Legislative Updates - 6 March 2017
This is GrassRoots’ sixth weekly legislative update of this year’s General Session of the Utah State Legislature.
At this time (six weeks into the session), there are about 800 numbered bills for this session, and 234 of these have already passed.
According to the Legislature’s website, 474 bills passed during the 2016 General Session. A like performance this year might mean that another 240 bills are passed in the last 4 days of the session, which ends on Thursday, March 9th. We hope this does not occur again; if it does, then we suspect many bills would pass without adequate reading, discussion, and understanding.
It would be well for us to remember James Madison’s description, in Federalist No. 62, of the evils of fast-changing laws:
These timeless remarks by James Madison should be remembered by our state legislators as they are asked to vote on numerous bills during the last few days of the session. While some of these bills may be good, there is also something to be said for a mostly-unchanging, stable set of laws.
Following is coverage of some bills that we consider to be of interest.
Bills catching our attention this week
SB196, “Health Education Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Adams and Representative Stratton, would repeal language prohibiting the advocacy of homosexuality in health instruction by government schools.
SB196 passed the Senate 24-1 on March 1st, and awaits consideration by the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Advocacy of homosexuality to young students is not a proper role of government, nor of the government schools. The current prohibition should stay in place. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB196.
SB264Substitute, “Outdoor Recreation Grant Program”, sponsored by Senator Okerlund and Representative Wilson, would:
The fiscal note estimates that the additional 0.32% tax is envisioned to raise an additional $5 million per year.
SB264Substitute passed the Senate 18-6 on March 1st, and the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee 8-2 on March 3rd, and awaits consideration by the full House.
Should government be in the recreational infrastructure business? We are not so sure.
Is the proposed advisory committee consistent with the ideal of Representative Government that is accountable to the people? Like so many “public-private partnerships”, the composition of the advisory committee has the appearance of a crony-capitalist-and-government-bureaucrat “swamp”.
GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB264Substitute.
Updated status on sales tax bills
There is a continued effort to increase the collection of taxes on purchases by Utah residents from out-of-state companies. When this is done by forcibly deputizing out-of-state companies to enforce, or to help enforce, Utah tax laws, this seems to us ill-advised and constitutionally questionable.
SB83Substitute, “Sales Tax Notification Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Harper and Representative McKell, would require that certain out-of-state companies (that do not collect and remit sales and use tax) with aggregate sales, in the previous calendar year, of more than $100,000 to Utah customers:
SB83Substitute passed the Senate 24-1 on March 1st, and awaits consideration by the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.
This bill would create new requirements (which may be difficult to enforce) on out-of-state companies, to collect and share various information on Utah residents, and to inform Utah residents of their tax liability. Forcing out-of-state companies to help enforce Utah tax laws is unwarranted. GrassRoots still favors a "no" vote on SB83Substitute.
SB110Substitute was replaced by SB110Sub2, “Sales Tax Collection Amendments”. Sponsors are Senator Bramble and Representative Noel. SB110Substitute would have required an out-of-state company, with annual sales of $100,000 or more to Utah residents, to collect sales taxes on purchases made by Utahns. Like its predecessor, SB110Sub2 is a long, complicated bill (over 1900 lines, with numerous cross-references to various sections of Utah Code), and we still do not understand it sufficiently to fairly describe the most important parts of the bill. According to the long title of SB110Sub2, it would:
The apparent purpose of the severability clause is to ensure that effect is given to all parts of the bill that are not found unconstitutional by a court (which appears quite possible from the Legislative Review Note that accompanies the bill).
SB110Sub2 failed the House Revenue and Taxation Committee 5-5 on March 3rd, and may be dead for this session (but no guarantees).
GrassRoots favored a “no” vote on SB110Substitute, and would favor a “no” vote on any subsequent version that would forcibly deputize out-of-state companies to enforce Utah tax laws.
Updated status on other bills covered in earlier GrassRoots updates
HB159Substitute, “Amendments to Voter Registration”, sponsored by Representative Handy and Senator Adams, would:
HB159Substitute having passed the House, was assigned to the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee.
Voting is a serious privilege with serious consequences. Registration to vote should not be viewed as just another automatic occurrence when one visits the DMV for a driver license renewal. GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on HB159Substitute.
HB198, “Concealed Carry Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Lisonbee and Senator Weiler, would:
HB198 passed the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee 4-1 on March 1st, and awaits consideration by the full Senate.
Extending recognition of rights of self-defense, in this manner, to those 18 to 20 years of age, is a sound step. GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on HB198.
HB253Substitute was replaced by HB253Sub2, “Short-Term Rental Amendments.” Sponsors are Representative Knotwell and Senator Adams. Like previous versions, HB253Sub2 would still prevent a political subdivision from prohibiting a person from listing or offering a short-term rental on a short-term rental website.
HB253Sub2 passed the House 71-1 on February 27th and the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee 3-0 on March 1st, and awaits consideration by the full Senate.
Property owners should be free to rent, or otherwise use, their property as they please. GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on HB253Sub2.
HB259Substitute, “Duty to Retreat Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Maloy and Senator Dayton would still amend existing statute to:
HB259Substitute passed the House 53-15 on March 2nd, and awaits consideration by the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee.
HB259Substitute would clarify Utah statute to avoid a situation in which aggressors might assume that their intended victims have a legal duty to retreat. GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on HB259Substitute.
HB312, “Housing Pilot Program for Low-income Students”, sponsored by Representative Winder and Senator Howard Stephenson, would still:
HB312 passed the House 57-15 on February 28th, and the Senate Education Committee 6-0 on March 3rd, and awaits consideration by the full Senate.
We do not need a pilot program to pursue more social planning related to low-income student housing. We would benefit from less taxes being taken from the private sector for such social planning. GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on HB312.
HB332 was replaced by HB332Substitute, “Criminal Procedure Revisions”, still sponsored by Representative Roberts. HB332Substitute would specify that “The jury shall be informed of the potential sentence for a guilty verdict.”
HB332Substitute failed the House 29-45 on March 3rd.
Juries have a duty to seek justice, and the defendant’s potential sentence for a guilty verdict is a legitimate consideration for the jury. GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on HB332Substitute.
SB115Substitute, “Compulsory Education Revisions”, sponsored by Senator Anderegg, would eliminate criminal penalties (Class B Misdemeanor) for a parent of a truant school-age child.
SB115Substitute failed the Senate 13-15 on February 28th. The original vote was 14-14, but the sponsor, Senator Anderegg, requested to change his vote to a “no” vote, and was allowed to do so. The next day, having voted on the prevailing side, Senator Anderegg was able to make a motion (which he did) to reconsider SB115Substitute, and this motion passed. He then circled SB115Substitute, so that it may be brought to another Senate vote.
Should a parent of a "truant" school-age child be subject to 6 months in prison and a $1000 fine for this "offense"? We think not. In a manner of speaking, SB115Substitute would decriminalize various parental actions and inactions that are no one else’s business. GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on SB115Substitute.
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.
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”.
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