Monthly Archives

March 2016

Week 5 Letter Home

By | Legislative Update | No Comments

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


Medical Marijuana

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.

You can watch the final debate and vote in the Senate here. You can also read about it here or here.

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.


Hate Crimes

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.


Body Cameras

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.

To listen to committee testimony on SB 94, click here.  To listen to committee testimony on HB 300, click here and here.


Pornography

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.

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.


Conclusion

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 curt@cbramble.com, 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.

Warmest regards,

 

 

 

 

Curt Bramble
Utah State Senate, District 16

Week 4 Letter Home

By | Legislative Update | No Comments

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We’ve reached the end of week four of the 2016 General Session. In my experience, the next few weeks promise to be quite a whirlwind of hearings, debates, and decisions.

From here on out, we’ll meet exclusively in Standing Committee meetings and on the Senate floor for deliberations. The standing committees I sit on are Business and Labor, Retirement and Independent Entities and Revenue and Taxation.

Here’s a link to next week’s Senate Schedule. Feel free to visit the Capitol to participate in public comment on bills you care about, or to observe debate during our floor time.

If you haven’t been reading the Senate’s daily journal pages and issue posts, I’d invite you to do so. You can find these posts at www.senatesite.com, the Senate’s blog.

Fun sidenotes: This summer, the Senate held a statewide art scholarship competition. Students from 9th-12th grade all over Utah participated, and 21 of the best and brightest were awarded with scholarships, which were presented on the Senate floor. Here’s a blog post from the Senate Site which includes all of the incredible artwork.

Did you know that the Senate Floor has a 24/7 live webcam that you can control right from your computer? Visit the SenateCam here.

Find more information about the legislative process at the Legislative Guide via our website.

I’ll be holding my next town hall meeting:

Thursday February 25th at 7:00 p.m.
Jamestown Courtyard, Wednesday

March 2nd at 7:00 p.m.
at Provo City Library

Saturday, March 5th at 9:00 a.m.
IHC-Clark Auditorium

Thursday, March 17th 7:00 p.m.
Orem City Council Chambers.

Please join me! Bring your friends, thoughts, and ideas and we will have a great discussion.


Major Issues Updates


Medical Marijuana

3SB 89, Medical Cannabidiol Amendments, Senator Vickers

This week the Senate started the floor debate on medical marijuana. Senator Vickers’ bill, 3SB 89 Medical Cannabidiol Amendments, was the first medical marijuana bill to be debated on the floor this session. Vickers began his presentation by moving to adopt his third substitute to the bill which primarily made changes to the licensing process. Senator Jenkins also made a motion to change the bill to say that distributors at dispensaries need to wear lab coats as a standard of professionalism which passed unanimously. Vickers explained that his bill would allow for a 10 to 1 CBD to THC ration, with a cap at 5% for THC. This bill is intended to be a moderate step to legalizing medicinal marijuana. The rationale is that if it is a medicine it should be treated like a medicine. This bill would provide de-identified data on medical marijuana use for big data studies that could help doctors and scientists to better understand marijuana.

This bill was thoroughly vetted by senators. Senator Knudson inquired about what will happen if both 3SB 89 and 1SB73 pass, will the sponsors of each bill work together to find a compromise? Senator Vickers affirmed that he would be willing to work with Senator Madsen in the event that both bills pass. Senator Escamilla voiced concern over the lack of a fiscal note and wanted to know how many people would benefit. Previous versions of 3SB 89 have had fiscal notes, but due to the substitute there is no fiscal note immediately available for the latest version. This bill would potentially benefit between 10,000-20,000 patients in Utah. Senator Dabakis asked if Senator Vickers is taking all of the fun stuff out of marijuana. He also expressed concern that we stand the possibility of eliminating the element that actually helps patients. Senator Stephenson spoke to his concern over opioid overdoses. Certain studies indicate that states where THC is legal see a 25% drop in opioid overdoses. From Stephenson’s experience, opioids are “passed out like candy” here in Utah and he hopes to see medical marijuana help in the fight against the opioid crisis. Senator Urquhart referenced the experiences some mothers have related about their experience with marijuana oils to treat seizures. Some mothers saw the need for CBD with THC in order for the entourage effect to kick in, while other mothers found that CBD alone is enough to prevent seizures in their children.  This bill passed the second reading 26-3 (watch the debate here) and has been moved to the third reading calendar. Hereis an article about the floor time debate.

