Tag Archives: utah legislature

Utah Women Legislators: Say “NO” to More Nuclear Testing

Legislation led by women of Utah’s House of Representatives saw action on Monday, March 8th, ironically and appropriately on International Women’s Day.  The legislation:  HR4 Resolution Urging Ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.  Under the leadership of three women legislators, the Utah House of Representatives unanimously voted to support the resolution and urged the Senate to do the same.  The message is loud and clear:  Say “NO” to More Nuclear Testing.

Kudos to these women and all Utah legislators supporting this resolution.  Future generations survival depend on actions that like this that are a move to a more healthy and peaceful world.

Women’s Action Network for New Directions (WAND) released this memo yesterday:

March 10, 2010

On Monday, the Utah House of Representatives unanimously voted for a resolution urging the US Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

WiLL (Women Legislators Lobby) member and the resolution’s lead sponsor, Rep. Jen Seelig, (D-Salt Lake City), did an excellent job championing the CTBT and garnering unanimous support for the resolution. It is hoped that the treaty will be considered and ratified by the US Senate in 2011.

The support for CTBT has been growing throughout the country, and it is a particularly personal cause for Utah’s ‘downwinders’. Winds blew fallout from the nuclear weapons testing site in Nevada over into Utah, causing devastating health problems.

Rep. Trisha Beck (D-Sandy) reminded her colleagues of a pamphlet distributed decades ago by the U.S. government saying that the nuclear-test site in Nevada was safe and did not cause illness. But, by 1990, the federal government had passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to aid those who had been harmed by above- and below-ground testing that continued through the Cold War. In explaining her commitment to CTBT ratification, Rep. Beck said, “Preventing nuclear testing by detonation in the future is the best way of memorializing those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the past.”

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Today on the Hill

I was able to get up to the Hill for a very short time today.  The bill being discussed on the House floor was SB157 Motor Vehicle Dealer Franchise Amendments.   The bill aims to modify and enact provisions under the New Automobile Franchise Act.  Read about the bill in today’s Salt Lake Tribune.

My only regret about visiting Capitol Hill today is that I couldn’t stay longer than I did.  To see how the process works in person is enlightening, informative and engaging. Everyone should spend some time just observing how everything works to gain a better understanding and appreciation for the proceedings.

Regardless of your political views, there is something for everyone during the Legislative Session.  Democracy in action.




There were even some protestors in the Rotunda:

Vice Taxing

Utah’s legislators are about to set the stage for placing a tax on tobacco products.  But what about considering increasing taxes on all “vices”?

HB196 Tobacco Tax Revisions aims to increase the tax rates “on the
sale, use, storage, or distribution of tobacco products in the state for the 2010-11 fiscal year and allowing the rates to fluctuate in subsequent fiscal years”.

SB40 Cigarette and Tobacco Tax Amendments aims to
“increase the tax on cigarettes, moist snuff, and other tobacco products; deposit income from the permanent state trust fund into the General Fund; and
address the deposit of revenues collected from the taxes; make technical and conforming changes”.

HB71 Nicotine Product Restrictions “amends provisions of the Uniform Driver License Act, provisions relating to the state system of public education, the Utah Criminal Code, and the Utah Code of Criminal Procedure to place restrictions on the provision, obtaining, and possession of a nicotine product and to enforce these restrictions”.  Specifically, the bill is aimed to prevent the sale of nicotine laced candy and gum (not including smoking cessation products) in Utah, the products of which are currently not available in the state.

The sponsor of HB71, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, has been the target by tobacco companies for possible court action should the bill pass, according to a Deseret News Article.

“Now they need to try to keep going by doping candy with the most addictive and deadly substance in tobacco,” he said. “Utah has made a point of protecting our youth from the hazards of tobacco use, and now that they are targeting a new market with lozenges and mints, we think that’s going to far.”

Read the rest of the article here.

In his piece in the Deseret News, Tobacco tax to hit those who can least afford it Lee Benson shares his encounter with folks addicted to tobacco who, despite raising taxes on the products and thus the consideration to stop the addiction, still are not able to stop.

