Committed to Promoting the Principles of Limited Government, Constitution, Representative Government,
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Annual Report Card on Utah Legislature
PDF version (Contains ratings charts and rankings)
How Did Your Representatives Represent You in 2016?
A study by Utah Data Points (utahdatapoints.com) showed that, on the average bill, 93% of House and 96% of Senators voted together. Bills sponsored by Republicans passed 59% of the time, while bills sponsored by Democrats passed 53% of the time. The study pointed out this was the narrowest gap in a number of years.
If the legislature was passing bills which increased liberty and reduced government this would be a good trend. Of the 26 bills which GrassRoots included in its report 12 increased the intrusiveness of government; while only 5 of our covered bills which protected Constitutional rights or limited government passed. Four other good bills passed one chamber but did not pass in the other chamber.
Of the good bills passed this year, one protected second amendment rights (H.B. 67) and another will encourage individuals to become more self-reliant (S.B.153).
On the other hand, legislators voted to expand the role of government in health care (H.B. 437), housing (H.B. 431 and H.B. 436), cab-driving (S.B. 12, water pricing (S.B. 28) and California seaport construction (S.B. 246).
Fortunately, some intrusive ideas failed: A bill requiring parents opting out of having their child immunized to complete an “education module” (H.B. 221 (Sub 9), passed the House, but not the Senate. A bill which would have levied a 10 cent tax on all plastic bags taken from a store (S.B. 196) actually passed out of committee, but never came to a floor vote.
Legislators introduced 819 bills this year (which was the second highest total in state history). Of these bills 177 were introduced in the session’s final three weeks.
Greene Tops House; Dayton Leads Senate
House Summary: Brian Greene (R-UT) received the top score for the House in this year’s report. Rounding out the top 10% were Marc Roberts (R-UT), Kim Coleman (R-SL), John Knotwell (R-UT), Dan McCay (R-UT) and David Lifferth (R-UT).
Senate Summary: Margaret Dayton (R-UT) received the top score in the Senate. Also finishing in the top 10% were Scott Jenkins (R-WB) and Mark Madsen (R-SL).
Governor: Governor Herbert received a 24% compared to his lifetime average of 47%. Herbert’s previous scores were: 71% (2010); 73% (2011); 75% (2012); 28% (2013); 29% (2014); 41% (2015).
Averages: The House received an average score of 36% compared to its lifetime average of 47%. The Senate averaged a 53% which is the lifetime average of the Senate.
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. GrassRoots has no paid staff.
Analysis of Bills for 2016
Bills are listed by number with house bills listed first. The sponsor(s) of the bill is in parentheses with the primary sponsor listed first. 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://le.utah.gov. Also, on our website, we give more in-depth coverage of those bills marked by an asterisk than permitted in an eight-page newsletter.
A)* H.B. 22 (B. Greene, H. Stephenson) Reforms Utah’s Civil Asset Forfeiture code to better protect innocent property owners. Civil forfeiture, when used to take away property from innocent owners, is a violation of constitutional provisions directing that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” And “due process of law” should require that the prosecutor prove the government’s case—not that the property owner prove his innocence. HB22 brings Utah forfeiture code at least a little closer to this ideal. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (56-17-2) but was tabled in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.
B) H.B. 41 (S. Eliason, A. Millner) Puts government in competition with private enterprise by allowing schools to charge parents who send their children to kindergarten for the entire day. Starts to create another entitlement by requiring LEAs that provide full-day kindergarten to waive or reduce the fees where there is “an inability to pay the fee. Government should not be in the business of competing with private enterprise, nor creating more entitlements. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (47-27-1) but failed in the Senate (11-14-4).
C) H.B. 56 (B. Edwards, C. Bramble) Repeals the sunset date of the Women in the Economy Commission Act. One of the purposes of this commission is to “facilitate coordination of public entities concerned with women in the economy” Violates the tenet of equality under the law by requesting special rights for women in the economy. All citizens (both women and men) should be treated equally by government. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (69-0-6), Senate (21-5-3) and was signed into law by the Governor.
D) H.B. 67 (N. Thurston, A Christensen) Protects the second amendment right to bear arms by eliminating the third degree felony prohibition of carrying a firearm on a bus with no criminal intent. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (59-12-4) and Senate (24-2-3) and was signed into law by the Governor.
E) H.B. 69 S1 (F. Cox, S Jenkins, J. Fawson (sponsor of Substitute)) Repeals SB 54 passed in 2014 which violated political parties’ self-governance, right of association and first amendment rights. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Failed in the House (30-42-3).
