Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As Week 5 of the 2016 Utah General Legislative Session comes to a close, I’d like to update you on the latest from Utah’s Capitol Hill.
My next town hall meeting is Wednesday, March 2 at the Provo City Library. There will also be one on Saturday, March 5 in the Clark Auditorium at Utah Valley Regional Medial Center (Hospital), at 9:00 am.
Please join me! Bring your friends, thoughts, and ideas and we will have a great discussion.
Major Issues Updates
3SB 89, Medical Cannabidiol Amendments, Senator Vickers
This bill was read for a third time on Monday before the Senate had the opportunity to vote for the other marijuana bill for the 2nd reading calendar. A couple Senators requested the bill be circled so that the two bills could be considered simultaneously. A motion was made to circle the bill by one of those Senators, but the motion failed. Senator Vickers, the sponsor of the bill, motioned that the bill pass, which it did 18-8-3. This bill has been introduced in the House and is currently assigned to the House Health and Human Services Standing Committee. You can watch the floor debate here.
2SB 73, Medical Cannabis Act, Senator Madsen
After about three and a half hours of debate over the course of three days, seven amendments, and two substitute bills, 2SB 73 passed the 3rd reading in the Senate 17-12 and has been sent to the House for consideration. This bill has incurred the lengthiest debate this session on the Senate floor. Many Senators voiced concerns, questions, shared personal anecdotes, and in one way or another made sure their opinion was heard in this debate.
Senators who were opposed to this bill expressed concern about the negative effects of marijuana. One Senator explained that as he has met with inmates who are currently incarcerated for drug use, all of them have used marijuana. This same Senator shared that many of his friends who came home from Vietnam as drug addicts did not start their addiction with heroin. Another Senator stood adamantly opposed to the bill because he feels that this bill would do more harm than good to Utahns. According to this Senator, this bill might help a small number of people, but it would also threaten the health of many more.
Senators who stood in support of this bill offered support for various reasons. A few senators mentioned the proposed citizens’ initiative as the alternative to the legislature taking a measured approach on this matter. The legislators encouraged their colleagues to lead their constituents in this matter and not be led by a forced initiative on the ballot. Other senators related anecdotes of friends, family, and constituents who suffered excessively from ailments such as cancer and how marijuana had the potential to alleviate their pain and improve their quality of life.
SCR 11, Concurrent Resolution Urging the Rescheduling of Marijuana, Senator Shiozawa
This resolution urges Congress to reschedule marijuana from a schedule I drug so that research can be conducted on the substance. The sponsor of the resolution, as an emergency room physician, feels that there are potential benefits from marijuana as well as dangers. He would like to see thorough research conducted so that we can understand what, if any, conditions marijuana can effectively treat. This resolution passed the Senate this week 25-0-4 and is now assigned to the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. You can watch the Senate floor vote here.
SB 107, Hate Crimes Amendments, Senator Urquhart
Senator Urquhart’s bill SB 107 Hate Crimes Amendments passed with a favorable recommendation out of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee, but shortly thereafter the LDS Church publicly voiced concerns that this bill might throw off the balance of the compromise reached last year in the form of the Anti-Discrimination and Religious Liberty bill. SB 107generated a lively debate on the 2nd reading calendar, but ultimately passed 17-12 and will now be moved to the Senate 3rd reading calendar.
There were many technical questions directed at the sponsor in regards to this bill. Senator Stephenson noted that sometimes certain rights are held more important than others. He wanted to ensure that first amendment rights would still be protected if this bill were to pass. The sponsor gave a hypothetical example. If a man belonged to the KKK and every morning talked about how he would do x, y and z to an African American this would not be used against the man in court. If the man were to say I am going to attack that man because he is black and then proceeds to attack the man, that comment would be used as evidence against him. The sponsor explained that this bill is as narrow as it can be and still remain a hate crimes bill.
Senator Weiler spoke against the bill as being the opposite of equal because it would create privileges for certain groups. He explained that he would be in favor of a bill that would beef up existing hate crimes law, but this bill, he says, expands the categories which is a different discussion. Senator Henderson sought clarification on whether rape or sexual assault would fall under hate crimes. Senator Urquhart reasoned that it would be very difficult to prove a rape was a hate crime because it has to be clear that the crime is not just on an individual, but an attack on the individual because they belong to a certain class.
While this bill did pass, a couple senators who voted “aye” on this bill explained that they still have concerns that need to be addressed, but they would like to continue to consider the issue. To watch the debate click here.
SB 94, Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras, Senator Thatcher
Senator Thatcher presented SB 94 in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee. He summed up the bill by stating that it directs POST to set statewide policies regarding the use of police-worn body cameras but still allows each local jurisdiction to set their own standards, practices, and policies provided that they conform with the standards established by POST. He pointed out that the vast majority of standards and policies are the responsibility of POST and that practice provides the safest option for the state.
Senator Thatcher did point out that the GRAMA portion of the bill is still under construction. He said that all of the primary stakeholders involved are still working together with the goal of striking the right balance between the reasonable expectation of privacy for the citizens of Utah and open and transparent government. He admitted that the current language is not what they want. He did say that the intent is to provide for the dignity of Utah citizens while holding law enforcement and government employees accountable for cases of misconduct.
