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Annual Report Card on Utah Legislature
How Did Your Representatives Represent You in 2003?
Utahns Face Higher Taxes and the Unborn Lose During Legislative Session
Several bad bills were stopped by Utahs Legislators during the 2003 session, but Utahs legislators still passed bills which raised taxes, took away rights, and failed to pass several good bills.. After passing hate crimes legislation for the first time, House members had a change of heart and recalled the legislation. The House also stopped a proposed $97 million dollar tax increase passed by the Senate.
The Senate stopped big wins for Utahns when it failed to consider pro-life legislation (see page 8). To its credit the Senate did pass tuition tax credits but the bill died in the House when a motion to bring the issue to the floor failed.
The legislature appeared to have made government more accountable when it increased the power of the state auditor but made the legislation powerless when it failed to fund the additional responsibility.
Utah Government Shifts Left in 2003
Rep. Morgan Philpot (R-Sandy) and Rep. Mike Morley (R-Spanish Fork) tied for top scores amongst Utah Legislators during the 2003 legislative session. Both received scores of 84, while Senator Howard Stephenson (R-Draper) led all Senators with a 79. Stephenson is the only Senator to score above 70, while five representatives top 70. During the 2002 session, a total of 17 representatives scored above 70 and 26 topped the mark in 2001. Just as in 2003, one senator scored above 70 last year, while 12 topped the mark in 2001.
This years average score was 40 percent, which is the lowest average since the 1997 session. In 2002, the House averaged 51 percent and 56 percent in 2003. The Senate averaged 35 percent, which is the lowest average in the history of GrassRoots.
State Senate Refuses to Step Up to the Plate for the Unborn
Fails to Act on Pro-Life Legislation in three of past four years
By Don Guymon
The Utah State Senate failed to act on resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion in 2000 and 2002. Both resolutions sponsored by former Representative Glen Way (R-Spanish Fork) received overwhelming support in the House only to die when the Senate failed to act.
It was déja vu in 2003, as the Senate had two pro-life bills come before the body only to let both bills die without a vote from the body.
H.B. 123 sponsored by Morgan Philpot (R-Sandy) would have prohibited state funding of abortion. After making a number of substitutes to insure its constitutionality, the House passed Philpot's bill by a vote of 56-14-4. The bill passed the House on February 25 with eight days left in the legislative session,
In 2001, statistics from the Center for Disease Control and state of Utah 3,594 abortions were performed in the state and an untold number were paid for by taxpayer dollars. The number of abortions performed has risen each year since 1997. Philpot's bill would not only have saved lives but saved taxpayer dollars.
H.B. 241 sponsored by Mike Thompson (R-Sandy) would have strengthened Utah's partial birth abortion laws. Like Philpot's bill the House overwhelming passed the bill 66-8-1 on February 24. To his credit Senator Chris Buttars (R-Sandy) made a motion to bring H.B. 241 to a vote at 11:30 p.m. with 30 minutes left in the session, but Senators quickly moved to other business until time ran out.
Twenty-two members of the 29 member Senate are members of the Republican party whose platform proclaims, “We believe in the right to life for both the born and unborn... therefore we oppose abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the public funding of any of these abhorrent practices.”
State senators proclaim that time simply ran out and they had little alternative. But pro-life activist tell another story. The repeated requests by citizens were ignored by senators. Yet senators bristle at the suggestion that not enough was done to save the lives of the unborn.
Since the Senate has failed to act so many times, the question must be asked, “Are the majority of Utah's senators pro-abortion?” Until the state senate takes action, the question will be left in voters' minds. While some point the finger at Senate leadership for derailing pro-life policy, the fact remains that state senators choose their leadership. If state senators choose leadership that is indifferent to the unborn, then they must be willing to accept the criticism that comes from the actions of their elected leadership.
Of course leadership on the abortion issue has been sorely lacking in the state. During the 2000 presidential campaign, both Governor Mike Leavitt and Senator Orin Hatch refused to sign a pledge that they would only support pro-life vice-presidential nominees. Hatch has also fallen into disfavor with the pro-life movement for his strong support of human cloning.
The issue takes on greater urgency if media reports of changes in the Supreme Court are successful in striking down Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion 30 years ago. If the court allows states to outlaw abortion, the recent actions of the state senate give citizens who care about the unborn little hope that Utah would pass anti-abortion legislation.