F) H.B. 120 (S. Eliason, C Bramble) Increases, from $350 to $400 the administrative vehicle impound fee resulting from an arrest for DUI. Under pre-existing statute, there is no requirement for a conviction or guilty plea before imposition of this punitive impound fee; neither is there provision for refunding the impound fee if the arrested individual is found not guilty. This would violate the Fifth Amendment. While HB 120 did not create this due process problem, we believe it is imprudent to increase the impound fee without correcting this problem in Utah Code. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (71-0-4), Senate (21-0-8) and was signed into law by the Governor.
G) H.B. 160 (C. Hall, L. Hillyard) Requires justice court judges in first and second class counties to be law school graduates. The most important qualifications for a judge would include sound judgement, integrity and an ability to apply the law. Many people without a law degree possess these characteristics. Bill also appears to violate intent of the Utah State Constitution Article VIII, Section 11, which states: “[N]o qualification may be imposed which requires judges of courts not of record to be admitted to practice law. . . .” GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (52-20-3), Senate (24-4-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
H) H.B. 221 Sub 9 (C. Moss, B. Shiozawa) Requires parents who choose not to immunize their children to go through an “education module”. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (38-37-0) but did not come up for a final vote in the Senate.
I) H.B. 228 (G. Froerer, J. Stevenson) Removes unneeded government regulation by allowing distilleries and breweries to offer tastings to their customers. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (47-21-7), Senate (23-2-4) and was signed into law by the Governor.
J) H.B. 364 (B. Last, E. Vickers) Increases government regulation by prohibiting the use of an unregistered pharmacy benefit manager. Imposes a $250 punitive per day fine against a person accused of providing pharmacy benefit management services without the required registration. Such punishment should not be imposed without due process or opportunity for jury trial. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (55-20-0) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
K) H.B. 377 (L. Christensen, L Hillyard) Helps protect the rights of families by providing that a grandparent may petition for visitation after a parent’s rights have been terminated, unless the grandchild is adopted by a non-relative. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (43-22-10), Senate (18-9-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
L) H.B. 431 (B. Edwards, T. Weiler) Requires public transit districts to adopt transit-oriented development policies that include affordable housing. Transit districts should be focused on transportation and not expand into other areas of social planning. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (58-14-3), Senate (15-12-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
M) H.B. 436 (F. Gibson, T. Weiler) Creates the Homeless to Housing Reform Restricted Account and costs the taxpayers $9.25 million in expenditures for FY2017. While helping the homeless is a worthy endeavor, it is not a proper role of government. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (63-0-12), Senate (24-2-3) and was signed into law by the Governor.
N) H.B. 437 (J. Dunnigan, A. Christensen) Expands the role of government in the health care industry by appropriating $2.5 million to expand Medicaid in Utah. While the federal government is going to provide the majority of the funding, bill puts Utah taxpayers in jeopardy when the federal government stops funding. Programs such as this are best run by private charities. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (55-17-3), Senate (19-8-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
O) S.B. 12 (K. Mayne, P. Ray) Increases government regulation by prohibiting a person from driving a private passenger carrier unless the person has a valid taxicab endorsement or a commercial driver license. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (57-15-3), Senate (24-1-4) and was signed into law by the Governor.
P) S.B. 28 (S. Jenkins, L. Perry) Increases government regulation by requiring retail water providers to establish an increasing rate structure for culinary water. GrassRoots disagrees with the state removing local control of retail water providers by government mandates. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (64-9-2), Senate (26-2-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
Q) S.B. 45 (A. Jackson, J. Anderegg) Reduces penalties for parents under the compulsory education act. In a perfect world we would not have compulsory education, but this is a step in the right direction. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed in the Senate (22-5-2) but failed in the House (32-39-4).
R) S.B. 59 (T. Weiler, B. Edwards) Expands government by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related conditions. Further infringes an employer's right to peaceably run his business as he chooses. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (59-15-1), Senate (23-2-4) and was signed into law by the Governor.
S) S.B. 67 (A. Millner, B. Edwards) Appropriates $2 million for the “Partnerships for Student Success Grant Program” to hopefully improve educational outcomes for low income students. S.B. 67 is a hurtful step toward centralized social planning and away from local and parental control. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (55-20-5), Senate (20-6-3) and was signed into law by the Governor.
