Legislative Updates - 4 March 2019

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Dear Friends:

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

At this time (six weeks into the session), there are about 840 numbered bills for this session, and 267 of these have already passed.

According to the Legislature’s website, 533 bills passed during the 2018 General Session. A like performance this year might mean that another 260 bills are passed in the last 4 days of the session, which ends on Thursday, March 14th. We hope this does not occur; if it does, then we suspect many bills would pass without adequate reading, discussion, and understanding.

Following is discussion of some bills that we consider to be noteworthy.

An election bill catching our attention this week

*SB242Substitute, “Presidential Primary Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Bramble, would:

  • require a presidential primary election to be held;
  • amend the date on which a presidential primary election is held (the first Tuesday in March in the year in which a presidential election will be held);
  • amend deadlines associated with a presidential primary election; and
  • eliminate provisions that allow a presidential primary election to be held on the date of a regular primary election.

The fiscal note for SB242Substitute indicates that the cost would be $2.9 million in 2020, and $725,000 per year ongoing after 2020.

SB242Substitute passed the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee 5-0 on March 8th, and awaits consideration on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

SB242Substitute seems to treat political parties as political subdivisions of the state. This is wrong-headed. The state should not dictate (or interfere with, or subsidize) political parties’ procedures for choosing their candidates. GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB242Substitute.

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, February 18th, February 25th, and March 4th.

HB114 passed the Senate 18-8 on March 7th, and awaits action by the Governor.

GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on HB114.

HB243, “Domestic Violence Modifications”, sponsored by Representative Watkins, would provide that certain criminal penalties for carrying a concealed firearm without a permit do not apply to a victim of domestic violence or dating violence, who is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm, for a limited period after the day on which the victim is issued a protective order. Additional coverage may be found in our update of March 4th.

HB243 passed the House 58-16 on March 4th, and the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee 4-1 on March 7th, and awaits consideration on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on HB243.

HB295Substitute, “Vehicle Emissions Reduction Program”, sponsored by Representative Stenquist and Senator Bramble, replaced the original HB295. HB295Substitute would still create the Vehicle Emissions Reduction Program to provide financial assistance in the purchase of a motor vehicle under certain conditions (including that the recipient’s old car “failed the emissions inspection required under Section 41-6a-1642 within the previous 30 days”). In the new bill, the maximum amount of financial assistance toward the purchase of a new vehicle would be $5500 (versus a maximum of $5000 in the original bill), but HB295 Substitute looks very much like the original HB295 in substance. Additional coverage of the original HB295 may be found in our update of February 25th.

HB295Substitute passed the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee 8-4 on February 25th, passed the House 40-28 on March 1st, and awaits consideration by the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee. The bill is listed as Item 8 on the agenda of today’s (March 11th) 8am meeting of that committee being held at 215 Senate Building.

HB295Substitute is still a cash-for-clunkers-style welfare program, subsidizing newer automobile purchases for middle-class and poor owners of old, emissions-inspection-failing vehicles. GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on HB295Substitute.

HB373Sub2, “Student Support Amendments”, sponsored by Representative Eliason and Senator Millner, replaced HB373Substitute. HB373Sub2 would:

  • change the name of the School Safety and Crisis Line to the SafeUT Crisis Line;
  • amend provisions related to the SafeUT Crisis Line and the SafeUT Commission, including provisions related to the University Neuropsychiatric Institute charging a fee for the use of the SafeUT Crisis Line;
  • repeal a grant program related to the SafeUT Crisis Line;
  • authorize the State Board of Education (board) to distribute money to local education agencies (LEAs) for personnel who provide school-based mental health support;
  • require the board to establish a formula for distribution of money to LEAs;
  • enact requirements on LEAs to receive money;
  • require the board to make rules related to money for the personnel;
  • require the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to coordinate and make recommendations with the board and the Department of Health related to Medicaid reimbursement for school-based health services; and
  • enact other provisions related to student mental health support.

HB373Sub2 would also appropriate in fiscal year 2020:

  • to the State Board of Education - Minimum School Program - Related to Basic School Programs - Student Health and Counseling Support Program, as an ongoing appropriation: from the Education Fund, $30,000,000;
  • to the Department of Human Services - Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health - Community Mental Health Services, as an ongoing appropriation: from the General Fund, ($500,000); and
  • to the University of Utah - SafeUT Crisis Text and Tip Line - SafeUT Operations, as an ongoing appropriation: from the Education Fund, $1,770,000.

Additional coverage of the original HB373Substitute may be found in our update of March 4th.

HB373Sub2 passed the House 62-6 on March 4th, and the Senate Education Committee 5-0 on March 8th, and awaits consideration on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

We would prefer an additional $30 million tax cut rather than the proposed appropriation. While the objectives of this proposal may be worthy, we question whether increased state government force is a good way to accomplish these objectives.

Also, we are concerned about corruption and distortion of 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. GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on HB373Sub2.

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 “2019 General Session Page” then click on “2019 Bills”.

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