Utah Legislature Watch: a few bills I’m following

Conservative, moderate or liberal: there have been a few bills that bug me this session of the Utah Legislature, and there have been a few that I liked that just aren’t making it. Here are four that sample both.

  • One I liked: As biker, I liked Senator Niederhauser’s bill that would have allowed bikers at a stop sign to just slow down and not come to a full stop. I do that already, but it would have been nice to do it without looking for a police car. On a vote of 11-11, the Senate killed the bill. Arguing against the bill, Sen. Van Tassell from Vernal (do people ride bikes around in Vernal?) compared bikes to semi-trucks…? You know, because of the size similarities and how much bikers and semi-trucks are alike when it comes to the ability to hurt others.  Regardless, the bill is dead, and bikers will keep doing what they did before; slowing, then continuing through stop signs.
  • One I disliked: As a human being, I have not been impressed with the bills that Stephen Sandstrom has proposed to deal with immigration. I agree that the US immigration system is complicated, that a ton of people move here without going through the system (i.e. by way of the”the Southern Border Triathlon” consisting of run, climb, or swim), and I think that it needs to be fixed. However, it has become a source for demagogues to grandstand, and I think Sandstrom’s bill does little to help the problem. In fact, it uses standards that are very likely discriminatory, expensive, and likely unconstitutional.  Fortunately, Senate President Michael Waddups recognizes questionable language when he sees it, especially when it leads to racial profiling: “It did matter,” Waddoups said. “Everyone associates that as dealing with racial profiling. We don’t want to have that in there.” Besides, I’m not really convinced that the state’s have any business enforcing immigration in the first place without cooperation of the federal government.
  • One I am unsure about: HB477 makes changes to Utah’s GRAMA law. Proposed by Rep. John Dougall, who Speaker Lockhart called “an idea guy.” I’ve met him, listened to him pontificate on his ideas, and he is a smart and articulate guy. He does his homework. The intent of the law is to keep open records requests reasonable so the already slow workings of government can’t be overwhelmed by responding to the requests, usually by the press. It’s laudable. However, so is the reason we have the law in the first place–to make sure government and politicians are accountable. It’s a balancing act, and I am not sure which way the HB477 changes will tip the balance. And that’s why I’m unsure about it. (Also, check out this piece of “gotcha” journalism when a bored reporter chased down the Governor on this bill)
  • One more I like: Statewide Online Education Program sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson. The bill allows access to school materials anywhere in the state, but withholds most of the payment until most of the course is finished, to ensure completion. Some on the left have complained that it takes money from public schools–I’m ok with that, since the people using it aren’t getting any benefit from the public schools, anyway. This bill just appears to redistribute to them the value they would have received if they were in the school.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but a sampling. There are lots of bills still floating around the marbled halls of the Utah Capitol, and I do mean lots. Which are you following?

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3 responses to “Utah Legislature Watch: a few bills I’m following

  1. I was excited by SB73 (substitute) which would have outlawed last-hired first-fired policies for school districts. It seemed like a common sense adjustment that would allow districts to keep the best teachers in cases of layoffs. It has been heavily amended and now only prohibits districts from using a “primarily” last-hired first-fired policy. I think it’s improvement though.

    Great post.

  2. Actually, the amendment that suggested inserting the word “primarily” failed. The bill has been amended once. The original bill not only eliminated the last hired, first fired policy, it would have caused the bottom 5 percent of performing teachers to lose their career status. According to the committee hearing, that part was removed because there is no system currently in place to evaluate teachers. So the bill was amended to only eliminate the use of a last hired, first fired policy.

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