T) S.B. 73 (M. Madsen, G. Froerer) Increases personal freedom by legalizing the use of medical cannabis in Utah. Individuals who have serious health conditions have seen improvement in their health through the use of medical cannabis which is currently against the law in Utah. In a free society, individuals should be able to make health decisions for themselves without the fear of government putting them in jail. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the Senate (17-12-0) but failed in House Committee.
U) S.B. 100 (L. Hillyard, J. Anderegg) Limits government by limiting the amounts a local government can receive from traffic fines to 25% of the government’s revenue. When more than 25% of a local government’s revenues come from traffic fines, we might suspect that law enforcement priorities have become corrupted. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the Senate (23-4-2) but did not come up for a vote in the House.
V) S.B. 101 (A. Millner, B. Last) Appropriates over $11 million dollars in 2017 and again in 2018 for programs to hopefully improve school readiness of eligible students. These programs and associated grants are to be administered by the (distant) State Board of Education, and/or Department of Workforce Services. SB 101 is another hurtful step toward centralized social planning (with its usual favoritism and inequality under the law) and away from local and parental control GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (63-10-2), Senate (22-3-4) and was signed into law by the Governor.
W) S.B. 107 (S. Urquhart) Expands the definition of “hate crimes.” and enhanced penalties for “hate crimes.” Violates the principle of equality under the law by punishing an individual for his belief rather than actions. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Failed in the Senate (11-17-1)
X) S.B. 153 (L. Fillmore, S. Eliason) Requires individuals on certain public assistance programs to complete at least two hours of approved self-reliance training within 90 days of receiving assistance. Where we have public assistance, one goal should be to reduce associated dependence, both for the good of the recipient and for the good of the taxpayer. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (45-28-2), Senate (24-3-3) and was signed into law by the Governor.
Y) S.B. 234 (C. Bramble, K Stratton) Requires a physician performing an abortion to administer measures to reduce pain of the unborn child. Also requires doctors to notify patients seeking abortions that an unborn child over 20 weeks gestational age may experience pain. Our foremost unalienable right is the right to life. While the preference would be for abortion to be eliminated, this bill aims to reduce the number of abortions performed in the state. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (57-10-8), Senate (25-3-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
Z) S.B. 246 (S. Adams, M. McKell) Creates and transfers $53 to the Impacted Communities Transportation Development Restricted Account, with the apparent purpose of funding development of a seaport near Oakland California that will hopefully facilitate the export of Utah coal. This is economic planning that would be best left to the private sector rather than be socialized. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (52-17-6), Senate (20-7-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
If Utah Wants to Be Sovereign, It Needs to Act Like It
By Don Guymon
During the past session, the Utah Legislature overwhelmingly passed H.B. 437. It passed overwhelmingly in both the House (55-17-3) and Senate (19-8-2).
Also during this session, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed H.B. 287 in the House (54-12-9) and Senate (20-4-5) which creates accounts for the state to prepare to sue the federal government for the return of federal land within the state.
With H.B. 437, the state of Utah decided to accept money from the federal government to expand Medicaid expansion in the state of Utah, while on the other hand setting aside the money to sue the federal government to take back its federal land.
Ultimately Utah needs to decide if it is a sovereign state or not.
With Medicaid expansion the federal government is promising to pay 70% of the cost to expand Medicaid, therefore Utah voted to put its hand out to the federal government thus becoming more dependent upon the federal government. Many of our elected representatives were upset that we didn’t decide to take more from the federal government.
A 2014 report from the Utah auditor showed that 25% of Utah expenditures came from the federal government. In 1984 this percentage was 19%; the high was 30% in 2010.
Our dependence on the federal government should be concerning to all tax payers. Our federal government is almost $19 trillion in debt. What happens to our state, when the federal government finally gets serious about balancing its budget? The money will dry up from the federal government and Utah will have to foot the bill. Unlike the federal government, our Utah Constitution requires our legislative and executive branches to balance its budget every year (and rightfully so). We will not be able to kick the can down the road, so tax increases or painful benefit cuts to entitlements will occur.
While the money; we rely upon is troubling, it is also troubling that we are hurting our own cause for taking our public lands back. It is hard to make an argument that we are a sovereign state, when we are so reliant upon the federal government.
Just like a parent who is able to control their child, in part because that child is financially dependent upon them; Utah is playing the part of the child, wanting to be an adult while asking Mom and Dad for $20 so he can go out with his friends. Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson said, “[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)
Utah’s elected officials would do well to begin to wean Utah from the federal government. Becoming self-sufficient will allow Utahans, not federal bureaucrats and out of state politicians to make decisions which affect our great state.
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