Annual Report Card on Utah Legislature
(Contains ratings charts and rankings)
How Did Your Representatives Represent
You in 2011?
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of 2011
The Legislature should be commended for its ability to balance Utah's
budget without raising taxes during these tough economic times. Our
elected leaders also continue to reassert our 10th amendment rights against
a federal government that has exerted more control over state issues.
Good bills were passed creating a statewide online educational system,
strengthening second amend rights and allowing school districts more
flexibility in funding education.
Legislators unanimously passed legislation which increased government
regulation. They also failed to pass legislation which would have given
voters more power in electing state school board members.
The passage of two bills, HB 477 and HB 116, put a black eye on this
session. HB.477 (see Who is the Servant? Who is the
Master?) ruined Utah's GRAMA laws. In passing HB 116, the
legislature set a terrible precedent by creating the nation’s first
state-based guest worker program. Not only is this bill unconstitutional
due to the fact is conflicts with federal immigration laws, it also rewards
illegal immigrants who have knowingly broken our nation's laws and violated
its borders with amnesty. Accordingly, once it goes into effect, this law
will serve to transform Utah into America’s first ever sanctuary state.
Both bills were negotiated in secret and introduced at the tail end of the
session. Both were passed in a rushed manner, which is inconsistent with
Wimmer and Morley Lead House;
Madsen Receives Top Score in Senate
House Summary: Carl Wimmer (R-SL) and Mike Morley
(R-UT) earned scores of 95% to lead all House members. Also receiving over
90% was Julie Fisher (R-Davis). Earning 89% were Merilynn Newbold (R-SL),
Curt Oda (R-Davis), Stephen Sandstrom (R-UT), Kenneth Sumsion (R-UT).
Overall the House averaged a 61% which is above its lifetime average of 54%
Senate Summary: Mark Madsen (R-UT) received a 93% to
lead all Senators; he was followed by Curt Bramble (R-UT), Daniel Thatcher
(R-Salt Lake) and Margaret Dayton (R-UT). The Senate averaged a 66%
compared to its lifetime percentage of 54%.
Governor: Gary Herbert’s received a 73% up from his
score of 71% in his first year in office.
What is GrassRoots?
GrassRoots has been issuing an annual legislative report
card since 1992. 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.
Analysis of Bills for 2011
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 http://www.le.state.ut.us/.
A) H.B. 75 (C. Oda) Prior to the passage of HB 75, an individual could not
carry a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. This bill protects our second
amendment righs by removing this limit. The second amendment states,
right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
GrassRoots approves of YES vote. Passed the House (58-15-2); Senate
(19-8-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
B) H.B. 76 (K. Ivory) Creates a Federalism Subcommittee
within the Constitutional Defense Council to review how federal law impacts
Utah, discuss challenging certain federal rulings and prepare a defense
plan against further federal intervention into the state. It also creates
a defense fund as Utah challenges the recently passed federal health care
bill. This bill is a first step in preserving our 10th amendment rights.
GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (58-11-6); Senate
(25-2-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
C) H.B. 89 (P. Arent) Would have made it illegal to
smoke in a car while a child is present. A parent has the primary
responsibility for raising their children. This bill infringes on parental
rights for doing a legal activity. While GrassRoots hopes parents will not
smoke while their children are present, this is not a proper role of
government. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (39-35-1)
but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
D) H.B. 116 (Wright) Creates a guest worker program in
the state of Utah for which only illegal immigrants are eligible. Anyone
who has entered the country illegally would be able to benefit from their
breaking of federal law by being able to remain in the state and work
legally. GrassRoots opposes, as a matter of principle, any law which grants
amnesty to illegal immigrants as this does. This bill conflicts with
federal law, and based upon the supremacy clause in the US Constitution is
unconstitutional. GrassRoots approves of NO vote. Passed the House
(41-32-2); Senate (19-5-5) and was signed into law by the Governor.
E) HB. 138 (K. Ivory) Requires certain state agencies
to report money received from the federal government and create a plan for
reduced federal funding. The federal government is trillions of dollars in
debt, and federal spending needs to be cut. In addition, federal money
received by the state often comes with strings attached which cost the
state additional money to fund. This bill is a beginning to what
GrassRoots hopes will be an end to federal funding with its unfunded
mandates on the citizens of this state. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote.
Passed the House (59-9-7); Senate (25-0-4) and was signed into law by the
F) H.B. 183 (K. Grover) Prohibits a local school board
from granting paid leave for employee association or union duties. Our tax
dollars should be used judiciously. Tax dollars directed towards education
should be spent educating our children and not for union activities which
often conflict with the best interest of our children. GrassRoots approves
of a YES vote. Passed the House (42-28-5); Senate (20-7-2); and was signed
into law by the Governor.