1SB 73, Medical Cannabis Act, Senator Madsen

Senator Madsen’s bill 1SB 73, Medical Cannabis Act was also presented on the Senate floor this week. He began by offering seven amendments to his bill. These amendments came from suggestions from his colleagues. Several of the amendments stemmed from concerns raised at an informal meeting that Senator Madsen hosted this past week in an effort to offer clarifications on his bill. These amendments included changing the zoning requirements, removing certain protections for employees who use medical marijuana, clarifying inspection requirements, altering the organization of the Compassionate Use Board, and modifying the form of cannabis that will be available. Amendment 7 modifies the form of cannabis available to eliminate the whole plant usage. The benefit of the whole plant would still be available via cannabis extract products, but the flower itself would not be permitted. It would still permit vaping, edibles, and oils as before, but now they would come in medical dosage form. These amendments all passed on the floor. This does not mean that the bill itself passes, it merely allows for changes to the bill.

This bill was heavily debated, but due to lack of time the bill was circled and no vote was taken on the bill. This means that the bill will likely be debated at a future time when all Senators who would like to speak to the bill or ask a question about the bill have time to do so.  Of the Senators who did have the opportunity to speak, Senator Knudson, who voted against medical marijuana last year, spoke up in favor of this bill during the debate. He would like to see the pain and agony of many suffering alleviated by medical marijuana. Senator Weiler praised Senator Madsen for improving this bill with the amendments. He warned the legislature that if they do not pass a medical marijuana bill this session it will go to public initiative which concerns him. His own constituency is largely in favor of medical marijuana and now that the bill has been amended he can support it. Senator Mayne also spoke in favor of the bill in part because of her own experience from when her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. One of his oncologist recommended he go find marijuana to make his final days easier, though he chose to abstain because of his position as a state senator. Senator Henderson explained that she came to the floor as a hard no on the bill, but after seeing such positive changes to the bill decided to ask further questions to better understand the bill. She inquired about the impact on K-9 searches, the DUI metabolite statute, and if Utah would recognize out-of-state marijuana cards. She also questioned as to why synthetic THC, Marinol, is not sufficient, why is the natural THC necessary. Senator Madsen explained that synthetic THC does come with an intense and harsh high, but using natural THC with other extracts from marijuana work better because of the entourage effect. Once again there were still several senators interested in debating the bill and so the bill was circled so that it can be discussed further before the vote. You can watch the debate here.
Medical Marijuana in the News:


Hate Crimes

SB 107, Hate Crime Amendments, Senator Urquhart

Senator Urquhart’s SB 107 Hate Crime Amendments bill received some push back this week. The bill changes the existing hate crime law to include nine identifiers, an expansion from the original five. The nine identifiers include ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identification, national origin, race, religion, and sexual orientation. The bill also seeks to increase the level of punishment by one degree if prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that one of the motivations behind the crime stemmed from hate of one of the nine identifiers. Urquhart says this bill will not conflict with first amendment rights.

This past week the LDS church released a statement in response to media inquiries expressing concern about any legislation that could potentially upset the compromise reached with the Anti-Discrimination and Religious Liberty bill that passed last year. While the LDS church did not specifically oppose SB 107, Senator Urquhart in a press conference says the statement “effectively snuffed out” all of his effort in creating this bill. This bill passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation 5-1-1 and is awaiting consideration on the floor. To listen to his committee presentation click here.

You can read about this issue here, here, or here. You can also catch Senator Urquhart discussing the issue on Trib Talk here.


Wildlife Amendments

1HB 14, Wildlife Amendments, Floor Sponsor Senator Hinkins

This week the Senate considered 1HB 14 Wildlife Amendments. This bill clarifies that a license, permit, tag, or certificate of registration issued by the Division of Wildlife Resources is a privilege and not a right. It also states that points credited to a person to improve their chances of receiving a hunting permit may not be transferred, sold or assigned to another person. Senator Jenkins proposed an amendment to the bill that would remove 12 and 13 year olds from consideration in the bill due to limited points and permits. Several senators spoke against the amendment, expressing a desire to allow interested youth to participate in hunting. The amendment failed, but 1HB 14 passed both the second and third reading on the Senate floor. The bill has now been approved in both chambers and will be submitted to the Governor for his signature. Listen to the debate hereor read about it here.

Wildlife Amendments in the News:


Guardianship

SB 111, Guardianship – Right of Association, Senator Weiler

Senator Weiler presented SB 111, Guardianship – Right of Association, in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee on Thursday.  He began his testimony with a personal comment.  He said that he spent the last weekend with his ailing mother.  He also mentioned that his father passed away a little over a year ago.  He said, “I could not imagine if someone was telling me, as my parents were dying, that I couldn’t see them.  But that is happening in our country.”  SB 111 is designed to address this issue.

