Legislative Updates - 30 January 2018

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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 weekly updates on legislative happenings during the session, and will be concentrating on bills that we find to be friendly to the principles of limited, constitutional 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 400 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 and issues that we consider to be noteworthy.

The Right of Self-Defense, and 2 bills catching our attention

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.

Here are a couple bills that, we believe, have some relation (whether friendly or unfriendly) to our natural rights of self-defense.

HB129, “Self-Defense Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Maloy and Senator Hinkins, would amend existing statute to provide that:

  • an individual is not required to retreat from an aggressor even if there is a safe place to which the individual can retreat; and
  • an individual's failure to retreat is not relevant when determining whether the individual acted reasonably.

HB129 awaits consideration by House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.

Already existing statute states that “A person is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the person or a third person as a result of another person's imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony” (Utah Code Section 76-2-402(1)(a)).

The clarifications to Utah Code proposed by HB129 would be helpful in avoiding a situation in which aggressors might assume that their intended victims have a legal duty to retreat. GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on HB129.

SB16, “Public Safety Fee Revisions”, sponsored by Senator Thatcher and Representative Hutchings, would:

  • increase fees to be collected with a host of applications (such as various driver license applications, taxi cab endorsement applications, learner permit applications) by the Driver License Division;
  • increase the renewal fee for a concealed firearm permit from $15 to $24.75; and
  • increase the criminal history background check fee (when purchasing a firearm) from $7.50 to $10.

SB16 passed the Senate Judicary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee 5-0 on January 24th, and awaits consideration on the Senate 2nd Reading Calendar.

In its current state, SB16 constitutes a tax increase on people exercising their natural rights of self-defense. If the government insists on requiring permitting of the bearing of concealed weapons (highly questionable in relation to the 2nd Amendment) and requiring criminal history background checks of firearm purchasers, it still does not make sense to force law-abiding citizens to pay these taxes on self-defense. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB16.

Other bills catching our attention

HB83, “Forcible Entry and Warrants Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Roberts, would add new language to Utah Code as follows:

  • “(3) The presence of a firearm within a private residence, in the absence of other information suggesting that the firearm might be used against a peace officer executing a warrant, is not relevant in determining whether forcible entry may be authorized.
  • (4) A judge or magistrate issuing a warrant pursuant to Subsection (2) shall ensure that the affidavit for the warrant:
    • (a) explains why a peace officer is unable to detain the suspect or search the residence using less invasive or confrontational methods;
    • (b) explains why the warrant cannot be executed during daytime, which is the hours beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. local time, if the warrant is to be executed at night; and
    • (c) describes:
    • (i) investigative activities that have been, or will be, undertaken before execution of the warrant to ensure that the correct building is identified and that potential harm to innocent third parties, the building, and peace officers may be minimized; or
    • (ii) why no investigative activities are needed.”

HB83 awaits consideration by the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.

Forcible entry by “law enforcement” has been abused across the country, including in Utah. Abusive forcible entry has been the cause of unfortunate injury and death of innocent people. This is contrary to the letter and intent of the US Constitution, Fourth Amendment, and of the Utah State Constitution, Article I, Section 14, both of which prohibit “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

These instructions to judges, limiting when forcible entry may be used, and requiring certain information in affidavits requesting such warrants, are appropriate for ensuring that our Fourth Amendment rights are preserved and upheld.

GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on HB83.

SB86, “Victim Targeting Penalty Enhancements”, sponsored by Senator Thatcher, would provide for an enhanced penalty for a criminal offense if the offender acted against an individual (or against an individual’s property) because of the offender's perception of the individual's ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

SB86 awaits consideration by the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee.

Criminal actions, especially premeditated criminal actions, with criminal intent should be punished. We do not believe that SB86 does anything to advance this principle.

Beliefs and perceptions, even racist or nationalist or sexist or other beliefs and perceptions that we may find offensive, should not be punished. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB86.

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 “2018 General Session Page” then click on “2018 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.