Legislative Updates - 30 January 2017

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Dear Friends:

This is GrassRoots’ first legislative update of this year’s General Session of the Utah State Legislature. We hope to be sending a weekly update on legislative happenings during the session, and will be concentrating on bills that we find to be friendly to the principles of limited government on one hand, or, on the other hand, friendly to big, intrusive government. As you may know, the principles of GrassRoots are summarized as Limited Government, Constitution, Representative Government, Free Market Economy, Participatory Republic, Family, and Separation of Powers.

We would encourage and challenge you, if you see one or more bills that interest you, contact your representative and/or senator about it/them. We think they usually hear enough from paid lobbyists (some would say more than enough), but they may not hear enough from you.

At this time (one week into the session), there are about 390 numbered bills for this session on the Utah Legislature website, maybe about half of the bills that will be numbered by the end of the session which, under the Utah Constitution, will go for 45 days. Here are some bills that we consider to be noteworthy.

The Right of Self-Defense, and 1 good bill

Defense of self and others is an unalienable right, recognized by our state and national constitutions:

“The individual right of the people to keep and bear arms for security and defense of self, family, others, property, or the state, as well as for other lawful purposes shall not be infringed; but nothing herein shall prevent the Legislature from defining the lawful use of arms” (Utah State Constitution, Article I, Section 6).

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” (United States Constitution, Second Amendment).

Keeping our code consistent with these constitutional provisions is part of each legislator’s duty under his or her oath to uphold our state and national constitutions. And, as implied in the Second Amendment, non-infringement of rights of self-defense is necessary to the maintenance of a free society.

The following bill (HB112) deserves our attention (and GrassRoots supports passage of this bill as currently drafted):

HB112, “Firearms Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Perry, would:

  • provide that a business owner who allows a person with a concealed carry permit to carry a firearm onto the owner's property is not civilly or criminally liable for harm caused by the discharge of that firearm, merely for allowing the carrying of the firearm; and
  • provide an exemption for a person, 21 years of age or older who may lawfully possess a firearm, from certain criminal provisions (Class B Misdemeanor) related to the carrying of a concealed firearm—essentially legalizing concealed carry of firearms for those 21 and older, without the need for a permit.

HB112 awaits action by the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.

GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on HB112.

Asset Forfeiture, and 2 good bills

Asset forfeiture, as practiced by state and federal governments, has facilitated the taking of property from numerous innocent owners on the basis that the property was used (but not even necessarily by the owner) in the commission of some crime. This practice is contrary to the idea that property rights are unalienable, and that no person should be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law.

Utah forfeiture code should be amended to ensure that it is consistent with the following principles:

  • Property should not be seized unreasonably (see United States Constitution, Fourth Amendment; Utah State Constitution, Article I, Section 14).
  • Owners should not suffer forfeiture of property without due process of law, including the right to trial by jury (see US Constitution, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendments; Utah Constitution, Article I, Sections 7 and 10).
  • Punitive forfeiture should be reasonably proportional to the crime(s) for which an individual has been convicted (see US Constitution, Eighth Amendment; Utah Constitution, Article I, Section 9).
  • Asset forfeiture proceeds should be directed as quickly as possible to the control of a legislative body, and should not be directed to a law enforcement agency, as appropriation of funds is a legislative function (see Utah Constitution, Article V, Section 1).
  • Cooperation with federal law enforcement should not be conducted in ways that violate these principles.

HB19, “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Greene and Senator Stephenson, would:

  • modify the elements of qualifying as an innocent owner regarding property subject to forfeiture, so that the owner is considered innocent if he did not himself commit, give permission for, or encourage the conduct subjecting the property to forfeiture;
  • require a direct nexus of the property to a specific alleged criminal exchange or transaction, in order for the property to be forfeited;
  • require the prosecutor to bring an action for civil forfeiture in a timely manner;
  • remove the cap of 20% of the value of the property subject to forfeiture when awarding legal costs and attorney fees; and
  • provide that if the defendant is acquitted of the criminal charge subsequent to the civil forfeiture proceeding, the forfeited assets shall be returned and the defendant shall be reimbursed for interest and costs as listed.

HB19 awaits action by House Judiciary Committee.

GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on HB19.

SB70, “Asset Forfeiture Transparency Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Stephenson, would:

  • in addition to current reporting requirements, require that law enforcement agencies reporting on a forfeiture action shall include: a) information on related criminal charges; b) the value of seized property; c) the agency's share of property received from a federal forfeiture case; d) the agency's costs incurred for storage of storing seized property; and e) the legal costs incurred by the prosecuting attorney; and amend the list of information to be provided regarding a forfeiture, and requires that the information be reported by a law enforcement agency, when: a) transferring disposition of property resulting from a forfeiture matter to the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice; and b) the law enforcement agency has been awarded any share of property forfeited by the federal government.

SB70 passed Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee 5-0 on January 25th.

SB70 would increase transparency of forfeitures in which the federal government is involved, and provide additional information on forfeitures in Utah. GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on SB70.

Other bills catching our attention

Here are two more bills catching our attention:

SB29, “Utah Marriage Commission Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Christensen, would:

  • increase the marriage license fee by $20 and create a restricted account to support marriage and relationship strengthening efforts in the state;
  • offer a couple a $20 rebate if both parties complete premarital education or counseling that meets specific criteria;
  • provide content requirements for premarital education and counseling;
  • provide requirements for providers of premarital education and counseling; and
  • create the Marriage Education Restricted Account.

SB29 passed the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee 3-1 on January 25th.

We would do better to leave pre-marital counseling to individuals, churches, and others in the private sector, and keep marriage license fees down. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB29.

SB60, “School District Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Davis and Representative Hutchings, would require a private school to

  • provide local education agencies with personally identifiable information of students with disabilities; and
  • provide parents of students with disabilities information regarding individual rights and school resources.

SB60 passed Senate Education Committee 4-0 on January 24th and is circled on Senate 2nd reading calendar.

Parents may already require disclosure of any information they require, if they so choose, before they choose to enroll their child in a given private school. And, if they are not satisfied with the disclosures (or any other aspect) of the private school, they may choose not to enroll their child. SB60 is unwarranted regulation of private schools and is arguably a violation of the 4th Amendment requirement that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches . . . shall not be violated. . . .” GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB60.

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.

Sincerely,

Steve Stromness
Vice-Chairman, Bill Review Coordinator, Utah GrassRoots
steven.stromness@gmail.com
435-637-5248

Don Guymon
Chairman, Utah GrassRoots
donguymon@gmail.com
801-574-9461

PS Do you want to contact a legislator? Go to le.utah.gov and click on “Legislators”.

Do you want to read and follow legislation yourself? Go to le.utah.gov and click on “2017 General Session Page” then click on “2017 Bills”.

Do you have other questions about how to effectively participate in the political process? Please contact us, and we will try to help as appropriate.

Do you have friends that would appreciate this legislative update? Please feel free to forward it to them.

Would you like to help us with review of legislation in a small or large way? Consider taking a special look at bills sponsored by your own representative or senator. Please contact us with your findings and/or with any questions we might be able to help you with.