Various stakeholders talked about the bill, specifically the challenge of balancing transparency and privacy. All vowed to continue working together to find that balance. The committee voted and passed the bill with a favorable recommendation on a vote of 5-1-1 with an understanding that there will be changes to the GRAMA portion of the bill.
A competing bill passed out of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on a vote of 9-2. HB 300, Body-worn Cameras for Law Enforcement Officers, sponsored by Representative McCay, is different from SB 94 in that it requires the state to create minimum guidelines for the use of body cameras for all agencies within the state. It also requires that body-cam video be released to the public in certain circumstances where there is a significant public interest. Media interests more broadly support this bill and law enforcement agencies and organizations or opposed.
SCR 9, Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis, Senator Weiler
This bill was read for the second time on Tuesday the 23rd and the third time on Wednesday the 24th. The resolution seeks to bring attention to the dangers of pornography, especially to developing minds. On the second reading, Senator Weiler presented the resolution to the Senate stating that every sentence in the resolution was written and supported by research from a symposium held in Washington DC and was hosted by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Senator Weiler also played a clip from the Television talk show, “The View”, where the resolution was discussed. One of the hosts, Candace Cameron Bure, explained her first experience viewing pornography when she was around the age of twelve. She said that the image is still with her to this day and that she heartily supports the resolution.
Senator Weiler said the resolution is getting attention both locally and internationally. He has received dozens of letters from researchers declaring their support for the resolution as well as citizens who have had their lives or the lives of their loved-ones ruined by pornography. He also mentioned that he was interviewed on the television show, “The Doctor’s”, where he talked about the benefits of England’s system of requiring citizens to opt-in to be able to view pornography via the internet. The resolution passed both the second and third readings on votes of 24-0-5. Here are videos of the resolution’s second and thirdreadings.
SB63 Survey Monument Replacement, Senator Okerlund
As many in our rural communities are aware, survey markers are crucial to delineating property rights in rural areas. Over the years, many of these survey markers have been damaged or destroyed due to wildland fires and other causes. This bill makes a few changes to the policy that allows county surveyors to replace provides a means of survey marker replacement. Specifically, it changes distribution date for some of the funds for this program and requires anyone disturbing a corner marker to notify the county surveyor’s office five days in advance.
SB102 High Cost Infrastructure Tax Credits, Senator Okerlund
This bill makes a few changes to the High Infrastructure Program instituted last year. This program is designed to boost Economic development in rural Utah. It provides for accelerated investment of outside capital and provides post-performance tax credits for high cost infrastructure development in rural Utah. No business is allowed to claim any tax credits until after the businesses are generating tax revenue for the state. Oil providers are also incentivized to produce Tier 3 fuels which have been shown to reduce tailpipe emissions by 80%. It is a program broadly supported by the Governor’s Rural Economic Development team. This bill simply creates rulemaking authority for the Utah State Office of Energy to implement this program. It passed its second reading and will be heard a third time on the Senate Floor.
17th Amendment Resolution
SRJ2 Resolution Calling for the Repeal of the 17th Amendment, Senator Jackson
The Senate approved SJR2, a resolution that calls on the nation to repeal the 17thAmendment via a constitutional amendment. A resolution expresses the will and intent of the Senate. It is similar to an official declaration in that it does not have the same legally binding effect as a bill. Prior to the 17th Amendment, state legislatures elected the members of the Senate. Senator Jackson argued the Founding Fathers created a system of checks and balances. The 17th Amendment, however, severely limited the state’s ability to check the federal government. Consequently, the uncontrollable growth of the federal government has eroded the power of the States, leading to the Federal government controlling 1/3 of our budget and 2/3 of our land.
Birth Centers and Health Department Committees
S.B. 108, Birthing Center Amendments, Senator Henderson
This bill prohibits the Department of Health and the Health Facility Committee from imposing certain unreasonable requirements on birthing centers under the Health Care Facility Licensing and Inspection Act. These particular requirements are impossible for birthing centers to comply with, and have been used for years to prevent licensed birthing centers from opening. This bill was passed by the Senate will be heard by the House.
- Committee Oks bill to streamline licensing for Utah birthing centers, Salt Lake Tribune
- Why you should care about my birthing center bill – Interview with Libertas Institute
S.B. 126: Committee Authority Amendments, Senator Henderson
This bill gives the Department of Health a role in the creation of administrative rules by committees that fall under its purview. Specifically, it enables the Department of Health to rescind and amend the rules created by these committees if there is a conflict between the committee and the department. SB126 passed through the Senate and will now be considered by the House.
Thank you for reading my update! Please follow along all things Utah Senate by connecting to us wherever you live on social media by visitingwww.senatecloud.com. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and all sorts of other sites.
Again, I’ll be holding my next town hall meeting on Wednesday, March 02, 2016, at 7:00 pm at the Provo City Library and then on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 9:00 am in the Clark Auditorium at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
Please join me!
I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (801) 376-8297. You’re welcome to join me at the Capitol any time this session – you would be a welcome guest.
If you’d like to meet with me, you can reach out to my intern, Zach Fender (801) 361-5802.
It is a pleasure representing our community here on the Hill. The experience is both gratifying and humbling.
Utah State Senate, District 16