Senator Weiler invited Catherine Falk to address the committee.  Catherine is the daughter of Peter Falk, famous for starring in the TV series Columbo.  Catherine related the experience that she had in trying to visit her father who was dealing with medical issues including Alzheimer’s.  Mr. Falk’s second wife did not want his daughters to be able to visit him freely and Catherine spent over $100,000 of her own money on attorney’s fees in fighting for the right to visit her father.  Catherine pointed out that she did not want to obtain a conservatorship or power over Mr. Falk’s assets, she really just wanted to have the freedom to visit her father.  She said, “Our bill is designed to stop bad guardians from isolating their wards with no accountability for their actions.”  She went on to say that, “It protects the growing number of people who are currently falling through the cracks and they have absolutely nowhere to go for help.  Our bill is not designed to make it harder for good guardians to do their job.  Our bill helps to impede those who are wrongly isolating their wards with no accountability.”

She explained that the bill requires the guardian to provide the burden of proof to the judge in order to override an incapacitated person’s wishes.

In further explaining the bill, Senator Weiler pointed out that when a guardianship is initially established, if the guardian has a concern about visitation, this bill requires them to raise those concerns at the initial court hearing.  This gives the guardian the option to restrict visitation if the court determines that the restriction is warranted.

Kent Alderman, an attorney specializing in elder law, spoke in opposition to the bill. Mr. Alderman said that he has experience representing both sides of this issue, the guardians wishing to restrict access and the wards or relatives who have been blocked from visitation.  He said that most everything stated by the sponsor and Catherine Falk are true but that he believes that this bill is not the appropriate remedy.  He stated that the bill should be referred to the Utah State Bar’s Elder Law section.  He said that the best way to provide solutions for this issue is to provide more training for guardians.

Members of the commercial guardianship industry gave testimony that changes should be made to the bill to more closely match standards in the guardianship industry. Senator Hillyard expressed his frustration that their assumptions were that every ward had a professional guardian and he said that most people cannot afford a professional guardian.

In closing, Senator Weiler pointed out that he is always willing to listen to those who have input on ways to improve the bill.  He said that in the last two weeks, none of the members of the Elder Law section of the Utah State Bar were willing to meet with him to discuss possible changes. He also said that he will continue to work with all stakeholders involved to improve the bill, even if it passes favorably out of committee.

The committee passed the bill with a favorable recommendation on a vote of 7-0.

Listen to the committee meeting here.

Guardianship in the News:


Body Cameras

SB 94, Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras, Senator Thatcher

Law enforcement use of body cameras has been gaining interest nationwide and this session there are two competing body cam bills.  Senator Thatcher has sponsored SB 94, Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras and Rep. McCay has sponsored HB 300, Body-worn Cameras for Law Enforcement Officers.

Senator Thatcher’s legislation includes a “presumption of privacy” that would “give citizens some defense against having the worst moments of their lives played out on the news.”  The bill makes private any video from a body-worn camera that contains images of nudity, death, or gruesome events.  The bill also stipulates that law enforcement agencies shall have written policies for the storage and retention of video and audio and policies and procedures for officers wearing body cameras.

Rep. McCay’s bill is different in that it has minimum state 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.

Rep. McCay talked about a study conducted in Rialto, California in 2012.  For one year, the Rialto police force had 54 front-line officers that were assigned randomly to wear or not wear body cameras. Nearly a thousand shifts were monitored.  All 54 officers experienced work with and without body cameras.  Rep. McCay said that the results of the study were quite dramatic.  There was a significant drop in use-of-force incident complaints over previous years.  Use of force incidents roughly doubled when body cameras were not worn by front-line officers. The agency found that the use of body cameras will allow for better training procedures, allowing new officers see real-world incidents and appropriate responses to those incidents. It also allows an officer to study footage of their own actions giving them the tools to analyze and improve their own performance.

One possible negative consequence of body cameras found in the study is that video had the potential of carrying more weight as evidence than officer testimony which was deemed sufficient in most cases before wide use of cameras.  This brought up the question, would district attorneys be reluctant to prosecute when there is no evidence from body-worn devices to corroborate the testimony of the officer.

Tom Ross, the Chief of Police of the City of Bountiful and the President of the State Chiefs of Police Association spoke about the perspective of law enforcement.  He said that the quest comes down to privacy vs. transparency.  He explained it as, “the need to see what law enforcement does and feel good about the services that our law enforcement officers provide against how much of that we take away from the privacy of our residents.”  He went on to say that the single biggest issue to residents that he has spoken to is the need for privacy.