The lack of attention to the unborn should be of concern to any Utah citizen who cares about protecting their rights. If the state Senate will not stand up for the most basic right, the right to life, then what rights can Utah's citizens expect them to protect?
Next year should be a pivotal session for state senators, half of whom will face reelection. If state senators refuse to stand up for the unborn one more year, then hopefully Utah voters will say, “Strike three you're out.”
What is GrassRoots?
GrassRoots is unlike any organization which issues a legislative report card, because it is not a group representing one particular area of interest. Its only special interest is helping to insure that every, man, woman and child enjoy the benefits of good government.
The Constitutions of the nation and state are the guides which GrassRoots uses in picking issues for its legislative report card. Bills are picked without regard to any particular individual. GrassRoots has been issuing its annual report since 1992. Feedback is welcomed at UtahGrassRoots.org.
Analysis of Bills for 2002
Bills are listed by number with house bills listed first. The sponsor of the bill is in parentheses. The tally on bills from each house is listed by yeas, nays and those absent or not voting. Text of all bills can be found at www.le.state.ut.us.
A) H.B. 8 (C. Moss) Requires any person under 19 years of age to wear a seat belt. Individual citizens should be able to decide there level of safety. Failed the House (35-39-1). GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
B) H.B. 76 (D. Bourdeaux) Parents would be guilty of a class B misdemeanor for failing to respond to public school officials requests to discuss their childrens truancy. Parents, and not the government, have the ultimate responsibility for their childrens behavior. Passed the House (64-9-2) but failed the Senate (8-17-4). GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
C) H.B. 109 Substitute (K. Bryson) Requires informed consent of adults before administering electroconvulsive shock treatment. Bill also prohibits the use of this procedure on children younger than 14. Passed the House (46-21-8) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. GrassRoots approves of a yes vote.
D) H.B. 123 Sixth Substitute (M. Philpot) Prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for an abortion. A significant number of the more than 3500 abortions performed in the state are paid with by taxpayer dollars, government should be working to protect the life of the unborn, not financing their murder. Passed the House (56-15-4) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate (See page 8). GrassRoots approves of a yes vote.
E) H.B. 169 (D. Cox) Provides a process for creating new school districts. Smaller school districts would empower parents by allowing decisions on the local level. Parents should have the ultimate control over our public schools; after all it is their children and their tax dollars. Passed the House (48-25-2), the Senate (15-14-0) and was signed into law by the Governor. GrassRoots approves of a yes vote.
F) H.B. 194 Second Substitute (J. Murray) Modified candidacy requirements for office of county sheriff. The office is a political position and citizens should be free to elect the individual they would like to serve them of sheriff. Passed the House (51-20-4), the Senate (26-0-3) and was signed into law by the Governor. GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
G) H.B. 215 Third Substitute (W. Harper) Requires state agencies to designate employees who are lobbyists. Requires information to be supplied to the legislature on lobbyists and creates penalties for agencies not in compliance. Passed the House (60-10-5) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. GrassRoots approves of a yes vote.
H) H.B. 222 (G. Curtis) Creates a pilot program to provide expanded access to abuse, neglect and dependency hearings. Our court system should be as open as possible to insure that all citizens' rights are protected. Passed the House (55-18-2), the Senate (20-3-6) and was signed into law by the Governor. GrassRoots approves of a yes vote.
I) H.B. 240 First Substitute (P. Wallace) Creates a Utah Capital Investment Board to raise funds to stimulate business in the state. Bill raises Constitutional concerns, because citizens of the state would guarantee at least $20 million per year to protect the fund. Passed the House (68-0-7), the Senate (21-7-1) and was signed into law by the Governor. GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
J) H.B. 255 Substitute (S. Allen) Allows voters to affiliate with a political party at all regular primary elections. Bill creates unfunded mandate counties to administer primary elections. Passed the House (69-0-6), the Senate (23-4-2) and was signed into law by the Governor. GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
K) S.B. 2 Sixth Substitute (B. Evans) Allows the state of Utah to issue $65.3 million in general obligation bonds. Issuing bonds today puts an undue burden on future taxpayers and may result in future increased taxes. Passed the House (52-22-1), the Senate (23-5-1) and was signed into law by the Governor. GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
L)S.B. 26 (P. Arent) Reauthorizes 52 state entities and programs that would have ceased to exist in 2004. Passed the House (70-0-5), the Senate (27-1-1) and was signed into law by the Governor. GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
M) S.B. 27 Third Substitute (L. Blackham) Loosens standards for involuntary committing individuals. Bill makes it easier to take away a person's rights. Passed the House (56-15-4), the Senate (21-8-0) and was signed into law by the Governor. GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
N) S.B. 28 Third Substitute (J. Hickham) Creates new requirements for placing citizen initiatives on the ballot. The bill sets the requirements for placing initiatives on the ballot so high, citizens may lose the ability to exercise their right guaranteed by the Utah Constitution. Passed the House (39-35-1), the Senate (18-7-4) and was signed into law by the Governor. GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
O) S.B. 34 Second Substitute (C. Buttars) Allows certain individuals a tax credit for choosing to send their children to private school. Bill empowers parents by giving them the means to choose the education. which best fits their child's needs. Passed the Senate (20-8-1), but this bill was not considered by the House. GrassRoots approves of a yes vote. A bill containing tuition tax credits (S.B. 155 Fourth Substitute) was considered by the House and is contained in the report.
