Legislative Updates - 25 February 2019

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Dear Friends:

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

At this time (four weeks into the session), there are about 680 numbered bills for this session. Read on for coverage of some bills that we consider to be noteworthy.

Bills catching our attention this week

HB295, “Vehicle Emissions Reduction Program”, sponsored by Representative Stenquist and Senator Bramble, would:

  • create the Vehicle Emissions Reduction Program Restricted Account;
  • create the Vehicle Emissions Reduction Program (program) to provide financial assistance (in some cases up to $5000) toward the purchase of a motor vehicle under certain conditions (including that the recipient’s car “failed the emissions inspection required under Section 41-6a-1642 within the previous 30 days”);
  • establish certain criteria by which a person may participate in the program (including having “a household income equal to or less than 300% of the federal poverty level”);
  • require certain local health departments to assist in administering the program;
  • require the Air Quality Board to make rules for the administration of the program; and
  • require the Division of Air Quality under certain circumstances to conduct: a) a public service campaign; and b) a study, submitting the results of the study to the Transportation Interim Committee.

Requirements for the subsidized “eligible replacement vehicle” include: “(a) emits emissions that are equal to or cleaner than the standards established in bin 5 in Table S04-1, of 40 C.F.R. 86.1811-04(c)(6); (b) is of the current or previous five model years; (c) has an odometer reading equal to or less than 70,000 miles; and (d) costs no more than $35,000 before tax, title, and licensing.”

HB295 does not itself contain an appropriation, but, from the bill text itself, as well as from the bill’s fiscal note, it is apparent that “Enactment of this legislation could transfer up to $6.5 million one-time from the General Fund to the new General Fund Restricted - Vehicle Emissions Reduction Program Restricted Account.”

HB295 awaits consideration by House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee, and is currently scheduled as Item 3 on the agenda of that committee’s 4pm February 25th (today) meeting at 445 State Capitol.

We suspect this program will benefit some in the auto-sales business. With the specification that the “eligible replacement vehicle” is to have an odometer reading of not more than 70,000 miles, we would not rule out the possibility of crony capitalism at work. Will this welfare program for middle-class and poor owners of old, emissions-inspection-failing vehicles result in an air quality improvement worth more than $6.5 million? We do not know. Would we expect unpleasant (maybe-hidden) “unintended consequences” from this legislation? Yes, we would. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on HB295.

HB324, “Tobacco Age Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Eliason, would tier the minimum age for obtaining, possessing, using, providing, or furnishing of tobacco products, paraphernalia, and under certain circumstances, electronic smoking devices from 19 to 20 then to 21 years of age, and pre-existing criminal (misdemeanor) penalties could apply accordingly.

HB324 awaits consideration by the House Business and Labor Committee.

Do we want to send 20-year-olds to jail for up to 90 days (maximum term for a class C misdemeanor) for possessing tobacco? How about a business proprietor who knowingly permits a tobacco-using 20-year-old to frequent his place of business? Do we want to send him to the slammer for up to 90 days? How about someone who knowingly provides a cigar to a 20-year-old? On the third offense (class A misdemeanor), do we want to send him to jail for a year? We have our doubts. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on HB324.

SB186, “Proof of Insurance Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Anderegg, would repeal a requirement to carry evidence of owner’s or operator’s motor vehicle security, while leaving in place requirements to have motor vehicle security (appropriate liability insurance).

SB186 awaits consideration by the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee, and is currently scheduled as Item 2 on the agenda of that committee’s 8am February 25th (today) meeting at 215 Senate Building.

We have no problem with requiring appropriate auto insurance. On the other hand, existing statute requiring carrying evidence of insurance tends to treat law-abiding citizens as “subjects” who must always be ready to prove their compliance, and this language ought to be repealed. GrassRoots favors a “yes” vote on SB186.

Updated status on education bills mentioned in last week’s GrassRoots update

All of these four education bills appropriate tax dollars. Whether the amount is $300,000 or $30 million, we would prefer an additional tax cut rather than the proposed appropriation. While the objectives of one or more of these proposals may be worthy, we question whether increased government force is a good way to accomplish these objectives.

Also, with HB227Substitute and SB115Substitute, we are concerned about corruption and distortion of local education agency (LEA) priorities with grant money “from above”. We would suggest that if the perceived benefits of various proposed expenditures are so compelling, the decision to tax and spend is probably better left with the LEA, with its accountability to local citizens.

Additional coverage of each of these bills may be found in our update of February 18th.

HB227Substitute, “Utah Computer Science Grant Act”, sponsored by Representative Knotwell, was amended, but would still create the Computer Science for Utah Grant Program, and appropriate $7.15 million to the program. LEAs could apply for grants for specified purposes.

HB227Substitute passed the House Education Committee 10-0 on February 19th, and awaits consideration by the full House.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on HB227Substitute.

HB260Sub3, “Access Utah Promise Scholarship Program”, sponsored by Representative Owens and Senator Vickers, replaced the earlier “First Substitute” version of the bill. HB260Sub3 would still create the Access Utah Promise Scholarship Program, and appropriate $30 million to the program in fiscal year 2020.

HB260Sub3 passed the House 69-3 on February 21st, and awaits action by the Senate Rules Committee.

GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on HB260Sub3.

SB115Substitute, “High-need School Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Riebe and Representative Poulson, would still appropriate $500,000 as an ongoing appropriation to fund grants to LEAs for employing first year educators in high-need schools.

SB115Substitute passed the Senate (3rd reading) 28-0 on February 22nd, and awaits action by the House Rules Committee.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on SB115Substitute.

SB136, “Scholarships for Career and Technical Education”, sponsored by Senator Grover and Representative Owens, would still create a scholarship for individuals to enroll in career and technical education programs at certain institutions of higher education, and appropriate $300,000 for the scholarships.

SB136 passed the Senate 2nd reading 28-0 on February 22nd, and awaits consideration on the Senate’s 3rd reading calendar.

GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on SB136.

Updated status on other bills mentioned in earlier GrassRoots updates

HB114, “Self-defense Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Maloy and Senator Hinkins would provide that an individual is not required to retreat from an aggressor; and would provide that an individual’s failure to retreat is not relevant when determining whether the individual acted reasonably. Additional coverage may be found in our updates of February 4th and February 18th.

HB114 passed the House 54-16 on February 22nd, and awaits action by the Senate.

GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on HB114.

SB103Sub4, “Victim Targeting Penalty Enhancements”, sponsored by Senator Thatcher, replaced the original SB103. SB103Sub4 would provide that “A defendant is subject to enhanced penalties . . . if the defendant intentionally selects: (a) the victim of the criminal offense because of the defendant’s belief or perception regarding the victim’s personal attribute or a personal attribute of another individual or group of individuals with whom the victim has a relationship; or (b) the property damaged or otherwise affected by the criminal offense because of the defendant’s belief or perception regarding the property owner’s, possessor’s, or occupant’s personal attribute or a personal attribute of another individual or group of individuals with whom the property owner, possessor, or occupant has a relationship.”

SB103Sub4 passed the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee 7-0 on February 21st, and awaits consideration on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

Criminal actions, especially premeditated criminal actions, with criminal intent, should be punished. We do not believe that SB103Sub4 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 SB103Sub4.

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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