive taxes on the books. It would be preferable to reduce other taxes and leave the gasoline tax higher. In absence of that, however, this bill is support-worthy Support w/reservations
100 Anti-discrimination Amend Adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Utah’s anti-discrimination law. All anti discrimination laws are a violation of private property rights and expanding this law to extend to include factors that might require an individual to violate their conscience and religion. Few people need government to make them do the “right thing.” Current anti-discrimination laws should be repealed not added to. Strongly Oppose
103 Local Control of Classroom Time Requirements Give local school boards the ability to “reallocate” up to 60 instructional hours (8 days) for teacher prep and training. Since local school boards know the needs of their schools best, changes that increase local control are almost always positive. Support
104 Improvement of Reading Instruction This bill will expand a reading clinic from one location based in Salt Lake to three total. Although this reading clinic may be beneficial to sudents in the population, this kind of intervention program is outside the scope of good government. There are a number of private programs that can provide these services and if there is demand, additional private companies will be created to meet the demand. By getting involved, the state is intervening not only in teacher training and public schools but also in the marketplace. Oppose
113 Public Meetings Amend Requires that groups that are an “administrative, advisory, executive or legislative body”  that include a legislator as part of its membership provides public notice of their meetings and agendas. We generally support any measure that adds sunshine to Utah’s governing processes. Support
116 Poll Worker Amend Makes minor changes to Utah’s election laws including adding counties to “local elections” and provides for the appointment of poll workers for special and county elections Support
117 Online Voter Registration Revisions Allows voters to change their registration online if the Lt. Gov’s office has their signature on file Support
118 School Funding Through Income Tax Revisions This bill assumes first that schools are underfunded and second that giving them more money will improve test scores. This bill also further codifies that standardized testing (via U-PASS) is the method which we use to determine student’s success rates in school and educational ability. Passing this bill may also result in tax increases for citizens who may or may not use the public education system. Strongly Oppose
122 Parental Rights and Accountability in Public Education Much of this bill is excellent, requiring school districts to reasonably accommodate parents’ requests and students’ needs, including allowing a student to “test out” or otherwise demonstrate competency. There is one major concern with this bill – a provision that requires parents to “support a teacher and administer when imposing appropriate classroom discipline”. The term “appropriate” is the key, of course, but who defines what is appropriate? Also, what happens if a parent disagrees on discipline or fails to support the teachers/admins? Generally this bill is good, but there are some reservations. Support w/reservations
128 Safety Belt Amend Makes seat belt laws a primary offense Strongly Oppose
144 Drivers License Modifications Changes the process by which the drivers licensing division can suspend a license to require a hearing to be held. Freedom to travel is a right, not a privilege and so while divers licensing is fundamentally inconsistent with a liberarian view, it is important that those rights are preserved through due process which this bill restores. Support
147 Residential Renters’ Deposit Amend Provides a process for renters to recover their rental deposit. Tenant/Landlord laws in Utah favor the landlord in most cases. Security deposits are the property of a Tenant and Landlords should be required to return those funds in a reasonable time frame. If they fail to, there should be a process through which tenants can recover those funds. Support
148 UPSTART Program Amend This legislation makes the UPSTART program a permanent part of Utah law. UPSTART is an early childhood education pilot program set to expire this year. We oppose all early childhood education programs as children, especially young children, need play not classroom-based “educational opportunities.” Strongly Oppose
149 Drowsy Driver Amend This bill codifies overly drowsy driving as careless driving. Generally we oppose legislation that attempts to force responsibility or morality. However, this law is primarily enforced only after an incident. In true libertarian style, we strongly believe that “no harm, no foul” also work in reverse: if you cause harm, you are responsible for the consequences. While dealing with the consequences does not mean “responsible to the state” this bill does not generally infringe on freedom. Neutral
151 Religious Freedom Instruction Requirements Requires that religious freedom be included in public school education of American history and government and that Utah public school teachers show “reasonable understanding” of religious freedom. If schools are to be teaching anything, they should be teaching the foundations of American civics, including our Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. We would prefer to see the term “guaranteed by” in place of “granted by” the Constitution, however that is a minor change to  a generally very good bill. Strongly Support
163 Employee Meal Periods Requires that public employees receive an option for a 30 minute unpaid meal break for every 8 hour period an employee works. Employees have the option to work for the state, which come with many perks. A 30 minute unpaid lunch will likely result in added expense to cover these lunches and is a luxury not available to many private employees Oppose

Senate bills 26, 38, 49, 171 and 181 are also of concern, but, again, they need additional analysis, which requires more time. Stay tuned for a compilation “House and Senate Bills I’ve Missed” post.

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