G) H.B. 191 (C. Wimmer) Would have required a student
to prove that their parents or legal guardians have paid Utah income taxes
during the prior three years to qualify for instate tuition at our colleges
or universities. Current law allows children of illegal immigrants to
benefit from their illegal actions by receiving instate tuition. Those who
violate our laws should not benefit from their actions. GrassRoots
approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (44-28-3) but did not come up for
a vote in the Senate.
H) H.B. 199 (J. Bird) Allows school districts to raise
additional funds for transportation by selling advertising on school buses.
If school districts could raise additional money by businesses voluntarily
advertising on their buses as opposed to citizens involuntarily being
taxed, then that would be a good policy change. GrassRoots approves of a
YES vote. Passed the House (42-30-3); Senate (18-7-4) and was signed into
law by the Governor.
I) H.B. 220 (M. Morley) Requires public schools to
teach that the United States' form of government is a compound
constitutional republic. Our Constitutional form of government is the best
form of government known to man, and it is vital that our children
understand this fact. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House
(54-14-7); Senate (27-0-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
J) H.B. 243 (M. Morley) Enlarges government by
requiring licensure for recreational massage therapists. GrassRoots
believes that the business industry should be allowed to govern itself;
unless its actions will affect the God given rights of our citizens.
Recreational massage does not fit into this category. GrassRoots approves
of a NO vote. Passed the House (71-0-4); Senate (25-0-4) and was signed
into law by the Governor.
K) H.B. 249 (C. Herrod) Recognizes the right of
individuals to grow food for personal use or for their family without being
subject to local, state or federal regulation unless the food poses a
health risk. Recent federal legislation has put this right at risk.
Government has many important functions, but regulating what you grow in
your garden is not one of them. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed
the House (49-15-11) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
L) H.B. 317 (B. Galvez) Recognizes gold and silver
coins issued by the federal government as legal tender. By printing
trillions of dollars out of thin air, the Federal Reserve has significantly
devalued the value of our paper currency. This bill allows citizens to
protect their hard-earned wealth from further devaluation. GrassRoots
approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (47-26-2); Senate (17-7-5) and
was signed into law by the Governor.
M) H.B. 353 (C. Wimmer) Provides that a health care
provider may on moral or religious grounds refuse to perform or in any way
participate in an abortion. It also extends these same rights to health
care facilities. One of the proper roles of government is to protect life
and preserve religious freedom. This bill does both. GrassRoots approves
of a YES vote. Passed the House (54-13-8); Senate (23-6-0) and was signed
into law by the Governor.
N) H.B. 354 (C. Wimmer) Limits the type of abortion
coverage that may be offered in a health benefit plan, on the state health
insurance exchange, or on a federally mandated health insurance exchange.
As noted in our write up of H.B. 353 one of the proper roles of government
is the protection of life. It is inappropriate for government to aid in
any manner the taking of innocent life. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote.
Passed the House (59-12-4); Senate (24-4-1) and was signed into law by the
O) H.B. 477 (J. Dougall) Amends the current GRAMA law
to exclude emails, text messages, instant message and voice messages. This
bill also allowed government entities to charge an unlimited amount for
government requests. While GrassRoots acknowledges that GRAMA laws need to
be reviewed, the manner in which the bill was passed was very troubling.
H.B. 477 had a title that only referred to changes in government until the
Tuesday evening it was released (which was right at the tail end of the
legislative session). The bill was then passed by both legislative bodies
within 72 hours and was signed by the Governor only five days after the
language was released. Not only did our legislative representatives exempt
themselves from GRAMA requests, but they also rammed this bill through
without allowing adequate citizen feedback. GrassRoots is appreciative
that both the legislature and Governor repealed HB 477 in a special
session, but it also believes that our representatives should be held
accountable for their votes (both good and bad) on this important piece of
legislation. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed House (42-29-4);
Senate (23-6-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
P) H.B. 497 (S. Sandstrom) Requires that a law
enforcement officer verify the immigration status of a person arrested for
a felony, class A misdemeanor or person booked for other misdemeanors. The
protection of our nation’s borders is a proper role of government. It is
also appropriate that those who enter the country illegally, and then break
other laws are held accountable for their actions. GrassRoots approves of
a Yes vote. Passed the House (59-15-1); Senate (22-5-2) and was signed
into law by the Governor.
Q) S.B. 65 (H. Stephenson) Creates the Statewide Online
Education Program. More educational choices will reduce class sizes and
increased competition will improve the quality of our children’s education
and give citizens a better return on their education tax dollars.
GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (48-27-0); Senate
(27-0-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
R) S.B. 73 (H. Stephenson) Prohibits school districts
from using last-hired, first fired layoff policy when reducing staff. Our
children deserve to have the best teachers. When schools are reducing
staff, the best teachers should be kept. Our tax dollars should not be
spent on teachers who are not up to the task, while good teachers are let
go. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (45-28-2); Senate
(19-6-4); and was signed into law by the Governor.
S) S.B. 86 (S Jenkins) Reauthorizes approximately 40
state entities and programs which would sunset before the next legislative
session. The purpose of sunset legislation is for a entity or program to
end after a certain period of time, or at a bare minimum have thorough
review and debate. Reauthorizing such a large number (the majority of
which do not have any connection to each other) is irresponsible.
GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (57-13-5); Senate
(22-0-7) and was signed into law by the Governor.
T) S.B. 224 (H. Stephenson) Under current law
candidates for state school board are picked by a committee and the
Governor. The state school budget makes up a majority of our Utah budget.
Our citizens deserve a greater say in how their education dollars are spent
and how education policy is created and implemented. This bill would allow
citizens to choose state school board representatives in the same manner
the Governor and legislature are chosen. GrassRoots approves of a YES
vote. Passed the Senate (17-12-0) but did not come up for a vote in the
Who is the Servant, Who is the Master?
By Don Guymon
Who is the servant and who is the master?
That is the fundamental question raised in the HB 477 debate which
overturned our GRAMA laws.
First let's ask the question, “Why does the public need to
Many people start their day by acknowledging that their work computer is
subject to reviewed at any time. The owner of the business sets the
expectation that the employee is doing work on his/her computer. Who is the
owner of our state government? Just as with any business, the owner the
person who pays the bills or in this case supply the tax dollars. The
owner also has the power to terminate employment as do voters.
If a business owner has the ability to check what his employee is doing,
why should the citizens of this state be treated any differently? In an
environment where money flows from lobbyists to legislators and special
interests abound, one would think that our legislators would favor a system
that allows as much sunlight as possible to show the public that yes in
fact the system works and they are above reproach.
The troubling aspect about the passage of HB 477 was not only the
contents of the bill, which would have exempted all email, voice mail,
instant messaging and texts from public access; it was the manner in which
it was done. For five weeks of the six week legislative session, the bill
sat with no text and a title which made no reference to GRAMA. Then on
Tuesday evening (March 1st), the text was released. By Friday it had sailed
through both the House and Senate (despite not having one citizen speak in
favor of the bill at committee hearings). On Tuesday (March 8th) the
governor signed the bill, although he could have waited until March
Legislators began to doubt their vote almost immediately. Three
legislators tweeted that they were reconsidering their vote on Monday
(March 7th), although only Carl Wimmer switched his vote. The governor
rationalized that he negotiated a 90 day window before it would go into
effect, so he signed the bill so he wouldn't have been overridden. The only
problem with that spin is that the bill did not receive a 2/3rds vote in
the House. The votes were not there to override his veto, and if there had
been an override so what? At least the governor would have done the right
The administration's claims that the legislature pushed it through while
he was in Washington ring hollow, when you consider that few bills were
signed before the session ended. The governor appears to have been just as
on board with HB 477 as the legislature.
Remember last year when he didn't sign the tobacco tax increase, but let
it go into law without his signature? He wanted to claim that he never
signed a tax increase, but the net effect of his actions was what a tax
When the UEA came beckoning to veto SB 65 (which created an online
school), he listened and considered vetoing the bill (although he ultimate
did sign it). So the notion that his hands were tied, is either
intellectually dishonest or shows that the governor is afraid of the
The governor could have been a hero. When the people complained, the
bill got repealed in a special session (which cost the taxpayers an
The argument that we need to keep private information private is true.
The only issue is that it is already part of the law. In the event a
government entity feels the information is confidential, a five member
board reviews the request. This past year the committee ruled text messages
involving a member of UDOT who was having a relationship with a contractor
were confidential in nature. A study by The Salt Lake Tribune
(March 29, 2011) found that four of the 10 GRAMA requests during the 2010
legislative session were denied or the information could not be found. This
included a request that was denied from the Deseret News which
requested all emails received by Rep Stephen Sandstrom (R-Utah) about
The cost of open records requests has been used to justify HB 477. Of
the 10 requests last year, legislative staff only kept records of one.
According to The Tribune the costs associated with that were $2,100 and it
was not done by the media or private citizens but by a law firm.
It was clear that many legislators cast votes without knowing the facts.
The Senate sponsor of the bill admitted that he did not know that a state
records committee existed.
The repeal of HB 477 was a good thing, the only issue is it should have
never gotten to that point in the first place. Any future changes to GRAMA
laws should be thoroughly vetted.
The legislature and governor should remember who their ultimate boss is.
The people who supply their salaries ultimately have the power to say
“You're Fired” at the voting booth.