Committed to Promoting the Principles of Limited Government, Constitution, Representative Government,
Participatory Republic, Free Market Economy, Family and Separation of Powers
Annual Report Card on Utah Legislature
PDF version (Contains ratings charts and rankings)
How Did Your Representatives Represent You in 2010?
The Year of the Tenth Ammendment
The Tenth Amendment to the Bill of Rights states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This year the Utah State Legislature decided finally to put some teeth behind these words. They voted to exercise our health care rights, our land rights and our gun rights. While the legislature should be applauded for their efforts, the question GrassRoots asks is, “What took so long?” These issues have affected the state for quite some time; they are not new.
Utah Grassroots lauds the courage of the Wyoming legislature which passed HB 95 (Wyoming Firearms Freedom Act), and of the governor who signed this bill on March 11 of this year. Among other things, it provides jail time or fines (or both) to penalize government agents who attempt to enforce federal regulations on Wyoming-made firearms and ammunition, and authorizes the AG to defend any Wyoming citizen who is prosecuted for the violation of any such regulations.
All news was not good from the session. Legislators raised the cigarette tax by $1 per pack which will increase the tax burden by $43 million. They also passed legislation which would allow the Utah Transit Authority to become a limited partner in housing development (this is comparable to the federal government investing in General Motors). Parental rights took a blow when a move to liberalize the booster seat law failed in the House.
One of the big issues facing the state is the issue of ethics legislation. GrassRoots decided to not take a position on the legislation passed by the legislature this year. Grassroots believes the best method of enforcing ethics is an informed citizenry who are informed and hold all elected officials accountable for their actions. Ethics legislation must recognize that every individual, including elected officials, have rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution. These rights should not be infringed upon.
During lean economic times, it is easy for legislators to curb runaway spending. GrassRoots urges our legislators and citizens to be equally concerned about government growth when good economic times resume.
Morley Receives Perfect Score to Lead House Dayton Leads State Senate
House Summary: Mike Morley (R-UT) received a 100% on this year’s report card. Other top scoring House members were Carl Wimmer (R-SL), Kenneth Sumsion (R-UT), Craig Frank (R-UT), Stephen Sandstrom (R-UT) and Chris Herrod (R-UT). This year the House had an average score of 58% which is up from the lifetime score of 51%.
Senate Summary: Margaret Dayton (R-UT) led the Senate with a score of 90%. Other top Senators were Howard Stephenson (R-SL) and Mark Madsen (R-UT). The Senate beat the House with a 61% rating. This is up from their lifetime average of 51%.
Governor: Gary Herbert’s score of 71% is the highest score by a governor since the founding of GrassRoots.
What is GrassRoots?
GrassRoots has been issuing an annual legislative report card since 1992. The Constitutions of the nation and state are the guides which GrassRoots uses in picking issues for its legislative report card. Bills are picked without regard to any particular individual.
Analysis of Bills for 2010
Bills are listed by number with house bills listed first. The sponsor of the bill is in parentheses. The tally on bills from each house is listed by yeas, nays and those absent or not voting. Text of all bills can be found at http://www.le.state.ut.us/.
A) H.B. 67 (C Wimmer) Prohibits a state agency or department from implementing federal health care reform; unless the state legislature specifically authorizes the implementation by statute. The federal health care bill recently passed by Congress exceeds the authority granted to the federal government specified by the Constitution. HB 67 helps protects the Tenth amendment rights of the state of Utah and protects citizens’ rights from unlawful federal mandates. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (53-20-2); Senate (16-7-6) and was signed into law by the Governor..
B) H.B. 82 (F Seegmiller) This bill infringes on our basic right to property. H.B. 82 would have banned individuals from smoking in their motor vehicle if a child is present. Citizens would face a fine of $45 for doing a lawful activity on their own personal property. While GrassRoots acknowledges the dangers of second hand smoke, it believes that property rights and personal responsibility are more important. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (40-31-4) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
C) H.B. 113 (C. Herrod) In 2007, the Legislature infringed upon parents’ rights by requiring all children under the age of eight years old to ride in a booster seat. This bill sought to ease this requirement by allowing a child to not have to be put in a booster seat in areas that the speed limit did not exceed 45 miles per hour. GrassRoots prefers the state legislature reassert parents rights by repealing the original bill. This bill was a minor step in the right direction. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Failed in the House (24-47-4).
