Legislative Updates - 26 February 2018

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Dear Friends:

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

At this time (five weeks into the session), there are about 760 numbered bills for this session. Following is discussion of some bills that we consider to be noteworthy.

Bills catching our attention this week

HB161Sub2, “Auto Registration Requirements”, sponsored by Representative Watkins, would:

  • remove the requirement for an individual to sign a vehicle registration card;
  • remove the requirement, but encourage an individual, to carry a vehicle registration card;
  • remove the (infraction) penalty for failure to sign or display a vehicle registration card.

HB161Sub2 passed the House Transportation Committee 8-0 on Feb 16th and awaits consideration by the full House.

In most cases, we dare say, failure to carry a piece of paper should not be a crime. GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on HB161Sub2.

SB181Substitute, “Infertility Insurance Coverage Pilot Program”, sponsored by Senator Escamilla and Representative LaVar Christensen, would require the Public Employees' Health Plan to create a 3-year pilot program to cover a portion of the cost of using an assisted reproductive technology.

According to the fiscal note for SB181Substitute, “It is estimated that the program will draw down Public Employee Health Plan reserve funds by approximately $342,400 annually for each of the three years.”

SB181Substitute passed the Senate Business and Labor Committee 5-0 on Feb 15th, and awaits consideration on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

People paying directly for what they want (including using assisted reproduction technology) allows free-market pricing mechanisms to give needed feedback, and this ultimately helps the economy to produce what people want and need most. Much distortion and inefficiency in our economy is caused by people not paying directly for what they want.

We think either a direct wage increase for government employees, or a tax cut for all of us, would be a better than a government subsidy for use of assisted reproduction technology subsidy, even if it is only $342K per year. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB181Substitute.

SB185, “Post-film Production Incentives”, sponsored by Senator Anderegg, would:

  • allow the Governor's Office of Economic Development to provide motion picture incentives for companies engaging in post-production work in Utah;
  • increase the amount of tax credits available for motion picture incentives; and
  • remove the cap on cash rebate incentives allowed for any one motion picture.

The bill’s fiscal note estimates that SB185 “could reduce revenue to the Education Fund by $5,006,300 annually beginning in FY 2019.”

SB185 passed the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee 4-0 on Feb 21st, and awaits consideration on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

SB185 provides for additional social planning by the Governor's Office of Economic Development, and appears to advance crony capitalism in Utah. While we are all in favor of a $5 million (or larger) tax cut, we would prefer that it be done in such a way as to treat various individuals and businesses more equally. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB185.

Updated status on bills mentioned in earlier GrassRoots updates

HB83, “Forcible Entry and Warrants Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Roberts, was replaced by HB83Substitute, which itself was amended. HB83Substitute, as amended, would:

  • require supervisory officials to conduct reviews, and specify that “Before seeking a warrant from a judge or magistrate pursuant to Subsection (3), a supervisory official shall, using the officer's affidavit and other relevant information, independently perform a risk assessment to evaluate the totality of the circumstances and ensure reasonable intelligence gathering efforts have been made”;
  • require certain information in affidavits requesting specific warrants, including a description of “investigative activities that have been undertaken to ensure that the correct building is identified and that potential harm to innocent third parties, the building, and officers may be minimized”;
  • specify that “a warrant shall be served during daytime hours unless the affidavit states sufficient grounds to believe a search is necessary during nighttime hours”;
  • specify that “Forcible entry may be made for distribution of a controlled substance.”

Our coverage of the original HB83 may be found in our update of January 29th.

HB83Substitute passed the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee 6-2 on Feb 23rd, and awaits consideration by the full House.

HB83Substitute appears to us to be a weakened version of the original bill, but we think it still constitutes a step in the direction of greater respect for constitutional prohibitions of “unreasonable searches and seizures” (US Constitution, Fourth Amendment; Utah State Constitution, Article I, Section 14).

GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on HB83Substitute.

SB16, “Public Safety Fee Revisions”, sponsored by Senator Thacker and Representative Hutchings, was replaced by SB16Substitute, which would:

  • remove some Department of Public Safety fees from statute;
  • require that some department fees shall be set as required by the Budgetary Procedures Act; and
  • increase concealed firearm permit application and renewal fees.