P) S.B. 99 (K. Hale) Makes the act of not wearing a seat belt a primary offense. The act of wearing a seat belt should be a personal choice and is no business of the government. Failed the Senate (13-14-2).
Q) S.B. 103 (C. Bramble) Removes the 60-day restriction on the validity of concealed firearm permits issued by other states. Bill strengthens citizens' second amendment rights. Passed the House (48-19-8), the Senate (25-0-4) and was signed into law by the Governor.
R) S.B. 125 (C. Bramble) Makes it a criminal offense to allow a child to ride in the back of a pick-up. Bill is one more intrusion by the government into the rights of parents. Passed the Senate (15-11-3) but was voted on by the House. GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
S) S.B. 129 Substitute (J. Evans) Bill mandates that companies receiving government bids of over $100,000 must have over 15 employees and have established an apprenticeship program. Bill may shut many smaller companies out of the bidding process and reduce competition for government bids. Bill passed the Senate (19-8-2) but was not voted on by the House. GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
T) S.B. 134 (P. Julander) Bill increases mandates on businesses health insurance coverage. Mandates on business are not the proper role of government. Bill failed in the Senate (9-17-3)
U) S.B. 147 Substitute (L. Hillyard) Creates the process whereby government can tax internet purchases. According to the fiscal note, bill would result in a $1.35 million tax increase. Bill also raises constitutional issues. Passed the House (58-14-3) the Senate (25-0-4) and was signed into law by the Governor.
V) S.B. 155 Fourth Substitute (T. Hatch) Part of the so-called omnibus educational package. In this version the House had stripped out the $97 million tax increase passed by the Senate. Bill did contain a tuition tax credit. Vote was to bring the bill out of committee, for a vote on the floor. The vote failed in the House (33-39-3). GrassRoots approves of a yes vote.
W) S.B. 213 (E. Mayne) Bill raises taxes on the citizens of the state by over $20 million by removing the sales tax exemption on satellite and cable bills. Passed the House (39-32-4), the Senate (20-9-0) and was signed into law by the Governor. GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
X) S.B. 225 Substitute (L. Blackham) Establishes limits on judgments against government entities. Bill reduces the redress that citizens can receive by oppressive government. Passed the House (47-20-8), the Senate (27-2-0) and was signed into law by the Governor. GrassRoots approves of a no vote.
Y) Nomination of Judge Ronald E. Nehring to State Supreme Court. Nehring was a leader in state judges' defiance of law passed in 2002 which required gun lockers at all court buildings. Nehring was confirmed by the Senate (27-1-1) after being nominated by the Governor.
Top 25 Reps. - 2003
1) Michael Morley-R
Bottom 25 Reps. - 2003
49) Stuart Adams-R
Top 25 Reps. - Lifetime
1) Morgan Philpot-R
Bottom 25 Reps. - Lifetime
49) Carl Duckworth
Senate Rank - 2003
1) Howard Stephenson-R
Senate Rank - Lifetime
1) Bill Wright-R
Average score for 2003 was 40 for House members and 35 for senators.
Five house members scored above 70, while one senator tipped the mark. In 2002, 17 representatives scored above 70, while one senator scored higher than 70 in 2002.
The 2003 GrassRoots Report was prepared by Don Guymon and converted to HTML by Iodynamics.
President of GrassRoots: Bill Barton
For more information email GrassRoots at UtahGrassRoots.org
The author thanks all of those individuals who helped in the publication of this newsletter.
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