D) H.B. 143 (C. Herrod) Approximately 70% of Utah’s land is controlled by the federal government. The vast majority of this land is controlled in manners not authorized by the US Constitution. The citizens of this state should have a greater say in how our land is used. This bill authorizes the state to exercise eminent domain authority on property held by the federal property unless the land was acquired with the consent of the Utah Legislature. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (48-17-10); Senate (21-6-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
E) H.B. 146 (M. Noel) Bill asserts Utah’s Tenth Amendment rights by stating that Utah does not recognize federal law enforcement agency authority beyond that necessary to manage and protect federal management lands in accordance with the US Constitution. GrassRoots approves of YES vote. Passed the House (67-2-6); Senate (23-5-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
F) H.B. 150 (B. Daw) This bill violates our Fourth Amendment rights by requiring Internet Service Providers to turn over service records without search warrants. Our Founders believed that it was important to protect the rights of citizens from government abuses. Just as the federal government was wrong to pass the Patriot Act; this bill strips citizens of God given protections guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment and puts burdensome obligations upon business owners. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (48-20-7); Senate (19-10-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
G) H.B. 196 (P. Ray) Increases the tax burden on Utahns by $43 million by raising the cigarette tax. When government increases taxes on any citizen, it provides a mechanism to continue to grow the government. The sponsors of this legislation have stated that a purpose of this legislation is to discourage individuals from smoking. If the government is successful in getting citizens to stop smoking; how will it make up for the revenue generated by this tax? It will raise taxes on the non smokers. This bill also violates the principle of equality under the law and will harm certain legal businesses. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (39-35- 1); Senate (19-8-2) and was allowed to become law when the Governor failed to sign or veto the bill. GrassRoots is considering this a yes vote for the governor; since he had the power to stop the tax increase but did nothing.
H) H.B.221(K. Garn) Reauthorizes over 40 state entities and programs within one bill. The purpose of sunset laws is for a program to end at a certain date. Reauthorizing a large number of unrelated programs in one bill is poor government. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (64-8- 3); Senate (22-0-7) and was signed into law by the Governor.
I) H.B. 227 (S. Sandstrom) Requires those applying for business licenses to show proof of U.S. citizenship. One of the proper roles of government is protecting our borders. This bill protects the rights of U.S. citizens and reinforces that we are a nation governed by laws. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (38-36-1) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
J) H.B. 234 (S. Sandstrom) Prohibits the state of Utah from participating in the federal Real ID program. One of the concerns with the Real ID is that it allows the government to have access to personal data of citizens. The proper role of government is to protect citizens’ rights not to collect private information that may be abused. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (70-0-5); Senate (23-5-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
K) H.B. 278 (C. Herrod) Requires government entities to produce documents in electronic format upon request; if documents are maintained electronically. This bill provides that this must be done within five business days. The citizens are the master of the government. This is information that “We the People” have a right too. This bill protects this right. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (63- 10-2); Senate (27-0-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
L) H.B. 324 (K. Sumsion) Appropriates up to $1 million to defend Utah’s Tenth Amendment rights in regards to public lands. It is unfortunate, that Utah would have to defend itself against the federal government when its rights are clearly outlined in the Tenth amendment. This is a necessary expenditure, as Utah defends its Constitutional right. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (48- 19-8), Senate (20-7-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
M) H.C.R. 2 (J. Fisher) Reaffirms Utah’s rights under the Tenth Amendment. It also encourages the U.S. Congress to repeal unconstitutional Tenth Amendment infringements and to prohibit future regulations. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (57-13-5), Senate (24-3-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
N) H.J.R. 21 (M. Noel) Urges the Governor of the State of Utah to withdraw from the Western Climate Initiative. When former Governor Huntsman joined the WCI on behalf of the state of Utah, he violated the separation of powers because it imposed executive government regulation without legislative approval. This resolution would restore the separation of powers. The WCI also increases government regulation on private enterprise. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (52-18-5) and Senate (19-8-2).
O) S.B. 11 (M. Dayton) Provides that firearms that are manufactured in the state of Utah are not subject to federal firearms laws and regulations and reasserts Utah’s Tenth Amendment rights. Items manufactured in the state of Utah and used in the state are not subject to the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (56-17-2); Senate (19-10-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
P) S.B. 43 (D. Liljenquist) Many former government employees have returned to employment with the government and are receiving not only their retirement benefits but also their regular salary or “double dipping” from the state. The fiscal note on this bill says that eliminating this practice, as this bill does, will save the state up to $10.5 million. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (55-20-0); Senate (20-8-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
Q) S.B. 44 (L. Robles) Waives the requirement that a legal immigrant child be a resident for at least five years before being eligible for the Utah Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). While the federal government would have funded this enlargement; the federal government does not have the money to pay for such an expansion. In addition, it is not the proper role of government to provide health care to its citizens. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Failed in the Senate (13-14-2).
R) S. B 47 (K Van Tassell) Permits power companies to curb your electrical consumption. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (53-19-3); Senate (21-7-1) and was vetoed by the Governor.