Our coverage of the original SB16 may be found in our update of January 29th.

SB16Substitute passed the Senate 2nd Reading 19-6 on Feb 23rd, and awaits consideration on the Senate 3rd Reading Calendar.

We are still studying this version of SB16, but we oppose increasing taxes on self-defense. If the government insists on requiring permitting of the bearing of concealed weapons (highly questionable in relation to the 2nd Amendment), it still does not make sense to force law-abiding citizens to pay these taxes on self-defense. GrassRoots tentatively favors a “no” vote on SB16.

SB54Substitute, “Marriage and Premarital Counseling and Education Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Christensen and Representative Edwards, would authorize the county clerk to increase the marriage license fee (by $20) for applicants who fail to complete specified premarital counseling or education.

Additional coverage of SB54Substitute may be found in our update of February 5th.

SB54Substitute passed the Senate 23-4 on Feb 21st and awaits consideration by the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee.

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 still favors a “no” vote on SB54Substitute.

SB136, “Transportation Governance Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Harper and Representative Schultz, was replaced by SB136Substitute. According to SB136Substitute’s long title (a summary of the bill typically drafted by the drafting attorney in the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel), the new version of the bill would still:

  • modify responsibilities, authority, makeup, and governance of the Department of Transportation, and of a large public transit district (like the Utah Transit Authority (UTA));
  • require a large public transit district to transition retirement benefits to fall under the provisions and oversight provided in the Utah State Retirement and Insurance Benefit Act;
  • create the "Transit Transportation Investment Fund" (called the "Public Transportation Capital Investment Fund" in the original version of SB136) within the Transportation Investment Fund of 2005; and
  • impose a deadline for a local government to impose certain local option sales and use taxes.

SB136Substitute would also impose a statewide sales and use tax to generate revenue for transportation, while not imposing certain other tax increases proposed in the original version of SB136.

At this time, we do not see a revised fiscal note for SB136Substitute on the Legislature’s website, but, reportedly, the bill “would raise the state sales tax by 0.15 percent starting in 2019 to raise $80 million annually for mass transit projects” (Lisa Riley Roche, “Revised transportation task force bill would hike Utah sales tax to 4.85%”, Deseret News, February 23rd, 2018).

Our coverage of the original SB136 may be found in our update of February 19th.

SB136Substitute awaits consideration on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

Admittedly, there is reason to believe there is a need to reform the UTA. And we must admit that we have not studied this 5800+ line substitute bill to our satisfaction. But we do not believe government and taxes in Utah are too small at this time, and are leery of any tax increases not accompanied by offsetting tax cuts.

Based on our study up to the present time, GrassRoots tentatively favors a “no” vote on SB136.

SB146, “Technology Summit Incentives”, sponsored by Senator Anderegg and Representative Wilson, was would allow some nonprofit organizations engaged in publicizing, developing, and promoting the high tech sector to qualify for a grant from the Industrial Assistance Account.

The original bill provided for an appropriation of $1 million in fiscal year 2019 to the Economic Development - Industrial Assistance Fund as an ongoing appropriation, but this has been amended down to $500K.

Additional coverage of SB146 may be found in our update of February 12th.

SB146 passed the Senate 18-9 on Feb 21st, and awaits consideration by House Revenue and Taxation Committee.

This looks like another proposal to insert government into activities that should be pursued (or freely not pursued) in the private sector. A tax cut of $500K would be more helpful to our freedom and prosperity than this proposed spending. GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on SB146.

SB154, “Prohibition of Law Enforcement Quotas”, sponsored by Senator Howard Stephenson and Representative Coleman, was replaced by SB154Substitute, which itself was amended. SB154Substitute, as amended, would prohibit a political subdivision or law enforcement agency from:

  • requiring or directing a peace officer to meet an arrest, citation, stop, or other quota; or
  • transferring, promoting, disciplining, or taking any other action against a peace officer for reasons related to an arrest, citation, stop, or other quota.

Additional coverage of the original SB154 may be found in our update of February 12th.

SB154Substitute passed the Senate 23-2 on Feb 21st, and awaits consideration by the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.

Law Enforcement Quotas as defined in this bill distort law enforcement priorities. This bill is a sound step in the direction of avoiding such distortion of priorities. GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on SB154Substitute.

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

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