“I know smoking’s not healthy,” he[patron at tobacco shop] says. “But every time I stop smoking, I gain weight — so I have to decide, am I going to die from obesity or from smoking?”

Smokers, he says, are a “scapegoat” for taxation.

“Nine percent of taxpayers smoke. Out of that 9 percent, they’re trying to take care of the majority. It isn’t fair. But what can you do?”

Benson interviews Sy Pham,  a tobacco wholesaler, who complains of the disparity between citizens actually paying for the tax increase:


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Education: Everyone’s “bag”

Education is always a hot topic in the Legislature and this year is no exception.  Issues such as how to keep our students safe, how to best educate them with the funding provided, what and what not to teach them, class size…..the list is overwhelming.  The education of our children is and should be high on the list of  priorities.  Here is a look at what’s shaking in Utah’s Education Legislation:

HB72 Utah School Seismic Hazard Inventory addresses the big safety issue – earthquake-proofing school buildings because it’s just a matter of time before the “Big One” hits.  To that end, experts say a “to-do” list is imperative.

An informal survey four years ago found that 58 percent of about 800 school buildings were constructed before the modern seismic standards started being used in the mid-1970’s. With about 560,000 students in public and charter school buildings, assessing earthquake-worthiness and tackling a statewide to-do list is urgent, earthquake experts say.

“It’s critical,” said Roger Evans, chairman of the Utah Seismic Safety Commission, “because you can see what happened in Haiti and Chile can happen on the Wasatch Front someday when we have the Big One. It’s a real issue for all our school kids.”

The possibility that an earthquake could kill Utah schoolchildren has always been on the radar for commission members, but it became grimly real when members studied video of schools crumbling in the Sichuan Province earthquake of 2008.

(Salt Lake Tribune)

The bill did not pass the House last week because some lawmakers are hesitant to spend the extra money, even though it has been pointed out that funds were used recently to upgrade the State Capitol Building to seismic standards.

Salt Lake Tribune Columnist Paul Rolley highlights the provision in HB355 Legal Guardianship Amendments which addresses a school’s rights to challenge a guardianship of students:

During a year when public schools face tens of millions of dollars in shortfalls, the Utah House of Representatives passed a bill that helps ensure out-of-state youth hockey players get a free education here at an estimated cost to Utah taxpayers of $500,000 to $1 million.

HB355, which would make it more difficult for a school district to challenge a legal guardianship in court, was sponsored by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, whose son is a member of the Chadders Hockey Club, a main backer of the bill.

With the benign title of “Guardianship Amendments,” it moved stealthily through the House and now is in the Senate.

Read the rest of his post here.

Utah Moms Care, a blog dedicated to civil discourse on issues that affect Utah families, has a post on the Education Budget here, where they have this to say about HB166 Reductions to Education Mandates:

HB 166 Reduction to Education Mandates by Rep. Dougall is a mixed bag. The bill gives local school boards and charter schools more options to consider by making some education mandates optional for the next two years. For example, school districts will be exempt from administering the 10th grade basic skills competency test for the next 2 years. This is also the bill that pushes the busing boundaries out to 3 miles for a secondary school. That does not mean that if you live within the 3 mile radius that all bus service will be stopped, it only dictates that state money cannot be spent on routes within a 3 mile range – school districts will have to cover the cost of areas closer to the school.

The Utah Association of Public Charter Schools has posted a list of bills its members are supporting:

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The Answer to Solving Problems? Criminalize Everything!

HB462 Criminal Homicide and Abortion Revisions, the replacement bill for HB12 Criminal Homicide and Abortion Amendments, passed both the House and the Senate yesterday on The Hill.  The bill is headed to the Governor’s desk for signing on Monday.

The news has hit the New York Times and Ms. Magazine (which references Utah Legislature Watch).

The bill’s original language was amended to take out the word “reckless”

…. in reference to behavior but retains “intentional” acts by the woman that cause an abortion as grounds for a charge of aggravated murder.