Chief Ross also brought up the issues inherent in making changes in state code as opposed to making those changes in POST policy.  POST policy allows for changes with new technology without the need to wait for legislative session to change State code.

The committee ran out of time to make any further decisions on HB 300.  SB 94has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee for consideration.

Body Cameras in the News:


Compulsory Education

SB45, Compulsory Education Revisions, Senator Jackson

Senator Jackson presented before the Senate Education Committee. This bill SB45removes the language from our code that specifies the punishment for parents who fail to register their children for school. This bill passed out of the Senate and will be considered next by the House.

Compulsory Education in the News:


Smoking in Public Places

SB61 Smoking in Public Places Amendments, Senator Vickers

This bill bans smoking inside the SLC airport. The SLC airport is one of five airports across the nation that allows smoking rooms and two of these five—Denver and Ft. Worth—will be prohibiting smoking rooms soon. Senator Vickers said the bill would allow people to smoke outside the airport–though they may have to re-enter security.  The discussion on the floor centered on the proper place of government in regulating someone’s choice to smoke and the perception of our state in the eyes of the travelling public.  The bill was defeated on the second reading but a motion was made to reconsider it on the floor.

Smoking in Public Places in the News:


School Building Location

SB86, School Building Coordination, Senator Jackson

This bill requires a school district to notify the department of transportation as they select a location for a school. The intent of this bill is to allow UDOT to create a plan for providing adequate transportation infrastructure prior to the construction of the school rather than after the school is built.  The construction of new schools can often impose a significant transportation burden on a community and UDOT, especially when stoplights and intersections are required to accommodate the increased traffic. Senator Jackson pointed out that some school districts already do this as a matter of practice but most do not. The Senate passed this bill and it will be heard next in the House.


Conclusion

Thank you for tuning in to my update this week. 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 Thursday, February 25th at 7:00 p.m. at Jamestown Courtyard 3352 N. 100 E. in Provo.  Please join me!
Bring your friends, thoughts, and ideas and let’s have a great discussion.

I can also be reached by email at curt@cbramble.com 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, Zac Fender (801) 361-5802.

It is a pleasure representing our community here on the Hill. The experience is both gratifying and humbling.

Warmest regards,

 

 

 

 

Curt Bramble
Utah State Senate, District 16

Week 3 Letter Home

By | Legislative Update | No Comments

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Week 3 of the 2016 Legislative Session is already over – time is really flying by now! We’ve just wrapped up a long week of committee meetings, budget balancing, and two-a-days on the Senate floor.

If you haven’t been reading the Senate’s daily journal pages, you’ve been missing out! You can find these posts at www.senatesite.com, the Senate’s blog.

If you’d like to meet in person regarding any of the legislation listed below or to discuss any other issue, I’ll be hosting a series of town halls this week and I’d love to see you meet you.

Tuesday, february 16th 7:00pm
Orem City Council Chambers

Wednesday, February 17th 7:00pm
Provo City Library

Saturday, February 20th 9:00am
IHC-Clark Auditorium
North West Plaza, 1134 North 500 West


Budget Overview

The budgetary process is almost complete. Our State constitution requires us to pass a balanced budget every session.  As part of this process, each department in the executive branch proposes a budget. The legislature reviews each budget in Appropriation Subcommittee meetings and typically funds 98% of the executive department’s proposal.  The bills that emerge from this process are known as the base budget bills. To receive the full funding, the remaining 2% of the proposal is then justified by the agency and the Appropriations Subcommittees.  This practice encourages agencies to look for programs that may be unnecessary and to make other cost savings adjustments.

Our Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst has a robust page on our website where you can find budget quick facts, information on Utah’s Fiscal Health, subcommittee information, and much more. Feel free to peruse the site: http://budget.utah.gov/


Alcohol

HB 13 Alcoholic Beverage Event Permit Amendments, Rep. Oda, Senator Stephenson

This bill makes a few important changes to how the state distributes alcoholic beverage event permits. Previously the law said a permit “may” be given if all of the qualifications were met. This bill would change the language to say that a permit “shall” be given if all of the qualifications are met. Senator Stephenson, the floor sponsor for this bill, related an example of Snowbird not receiving a permit for their Oktoberfest event after they applied. Stephenson questions how it would be possible to host an Oktoberfest without beer? This was an event that attracted tourists and made Utah look foolish according to Stephenson. This bill passed unanimously through the Senate and has been signed by the Senate President. It has been returned for the Speaker of the House to sign after which it will go to the Governor. Here’s an article about the bill.


