Legislative Updates - 5 February 2018

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Dear Friends:

This is GrassRoots’ second weekly legislative update of this year’s General Session of the Utah State Legislature.

At this time (two weeks into the session), there are about 500 numbered bills for this session. Read on for coverage of some bills that we consider to be noteworthy.

Education bills

This week, some bills relating to education and schools in Utah have caught our attention. In our judgment of, and positions on, these bills, the following principles and ideas have guided our thinking:

The traditional family is the fundamental unit of society for the support, teaching, and nurturing of minors. Parents are primarily responsible for, and should have control over, the education of their children.

Government should avoid unwarranted interference in the functioning of families and with the prerogatives of parents—including directing the education of their children.

Government should also avoid excessive taxation for all manner of education and other spending. While some spending on education is extremely valuable, government is often an inferior, and more corrupt, entity (in comparison with parents, students, and other private parties) for making such spending decisions—in no small part because of the force (compulsion) that is involved in implementing most government programs.

Local community control of education is usually better than control by a distant State Board of Education.

So far, civilization has survived in Utah without various proposed programs. We doubt if any of these proposals are necessary for Utah, even if there might be some benefits to some individuals. (Of course, with “the law of unintended consequences” at work, as it so often is in government matters, we suspect that the costs of each of these programs would far outweigh the benefits.)

Here are some education-related bills that have caught our attention:

HB164Sub2, “Early Learning Task Force”, sponsored by Representative Cutler and Senator Millner, would create the Early Childhood Task Force, including provisions related to task force membership and duties.

Task Force membership would be as follows:

  • six state legislators;
  • one member of the State Board of Education;
  • representatives of various bureaucratic interests, including: the superintendent of public instruction or his designee; the director of the Department of Workforce Services or his designee; the director of the Department of Health or his designee; and the director of the Department of Human Services or his designee; and
  • representatives of various special interests, including: an individual who represents a public or nonprofit nationally accredited early childhood education center; and an individual who represents a licensed private childcare provider.

Task Force duties would be as follows:

  • make “policy recommendations related to a comprehensive state strategy for early childhood to ensure that children are prepared to succeed academically”; and
  • provide a report, including any proposed legislation, to various Legislative Interim Committees.

"Early childhood" is defined in the bill to mean “the period of time when a child: (i) is younger than six years old; and (ii) has not entered kindergarten.” So the bill seems designed to extend the government’s influence over the youngest children and how they are raised.

HB164Sub2 passed the House Education Committee 5-3 on January 31st, and awaits consideration by the full House.

Is the task of creating said “comprehensive state strategy for early childhood” a proper exercise of government power? Might a “comprehensive state strategy for early childhood” displace currently decentralized parental strategies for early childhood? This looks like a step in the direction of centralized social planning.

The duties of this proposed task force are, by nature, legislative, and yet the membership would be a hodge-podge of bureaucratic and private interests. If the mission of the task force is, indeed, an appropriate legislative task, then it should be performed by a purely legislative committee composed of elected representatives of the people.

GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on HB164Sub2.

HB235Substitute, “Family School Partnership”, sponsored by Representative Cutler, would:

  • create the Family School Partnership Pilot Program;
  • require the State Board of Education to: a) determine which elementary schools are eligible for the Family School Partnership Pilot Program (generally those with the most students with low school attendance); and b) award grants to selected participating schools; and
  • require participating schools to implement home visits by “educators” where “the initial home visit is focused on building a relationship and the second home visit is focused on academic success”.

The bill’s fiscal note estimates an annual cost to state government of $345K per year in Fiscal Years 20109 and 2020. The fiscal note also says the estimated cost to a participating local school is $9-12K.

HB235Substitute awaits consideration by the House Education Committee.

This looks like creeping top-down direction of local education and outreach methods by a distant grant-awarding State Board of Education. And, with the use of state tax-dollars in this manner, one must suspect that the senior partner in any “Family School Partnership” is the state. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on HB235Substitute.

SB104Substitute, “Talent Development and Retention Strategy”, sponsored by Senator Millner and Representative Wilson, would:

  • create the Talent Development Incentive Loan Program to award an incentive loan to an individual who: a) pursues a qualifying degree for a qualifying job; and b) intends to work in a qualifying job in Utah;
  • require the institution of higher education to award incentive loans;
  • allow an institution of higher education to use money from a business or industry partner for funding or repaying an incentive loan;
  • provide for the Governor's Office of Economic Development to determine which jobs are qualifying jobs and the qualifying degrees for each qualifying job;
  • describe the conditions under which repayment of an incentive loan is waived or required;
  • require the State Board of Regents to make rules; and
  • appropriate in fiscal year 2019: to the State Board of Regents - Student Assistance - Talent Development Incentive Loan Program, as an ongoing appropriation: from the Education Fund, $2,500,000.

SB104Substitute passed the Senate Education Committee 4-0 on January 25th, and awaits consideration on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

SB104Substitute provides for more social planning by various bureaucrats. A $2.5 million tax cut would be more beneficial to the economy and to our freedom than this program. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB104Substitute.

Another bill catching our attention

SB54Substitute, “Marriage and Premarital Counseling and Education Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Christensen, would:

  • authorize the county clerk to increase the marriage license fee (by $20) for applicants who fail to complete specified premarital counseling or education;
  • channel the monies from the $20 fee increase to the State;
  • amend existing state policy that encourages pre-marital counseling for those under the age of 19 and persons who have been divorced . . . to encouraging pre-marital counseling for all marriage license applicants;
  • repeal a misdemeanor penalty for violation of various counseling provisions;
  • outline additional duties and powers of the largely unelected Utah Marriage Commission; and
  • provide for a five year sunset review.

SB54Substitute passed the Senate Business and Labor Committee 6-0 on February 1st, and awaits consideration on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

Admittedly, one good thing about SB54Substitute is its repeal of a misdemeanor penalty for violation of various counseling provisions, but we suspect these provisions are not being enforced any way.

We would do better to leave pre-marital counseling in the voluntary realm of individuals, families, churches, and others in the private sector, and keep marriage license fees down (or even do away with marriage licensing altogether). GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB54Substitute.

Updated status on a bill mentioned in last week’s GrassRoots update

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 passed the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee 7-3 on January 31st, and awaits consideration by the full House.

GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on HB129.

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”.

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