The measure doesn’t change the state’s legal abortion statutes but establishes Utah as the only state to set parameters on when a woman can be held criminally responsible for causing the end of a pregnancy at her own hand or means outside a doctor’s care.

(Deseret News)

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, expressed that interpretations of the bill’s language were “fabrications”.

Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, said his original bill was designed to go after mothers who recklessly use illegal drugs and lose their fetus and insisted that claims it could extend more broadly were “an absolute farce and a lie.”

“The rumors,” he said, “that this bill allowed women to be charged for slipping on ice or driving down the road without her seat belt and getting in an accident: total fabrication.”

(Salt Lake Tribune)

Wimmer drafted the bill in response to an incident involving a 17 year old pregnant woman who paid a man to beat her until she miscarried (the fetus survived and has been adopted)

Democrats in the legislature are still wary about the bill:

Democrats commended Wimmer for revising his bill, but many remain unconvinced the legislation is needed at all. Democratic Representative Brian King said empowering the state to “poke around in the bedrooms and doctor’s offices” of Utahns runs counter to the Legislature’s conservative nature.


“You know, sometimes I think the disconnect between our words, and what we claim are our stated beliefs and what we do are so great that we ought to treat some of our members for whiplash. It’s that, there’s that big a gap,” said King.


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Utah Citizens Organize “Clean Air” Rally

There will be a “Rally for Clean Air”  on the Steps on the South Side of the Utah State Capitol, Wednesday, March 10, 2010 from 3-4pm.  The rally will be an effort to get legislators to reconsider their positions on HJR 12 Climate Change Resolution and HJR 21 Joint Resolution on Energy Policy.  Organizer Drew Thompson sent out this announcement today:

The Legislature has had its say, now it’s our turn. Despite our phone calls, letters, emails, and testimonies HJR 12 passed resoundingly in both the House and Senate, and HJR 21 is well on its way to the same fate.

This complete disregard of both science and the economic and environmental future of our state demands our protest. Utilize your right to assemble and join all those who still reject scientific half-truths and scare tactics in favor of reason and justice.

We will be rallying on the steps of the Utah State Capitol on Wednesday, March 10 at 3:00 pm. Former SLC Mayor Rocky Anderson, BYU Geologist Barry Bickmore, Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones, and U of U Sociology Professor Andrew Jorgenson will be speaking at the event.

Bring picket signs, bring your friends, and ride your bike.

Check out the event “Clean Air Rally” at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=376479900791.

View previous posts on these two Resolutions here.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Rep. Christine Johnson, open Lesbian lawmaker, announces exodus from state

This is a sad day for Utah politics.

Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake, has announced her intentions to leave the state of Utah.  The announcement appeared in today’s Daily Herald.

“To me, Utah doesn’t feel like home,” said Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, on Thursday.

Her announcement came as a surprise to many, but Johnson, an open lesbian carrying a surrogate baby for two gay men, said the state is well-equipped to keep up the fight for gay rights.

Johnson took heat from many in the gay community at the beginning of the legislative session for a deal she hammered out with Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, to have both sides put discrimination-related bills away for a year to see how an anti-discrimination ordinance works in Salt Lake City.

Johnson told the Salt Lake Tribune of her disenchantment with the Utah Legislature:

"For the past four years, I have stood with my colleagues each morning of the session, placed my hand over my heart and pledged ‘liberty and justice for all,’ " she said in a statement, "and yet repeatedly witnessed blatant disregard of those so in need of equal protections in the name of ‘family values.’ "

This is the 2nd resignation in 3 months from a Utah politician representing the LGBT community.  Former Utah Senator Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake District 2, Utah’s first openly gay senator, announced his resignation from politics on December 9, 2009.

Rep. Johnson honored Utah’s LGBT veterans at this press conference a few months ago where she announced a resolution on repealing the  “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy for LGBT citizens who wish to join the military.

The Hill, the LGBT community, and all citizens in Utah will miss Rep. Johnson’s fortitude, bravery, compassion and voice.

Read posts on Utah Legislature Watch involving Rep. Johnson here.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

ACLU of Utah on SB 277: More Violations of 4th Amendment Rights

SB 277 DNA Modifications proposes to collect DNA samples of individuals arrested for violent felonies.