Education Funding

SB 38, School Funding Amendments, Senator Stephenson

Approximately 65,000 students in Utah attend Charter School (ten percent of Utah’s students).  In terms of per pupil spending, however, the Charter School Funding Task force found that the amount spent on charter school students is lower than public school spending.  SB38 is designed to make spending on charter schools more equitable.  The concern has become what is the number that represents equity and how do you address the equity issue.  There is much debate about what should and should not be considered in determining an equitable number and then what is the appropriate funding mechanism to address the inequity.  This bill passed through the Senate and will now be considered by the House.


School Board Elections

SB 78, State Board of Education Candidate Selection, Senator Millner

Recently, a federal district court judge ruled that our method of selecting members of the State Board of Education is unconstitutional under the first amendment.  In our old system, a selection committee nominated 3 candidates for each school board district.  Out of those 3, the Governor would select 2 candidates for the general election. The basic argument was that the selection committee, acting in their official government capacity, could completely suppress political views with their selection of the nominees. What this bill does is specifically prohibit the selection committee from basing their selections on political factors, affiliations, or educational viewpoints as required by the judge.  It is a short term fix for the 2016 election cycle and repeals January, 2017.  Hopefully, the legislature will determine a more permanent solution for future elections. This bill has passed the full Senate and now awaits consideration by the House.

There are three options being considered as a permanent solution to State School Board elections. One is partisan elections, a second is nonpartisan elections and a third is a hybrid option that includes partisan, nonpartisan and appointed members. Representative Hall is currently sponsoring a bill that would establish non-partisan primary elections. Some concern has been expressed about this approach because it does not place a limit on the number of primary candidates.

The bill passed through the Senate this week. Currently, the bill is awaiting being heard in the House Education Committee.

A couple of articles on the measure from the Salt Lake Tribune here and here.


Firearms

SB 43Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention in Public Schools, Senator Weiler

Senator Weiler has sponsored legislation designed to provide a pilot program for Utah eighth graders to learn about firearms safety and what to do in the case of a firearm threat at school. S.B. 43, Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention in Public Schools, would not teach students how to use firearms, but rather what to do and who to tell if a firearm is found. The bill would also train them on what to do in situations with an active shooter.

Lots of questions about the safety of such a measure have arisen – but the bill clarifies that the class would never involve an actual firearm, and parents who object to the class reserve the option to have their children opt-out.  The school districts will make all decisions related to the class like whether it is held before, during, or after school and whether or not the school district will participate at all.

During testimony in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee, it was pointed out that Utah children have been killed or injured because they handled found firearms.  Many children in Utah grow up around firearms and are aware of the potential danger but many are unfamiliar with them and do not have the opportunity to learn at home.  This class will give those children the opportunity to learn in a politically neutral environment.

The bill passed out of committee favorably on a vote of 4-0-3 and moved to the Senate floor. The bill passed a second reading on a vote of 18-7-4.  After being substituted and amended to ensure political neutrality and change the funding source to the Education Fund, the bill passed the third reading on a vote of 22-5-2.


Hate Crimes

SB 107Hate Crimes Amendments, Senator Urquhart

Senator Urquhart, the sponsor of this bill, openly admits to previously being against hate crime legislation. Previously he was of the opinion that a hate crime is really just a normal crime, but now he feels differently. Hate crimes, according to Urquhart, are an attack on a community and not simply an individual. SB 107 would punish the act and intention behind the act. If convicted of a hate crime it would enhance the penalty by one degree. It must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that one of the motivations in committing the crime was hate.

In order to prevent violating first amendment rights to free speech, this bill will not hold against someone something they said separate from the crime, or their affiliations, or their donations to groups. In the committee, Senator Urquhart gave the example of if a person in the privacy of their home talks about how much they hate African Americans that is within their first amendment rights and cannot be used against them in court. However, if this same person is out on the street and says I hate African Americans so I’m going to go inflict harm on this one in front of me, that would be used in court against them.

This law is modeled after the Wisconsin law, which has already held up in court. Proponents of this bill hold that the existing hate crimes law in Utah is ineffective and near impossible to enforce. Opponents to the bill complained against the subjectivity of the identifiers listed in the bill. The bill includes more than the standard protected classes. Senator Weiler, asked the presenters if the same identifiers in this bill were used in Wisconsin or any of the 44 states with hate crime laws and the presenters were not aware if they were of not. This bill passed out of a Senate committee with a favorable recommendation, and will be debated on the Senate Floor – likely next week. To listen to the presentation from the committee, click here.