S) S.B. 66 (M. Madsen) Provides that a minor who is enrolled in private school or home school shall be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities in public school. Parents have a right to educate their children, as they see fit. Their children should not be penalized. If children who participate in public schools should be able to participate in activities, so should other children who reside within that school district. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (59-11-5); Senate (27-0-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
T) S.B. 77 (M. Dayton) Prohibits granting paid association leave for employees engaged in union activities. Also requires reimbursement to the school district if an employee is out doing union work for over 10 days. An auditor’s report revealed that many school districts were paying for activities which were not in the school’s best interest and hence not using tax payer dollars properly. This bill will save taxpayer dollars and insure that public employees are working for the public good while being paid by us. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the Senate (17-11-1) but failed in the House (25-43-7).
U) S.B. 251 (C Buttars) Over 50,000 Utah children have had their identities stolen. This bill helps protect these children by requiring businesses to check the legal status of those it seeks to hire. One of the proper roles of state government is to protect its borders and protect its citizens from being harmed. This bill reemphasizes the rule of law and protects those who are in this country legally. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (46-24-5); Senate (24-4-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
V) S.B. 272 (J. Stevenson) Allows the Utah Transit Authority to participate in real estate development. When we justly criticize the federal government for buying General Motors; we should not allow a quasi-government agency to compete with private enterprise in creating real estate projects. Government should not compete with private enterprise. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (47-22-6); Senate (19-7-3) and was signed into law by the Governor.
W) S.B. 273 (L.Hillyard) Bill creates a new restricted special revenue fund to receive hospital assessments. It also asserts that it is an important purpose of the state of Utah to improve the healthcare access of Medicaid recipients. This bill further entrenches the state of Utah in health care to attempt to get more federal funds. In a year when the state legislature did such a commendable job in reasserting our state’s Tenth Amendment rights, this bill attempts to get more federal funding for Medicaid. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (56-12-7), Senate (25-2-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
The Tenth Ammendment
By Don Guymon
The Tenth Amendment.
These three words were quoted over again and again during the 2010 legislative session.
Legislators passed bills which would allow Utah to use eminent domain on federally owned property in the state of Utah. They passed a bill which opted Utah out of the recently passed federal health care legislation. They passed a bill which makes Utah made firearms exempt from federal gun control laws. For good measure they passed a resolution confirming our belief in the Tenth Amendment.
“What took you so long?”
The issues affecting the state of Utah are not new. The Bush administration made many onerous decisions on federal property. It wasn’t like they were telling us, “You know we don’t need this federal land, why don’t you take it back?”
The No Child Left Behind Act, which was passed by the Bush administration, interfered in the state’s ability to educate our children, the way we saw fit. Yet, when legislation was introduced to opt out of NCLB in 2004 (HB 43) it could not even get the State Senate to take a vote. It did finally pass in 2005.
The Tenth Amendment is about our freedom. The government should adhere to it regardless of what label the president wears. The principle of freedom should not only extend to the state but down to our individual level as well. It is no coincidence that the preamble of the Constitution begins with “We the People”. We created government. We are its master.
Conservatives were rightfully upset when the federal government bought General Motors. Yet state lawmakers passed SB 272 which allowed a quasi- government agency, The Utah Transportation Authority, to become a partner in real estate ventures. A tax- subsidized, money-losing entity can now legally compete against the interests of private enterprise. But UTA is not alone. In recent years U-Star and Utopia have pitted the government against private enterprise.
The legislature passed HB 143 which would allow the State of Utah to use eminent domain on federal property, but the House voted in favor of a smoking ban in a motor vehicle when a child is present. Both are issues of property, but many legislators sent mixed messages on which side of the issue they belong. Second hand smoke does pose a threat. Parents shouldn’t smoke around their children; this is not a point of disagreement. What about their property rights? Isn’t this the same as the federal government saying, yes you shouldn’t drive your ATV in that area because it will leave tire tracks?
Many of our legislators have attended Tea Party rallies and 9/12 meetings to protest the threat of new federal mandates and taxes from the Obama administration. Yet, they had no problem passing HB196 which raised the cigarette tax $1 per pack or a $43 million increase on Utahans who smoke. Many say their constituents wanted them to pass the cigarette tax. I will bet those who supported the tax would not be affected. They forget the fact that even smokers’ children need the basic necessities of life. They forget that what happens when people stop smoking, who will pay for the funding of the new programs? Why is this different than the federal government imposing new taxes upon them?
The principle of freedom is not always convenient. Sometimes one must support principles that are not always popular. That is the difference between a republic and a democracy. When you start compromising principles in the cause of popularity; you make it easier to limit personal freedom in the future.
We are greatly encouraged by the Tea Parties. We home more and more people will embrace the principles of freedom and protest attempts to increase the size and scope of government. As we see a popular uprising of those remembering their threatened Constitutional freedoms. Let us not forget that many of these threats are not new. They will not go away in the future.
We must all fight for the principles of freedom each and every day. Remember that whenever you passively approve the loss of freedom of another person or group; you are ultimately endangering your own freedom. If you would like to help in the cause email us at email@example.com.