The key concept here that is not being considered, it appears, is the difference between being arrested and convicted.  It looks like “innocent until proven guilty” has no bearing on this at all.

Fox News carried a piece on the bill here.

The ACLU of Utah opposes the expansion of DNA databanks to include those merely charged with certain types of crimes:

There is a vast difference between using DNA as a tool in investigations – both to catch the guilty and exonerate the wrongly accused – and
permanently storing the most intimate biological information of persons who have not been convicted of any crime.

The taking and permanent retention of DNA from innocent people is an intolerable violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Read the rest of the ACLU of Utah’s statement here.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

HB 150: A Violation of Privacy

The Senate Education Committee early this morning will hear testimony on HB150 Administrative Supoena, a bill which will make it o.k. to get personal information from your ISP and cell phone records without a warrant in certain instances.

Misty Fowler  offers a bit of history and persepctive about the bill over on her Saintless blog:

last year a bill passed into law that gave prosecutors power to get your contact information from your ISP and/or cell phone companies without a judge when they suspect a child sex crime. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, in the time since going into effect,” more than 200 such subpoenas have been issued, or slightly more than one a day.”This year, the Utah Legislature is considering a bill (HB 150) that would extend that to include suspected felonies, as well as cyber-stalking and cyber-harassment (misdemeanors).

This bill has passed through committee, and will be voted on in the House. Rep. Brian King was the lone vote against HB 150 in committee. He asked Pete Ashdown to help him in pointing out the problems with this bill. Of course, number one was that it’s unconstitutional. The one I wouldn’t have thought of though was that it is anti-business:

"It is anti-business. Burdensome regulation against Internet Service Providers, making them a wholesale detective arm of law-enforcement is punitive against small ISPs and favors large ISPs with more resources. There are no nationwide ISPs headquartered in Utah and this law will help drive the already struggling small Utah-based ISPs under. Yahoo has already published their price list for violating your personal privacy. Smaller ISPs are more likely to protect your privacy as long as the law stands with them, they don’t have the money to fight a court battle in your favor."

HB 150…. was defeated in the House yesterday[February 25], but Pete Ashdown writes that Rep. Daw wants to bring it back from the dead as a slimmed down version covering kidnapping and cyberstalking.

This is NOT okay! There is a reason we have a legal system that uses warrants. Yes, kidnapping and cyberstalking are bad things. But, a warrant isn’t some kind of undue hardship. It’s a process we have in place for a reason.

So, take a look again at Pete Ashdown’s flier against HB 150, and then call/write your Representatives and ask them to vote no.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

SB44: Health care for “legal” immigrant children garners approval

Utah Senators gave their nod of approval yesterday for  SB44 Health Amendements for Legal Immigrant Children.  The bill would lift a 5 year waiting period for immigrant families to obtain health care for their children.

What is puzzling is the sentiment by adults towards children and tax paying workers.

Today’s Deseret News:

“These kids are kids, and they’re playing by the rules as best they can,” he[Sen. Chris Buttars R-West Jordan] reasoned. “So while I’m totally against illegals, these kids aren’t illegals.”

As if any children had control over their lives.

But while those kids might follow the rules, Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, who opposed the bill, said the five-year wait is there for a reason: Legal immigrants are expected to take care of themselves for that time.

“They need to play by the rules, the rules are set up, and you’re asking us to change the rules,” Christensen said.

Well, yes, because no human should be without health care and children in particular have no choice over their circumstances.  Legal or not, when someone needs health care they should be able to get it. Further, immigrants who have legal status pay taxes into our system and therefore should, without question, have access to, among other things, the health care system.

Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, bill sponsor says that this not about immigration:

SB44 isn’t about immigration, Robles said, but health care policy, and it opens access to preventative care that is more cost-efficient than letting problems grow until they end up in emergency rooms.

This is very sensible.  While it wouldn’t take effect until 2012, this bill is a giant step in the right direction for opening the health care access door for all.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)