Medical Marijuana

SCR 11, Concurrent Resolution Urging the Rescheduling of Marijuana,
Senator Shiozawa

This concurrent resolution sponsored by Senator Shiozawa urges Congress to drop marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II. Changing the schedule of the drug would allow for research to be done on marijuana and allow scientific methods in discovering the benefits of marijuana.

Senator Shiozawa, an emergency room physician, sat on the Health and Human Services Committee this interim as the committee studied medical marijuana. Because there is limited studies due to the nature of a schedule I drug, much of the science presented to the committee was inconclusive. There were studies suggesting marijuana is harmful and not beneficial at all, and an equal number of studies saying that it is uniquely helpful and effective. Senator Shiozawa feels that the two marijuana bills being considered fail to address what he considers to be the fundamental question. Where is the research that clearly identifies which conditions, if any, can be effectively treated with marijuana? This resolution would serve to help answer that question.

This resolution has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Here is an article about this resolution.

Senator Madsen and Senator Vickers’ Medical Marijuana bills are still making waves here at the Capitol, and over the weekend the LDS Church put out a statement in opposition to the Madsen bill, but there wasn’t any legislative action taken this week on either one. Here’s what I wrote last week about the measures, in case you missed it:

SB73, Medical Cannabis Act, Senator Madsen

In the committee meeting, the sponsor said that this bill is about liberty and compassion. This bill allows for whole plant use to treat a number of specified medical conditions. The plant may not be used in combustible form (no smoking), but it can be used in vapor, edible or oil form. Physicians would not be permitted to prescribe more than 20% of their patients at a time marijuana.

This bill allows for a list of conditions to be treated with medical marijuana including multiple sclerosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, chronic pain, as well as a few other conditions.

1SubSB 89, Medical Cannabidiol Amendments, Senator Vickers/Rep. Daw

The sponsors of this bill say their guiding principle in this bill is to “do no harm”. This bill is viewed by many as a scaled back approach to solving the medical marijuana quandry. This bill will allow for CBD, but not THC (known as the psychoactive component) in medicinal marijuana products. It would also only permit adults 18 and older to be prescribed marijuana. It allows marijuana use for epilepsy, appetite stimulation for HIV/AIDS, nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, and a list of specified neuropathic pain conditions. This bill is intended to help begin studying the effects of marijuana for medicinal purposes and to start with a scaled back approach.


Pornography

SCR 9Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis

Senator Weiler became famous all over the internet this week when he said that  pornography today is like tobacco was 70 years ago. This resolution calls for “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level” in order to address what the resolution calls this “public health hazard.”

Although Senator Weiler did not officially present the resolution in committee until Friday, Feb. 5th, the legislation was already making waves in the media both locally and internationally, including a frank discussion about pornography on “The View” on Wednesday.  Some experts have weighed in and opinions seem to run the gamut, from those who are in full support to those who believe that pornography is not addictive or harmful in any way.

The resolution was presented on Feb. 5th  in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Senator Weiler pointed out that this is a non-binding resolution that calls pornography a public health crisis.  He said that the legislation is designed to bring attention to research that shows that pornography can be addictive and harmful, especially to developing minds.  He is not trying to ban pornography, despite what many media outlets have reported.  He did say that he is interested in looking closely at how England handles internet porn.

Though England is generally seen as more liberal than the U.S. when it comes to nudity and sexually explicit material, the government has had the foresight to require households to opt-in to having internet pornography available online.  Senator Weiler provided the committee with 16 letters of support from various experts around the country and the committee heard from local researchers and experts who spoke in support of the resolution as well as Utah citizens with personal experience to provide context.  The resolution passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee with a favorable recommendation on a vote of 5-0-1.

Links to some of the media coverage:


Water Issues

SB80, Infrastructure Funding Amendments, Senator Stuart Adams

We can expect to see many water bills this session. One bill coming out of the Senate – SB80, Infrastructure Funding Amendments from Senator Stuart Adams, has been making waves in the Legislative world. This issue was available for public comment in the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Standing Committee, and just passed its final Senate vote today on our floor.

The bill creates a water infrastructure fund, and would take this money from certain sales and tax revenue that was originally deposited into the Transportation Fund. Many citizens who spoke to the bill during the public comment period expressed concern that this money would be used on projects like the Lake Powell Pipeline. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Stuart Adams, said the fund at least initially would be a revolving fund intended to help local water authorities improve their outdated infrastructure. The bill passed out of the committee with a favorable recommendation on a vote of 5-2.

