Legislative Updates - 11 February 2019

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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 510 numbered bills for this session. Read on for coverage of some bills that we consider to be noteworthy.

Bills catching our attention this week

HB13, “Distracted Driver Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Carol Spackman Moss and Senator Ipson, would broaden the prohibition on use or handling of a handheld wireless communication device (such as a cell phone) while operating a motor vehicle on a roadway:

  • by specifying that an individual “may not hold or use a handheld wireless communication device while operating a moving motor vehicle on a roadway in this state”; and
  • by eliminating exceptions: a) for using a handheld communication device for voice communication; and b) for viewing a global positioning or navigation device or a global positioning or navigation application.

The broadened prohibition is classified as a class C misdemeanor (or, in cases of repeat offenders or causing of bodily injury, a class B misdemeanor). Also the pre-existing maximum fine for a class C misdemeanor under this section is $100, but HB13 repeals this maximum so that the maximum fine would be $750 (the maximum fine for class C misdemeanors).

HB13 passed the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee 9-0 on February 6th, and awaits consideration by the full House.

Individuals should be held responsible (civilly liable) for damages caused by their careless or negligent acts. But we should also remember that those convicted of a class C misdemeanor may be imprisoned for up to 90 days; or up to 6 months for a class B misdemeanor. Do we want to define as criminals those who use, or even hold, a cell-phone while driving? We would lean against such a definition. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on HB13.

HB34, “Campaign Finance Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Perry, would:

  • modify financial reporting requirements for a political action committee (PAC) such that a PAC shall report each contribution to the lieutenant governor within 3 business days after the day on which the contribution is received if the contribution is received: a) within 30 days before the day on which a state or county convention for a registered political party is held; b) within 30 days before the day on which the primary election is held; or c) within 30 days before the day on which the general election is held;
  • enact penalties (fines) for failure to comply with PAC financial reporting requirements; and
  • require a corporation to make financial disclosures (of donor&‘s name, address, and amount of donation) for certain donations (totaling $100 or more by the same donor during a year) made to the corporation with the knowledge or intent that the donated money will be used by the corporation for political purposes.

HB34 awaits consideration by the House Government Operations Committee.

We are concerned about the invasion of privacy of individuals and groups choosing to donate to various political causes.

What is the concern that is to be addressed by these new regulations and penalties? Corruption? Bribery? We have our doubts whether a small contribution to a PAC, or a $100 contribution to a corporation, is enough to buy significant influence with the powers that be.

We are also concerned about the advantage that these additional regulations are likely to give to monied individuals and interests who can easily hire staff to comply with these regulations. On the other hand, a “small-time” or “operating-on-a-shoestring” PAC that collects $751 or $2000 would have to spend scarce resources to comply with these additional regulations.

The new regulations and penalties proposed in HB34 are unwarranted. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on HB34.

HB57, “Electronic Information or Data Privacy”, sponsored by Representative Hall, would:

  • define “electronic information or data” to mean “information or data including a sign, signal, writing, image, sound, or intelligence of any nature transmitted or stored in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photooptical system”; and to include “the location information, stored data, or transmitted data of an electronic device”;
  • specify that “electronic information or data” “does not include: (i) a wire or oral communication; (ii) a communication made through a tone-only paging device; (iii) a communication from a tracking device; or (iv) electronic funds transfer information stored by a financial institution in a communications system used for the electronic storage and transfer of money”;
  • require issuance of a search warrant to obtain certain electronic information or data; and
  • provide that the individual who transmits electronic information or data is the presumed owner of the electronic information or data.

HB57 awaits consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.

The proposed requirement, that government entities obtain a search warrant based upon probable cause before obtaining private electronic information or data, is consistent with the original intent of the Fourth Amendment, which says: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.” (Similar language may be found in Utah State Constitution, Article I, Section 14.)

We are displeased about HB57&‘s specifications of what “electronic information or data” does not include, such as various “electronic funds transfer information”, but, in these cases, we believe there is already a governing law (whether good or bad) on the subject. (For instance, the tentacles of the Surveillance State seem to be far-reaching in our current banking system, inconsistent with the original intent of the Fourth Amendment.)

HB57 appears to be, on balance, a move in the direction of respect for the Fourth Amendment and associated rights of privacy. GrassRoots tentatively favors a “yes” vote on HB57.

HB207, “License Plate Placement Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Acton, would:

  • remove the requirement that two license plates be issued and displayed; and
  • require only one license plate be displayed on the rear of the vehicle.

HB207 awaits consideration by House Transportation Committee.

HB207 is a small, but nice, step in the direction of reducing the burden of regulation on our citizens. GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on HB207.

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

SB96Sub4 (4th Substitute), “Medicaid Expansion Adjustments”, sponsored by Senator Christensen and Representative Dunnigan, would:

  • make changes to eligibility for and administration of the state Medicaid program;
  • direct the Department of Health to continue to seek approval from the federal government to implement a Medicaid expansion;
  • direct the Department of Health to seek approval from the federal government to expand eligibility for the Medicaid program to individuals whose income is below 100% of the federal poverty level in a manner that: a) incorporates a per capita cap on federal reimbursement; b) limits presumptive eligibility; c) imposes a lock-out period for individuals who violate certain program requirements; d) gives enrollees continuous eligibility for a period of up to 12 months; e) allows Medicaid funds to be used for housing supports for certain enrollees; and f) permits the state to limit enrollment;
  • if the federal government does not approve an expansion in the manner requested by the department, direct the department to expand eligibility for the Medicaid program to individuals whose income is below 138% of the federal poverty level, with certain cost controls;
  • if the department expands eligibility for the Medicaid program to individuals whose income is below 138% of the federal poverty level and the cost of the expansion exceeds the amounts appropriated: a) permit the Department of Health to seek additional waivers to control costs of the Medicaid expansion; b) permit the Department of Health to reduce certain optional Medicaid services; and c) direct a cut of up to 10% of certain agency appropriations sufficient to cover the costs of the expansion;
  • amend provisions related to various hospital assessments; and
  • amend provisions related to the state sales tax.

As mentioned in last week&‘s update, SB96Sub1 passed the Senate&‘s 2nd reading. Since then, SB96Sub3 passed the Senate&‘s 3rd reading 22-7 on February 4th, and, with amendment, passed the House Business and Labor Committee 9-6 on February 6th. Finally SB96Sub4 (the bill described here) passed the House 56-19 on February 8th, and awaits consideration on Senate concurrence calendar.

This bill appears to us to be a good step in the direction of limiting Medicaid&‘s growth in Utah. However, it is a fairly complicated bill (at about 1200 lines and with numerous cross-references), and we are still studying it. GrassRoots tentatively favors a “yes” vote on SB96Sub4 as currently drafted.

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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