The bill was read on the Senate floor for a second time on Thursday, February 11th.  There were a few questions and concerns discussed on the floor.  Senator Howard Stephenson brought up his concern that Utahns collectively will be taxed to fund water projects that benefit a few Utahns, in some cases, people who pay the lowest water rates in the state.  Senator Hillyard brought up the likelihood of state road projects being delayed to fund water projects that have not been scheduled or planned.  Senator Jenkins pointed out that the water districts have projects that are too large to do without the state’s participation and that this bill allows the state to get in front of these needs.  The bill passed the second reading on a vote of 19-10.

On Friday, the bill was read for a third time.  Though there was no additional debate on this reading, a few Senators chose to explain their votes.  Senator Dabakis, in voting no, said that, to his perspective, the bill appears to be a Lake Powell pipeline bill and he wishes there was more information available showing where the funds will be going. Senator Dayton voted yes and wanted to point out that the bill was not a tax increase.  When the fund was originally created by the legislature, it was designed to be for water projects in its entirety.  Later, legislation was sponsored to take half away for transportation projects.  Senator Dayton said that this bill was bringing the fund back to its original purpose.

The bill passed on a vote of 19-10.

Here’s a news story, if you’re interested in reading more:  http://www.sltrib.com/news/3459714-155/lawmakers-utahns-wary-of-lake-powell.


A LIST OF ADDITIONAL BILL SUMMARIES YOU FIND INTERESTING:

 

SB114, “Municipal Utilities Amendments”, Senator Jerry Stevenson 

This bill seeks to allow cities to treat cable or fiber as a utility just like gas or electricity.

SCR8, “Concurrent Resolution Approving the Test and Training Range Land Exchange”, Senator Jerry Stevenson 

This bill proposes an exchange of state lands for federal lands within Utah. This will provide the State with valuable lands that have mining potential or that can be used for schools. The exchange will also provide valuable air space where the Air Force can test aircraft.

SB100, Traffic Fine Amendments, Senator Lyle Hillyard

This bill limits amounts received by local governments from traffic fine to 25% of the local government’s revenues, and allows the state auditor to monitor compliance. The media immediately renamed the bill the “Mantua Speed Trap Bill.” Senator Hillyard sponsored this bill ‘to reduce the incentive of policing for profit’.

SB59, Antidiscrimination Act Revisions, Senator Todd Weiler

The premise of this bill is to address the need for employers to provide reasonable provisions for pregnant women. Oftentimes women who are pregnant need additional breaks in order to pump milk or rest. This bill seeks to assure women who are pregnant that they will receive necessary accommodations based off their circumstance.

SB14, American Indian and Alaskan Native Amendments, Senator Van Tassell
American Indian and Alaskan native students have a significant achievement gap compared to other students in the state, and much of this is due to the high turnover rate of their teachers. SB 14 seeks to help American Indian and Alaskan native students succeed in public education by creating a pilot program to retain and improve teachers for these students. This program will fund the stipend, recruitment, retention, and professional development of teachers who teach in American Indian and Alaskan native concentrated schools.

2SB17, Revenue and Taxation Amendments, Senator Van Tassell
In January 2015, the Utah Supreme Court issued a decision in Anadarko v. Utah State Tax Commission which created the potential for a substantial oil and gas severance tax increase on every oil and gas company in Utah. This bill clarifies the statute and formula for calculating the oil and gas severance tax to basically keep the status quo so that oil and gas companies don’t have to pay this substantial tax increase. This bill is especially beneficial to the oil and gas industry right now because they are already reeling from dropping oil prices, and increasing their taxes would be crippling to the industry.

SB118, Uintah Basin Air Quality Research Project, Senator Van Tassell

The main purpose of this bill is to continue the ongoing effort to understand the unique ozone formation in the Uintah Basin by creating the Uintah Basin Air Quality Research Project. This will authorize the USU-Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center to study ozone formation in the Uintah Basin. This bill will help to discover the cause and makeup of ozone formation in the Basin which will hopefully aid in the understanding of how to deal with its effects.

SB102, High Cost Infrastructure Amendments, Senator Ralph Okerlund

The main idea behind this bill is to incentivize businesses and corporations to invest in Utah. With this bill, businesses would be allowed post construction tax credits on any contribution that they made to the local infrastructure. Senate Bill 216 – High Cost Infrastructure – was passed in 2015. This year, SB 102 – High Cost Infrastructure Amendments – adds a small number of amendments to the statute. SB 102 also includes incentives for refineries to invest in equipment and processes that promote tier 3 gas emission. To qualify for this credit, refineries would have to have this project completed by the year 2020.

SB71, Children’s Justice Center Amendments, Senator Ralph Okerlund

Senate Bill 71 adds three additional counties to the list of counties lawfully allowed have Children Justice Centers. These centers exist to help children who are victims of physical (including sexual) abuse by providing an environment in which they can address and heal from these traumatic experiences. The additional counties are Box Elder, San Juan and Summit. In addition, the AG is also charged with with providing training, technical assistance and other services to ensure that centers are able to provide quality services to children. These additional counties already have facilities available and only require funding for the servicing of the facilities.

SB134, Oil and Gas Conservation Fund Amendments, Senator Okerlund

This bill proposes to increase the Oil and Gas Conservation Account “cap” from $750,000 to $4.35 million – 100 % of the appropriation amount for the DOGM’s (Department of Oil, Gas and Mining) Oil and Gas Program. This means that instead of a limit  of $750,000, the program can tap into the rainy-day account during bust years. This rainy-day account is filled by fees paid by oil and gas operators. During boom years, the extra fees collected can then be transferred into the General Fund.

SB131, Utah College of Applied Technology Governance Amendments, Senator Steve Urquhart
This bill reorganizes the board of the Utah College of applied Technology closely along the lines of the Board of Regents, with 15 members. Each college of applied technology will nominate 1 of the members.

SB107, Hate Crimes Amendments, Senator Steve Urquhart
This bill corrects Utah’s hate crimes law according to court opinion, and it adds a one-degree enhancement for crimes committed because of the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.

SB1, Higher Education Base Budget, Senator Steve Urquhart
This bill changes the way that funds are appropriated for the operation of Higher Education. Instead of focusing on funding growth, this bill will fund performance. The formula of this bill appropriates funding for the 8 big schools in Utah, but there is a catch. Only the top performing school gets all the money that was appropriated to their school, the second best getting a percentage less, the third getting a percentage less than the second, and so on down the line. When the schools up their performance, they can earn back the money that was appropriated to them.

SB56, Nurse Practice Act Amendments, Senator Evan Vickers
This bill amends the Nurse Practice Act; amends definitions; requires a nursing education program to be accredited in order to qualify students to practice nursing in the state; and provides students of certain non-accredited nursing education programs time to graduate from the non-accredited program and qualify practice nursing in the state.

SB61, Smoking in Public Places Amendments, Senator Evan Vickers
This bill modifies provisions of the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act. This bill removes certain smoking prohibition exceptions for an international airport passenger terminal.

SB122, Wildland Fire Policy Updates, Senator Evan Vickers
This bill modifies procedures surrounding the management of wildland fire. This bill defines terms; requires a municipality to abate uncontrolled wildfire on private or municipality-owned land within its boundaries, under certain circumstances; authorizes a city, town, county, or certain special districts to enter a cooperative agreement with the Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands; states that a city, town, county, or a special district that enters into a cooperative agreement may be eligible to have the costs of catastrophic wildland fire suppression paid by the state.

SB108, Birthing Center Amendments, Senator Deidre Henderson
This bill prohibits the Department of Health from imposing certain requirements on birthing centers. This bill requires doctors and hospitals to allow licensed midwives to work in a licensed birthing center (defined to have 2-5 rooms) without having restrictions that are out of statute be placed upon them so that they may perform within the full scope of their training.

SB126, Committee Authority Amendments, Senator Deidre Henderson

This modifies provisions related to the Department of Health and its rule making authority. It requires certain committees such as the Primary Care Grant committee, the Health Facility Committee, the Child Care Licensing Committee, the State Emergency Medical Services committee, and the Health Data committee to require concurrence with the Department of Health.


Thanks for tuning in to my update.

Please know that I always love to hear your thoughts on these and other measures before our legislature.

I’d also like to invite you connect to the Utah Senate wherever you live on social media by visiting www.senatecloud.com. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and all sorts of other sites.

I can be reached by email at curt@cbramble.com, or by phone at  801-376-8297. You’re welcome to join me at the Capitol any time this session and if you’d like to meet with me, you can reach out to my intern, Zach at 801-361-5802

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve our district and thank you for all you do to make Utah the best state in the nation – and thanks for paying attention.

Warm regards,

Curt Bramble
Utah State Senate, District 16