Committed to Promoting the Principles of Limited Government, Constitution, Representative Government,
Participatory Republic, Free Market Economy, Family and Separation of Powers
Annual Report Card on Utah Legislature
PDF version (Contains ratings charts and rankings)
How Did Your Representatives Represent You in 2013?
Big Government Strikes Back
After years of increasing GrassRoots scores; scores dropped dramatically as the legislature took a turn towards bigger government.
Bills which had been defeated in previous legislative sessions (like H.B. 13 outlawing smoking in cars with children under age 15) passed both chambers. A bill to put Utah on the road to providing pre-school education (S.B. 71) actually made it out of committee but luckily was defeated on the Senate Floor. Another bill (S.B. 262) which would have infringed against a citizen’s first amendment and property rights made it out of committee (S.B. 262) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. Bills that infringed Second and Fifth Amendment rights passed both bodies (H.B. 50 and H.B. 121).
A number of bills which would have protected a citizen’s second amendment rights were introduced. Unfortunately H.B. 76 which would have done away with a requirement that a permit was necessary to conceal carry was vetoed by Governor Herbert (the only bill which he chose to veto). Others such as H.B. 114 and H.B. 268 were killed in the Senate without a vote.
The legislature watered down good bills which would have eased the burden of regulation and kept in place many bills which regulated business. Bills which created new regulations were also passed.
The body also increased government’s role in providing health care with passage of bills such as H.B. 157. The session did have its high points, as bills which protected family rights (H.B. 156) and property rights (H.B. 164 and H.B. 236) passed the body. Taxpayers also received protection with the passage of S.B. 34.
We are disappointed by the sheer number of laws enacted this year. 524 bills in six weeks is 17.5 new laws for each day the Legislature met. The Senate passed 70 bills in one day! Hardly an exemplary record for what is supposed to be a deliberative body. Liberty is never well served by an excess of legislation. We urge the Legislature to act with more caution and deliberation in the future.
Governor Herbert chose to issue only one veto (on a good bill). He also did not choose to use his line item veto power. A governor is meant to be a check on the state legislature, not a rubber stamp.
Roberts Tops House; Dayton Leads Senate
House Summary: Marc Roberts (R-UT) received a 92% to lead all House members. Rounding out the top six in the House were Briane Greene (R-UT), Michael Kennedy (R-UT), John Knotwell (R-SL), Ken Ivory (R-SL) and Curt Oda (R-DA). Roberts and Greene were the only House members to receive over 90%.
Senate Summary: Margaret Dayton (R-UT) scored a 82% to lead all Senators. Mark Madsen (R-UT) and Howard Stephenson (R-SL) rounded out the top three.
Governor: Governor: Gary Herbert received his lowest score since becoming governor. He received a 27% compared to his lifetime average of 60%.
Averages: The House received an average score of 46%; compared to members’ lifetime average of 51%. The Senate received an average score of 40%; compared to members’ lifetime average of 55%.
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 2013
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. 13 (P. Arent) Prohibits an individual from smoking in a car if a child 15 years of age or younger is present. Individual could be fined up to $45. Currently smoking is allowed under state law. This law sets an interesting precedent. Will we next punish smoking in homes where a 14 year old is present? Will we reduce the fine if one or more windows are open? While the desire to reduce smoking can be noble, the approach of having government punish every conceivable imperfect behavior has its dangers. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (41-30-4), Senate (16-13-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
B) H.B. 50 (J. Seelig) Allows second amendment rights to be revoked for six months without any criminal trial and without protections of a criminal trial. While the apparent intention of the bill, to stop dating violence, may be noble; our Constitutional rights should only be lost after an individual has been afforded due process. A right guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (61-11-3), Senate (24-4-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
C) H.B. 76 (J. Mathis) Allows an individual who is 21 years or older and who may lawfully carry a firearm to be able to conceal carry a weapon without a permit. An individual should not need a permit from the government to exercise their second amendment rights. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (51-18-6), Senate (22-7-0) but was VETOED by the Governor.
D) H.B. 91 (R. Chavez-Houck) Allows for same day voter registration. In a participatory republic, it is vital that our elections are free of fraud. By allowing same day voter registration, it removes many safeguards meant to guaranteethat an individual only votes once. It was also an unfunded mandate which would have increased costs to county government by over $131,000. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (53-14-8) but failed in the Senate (10-18-1).
E) H.B. 114 (B. Greene) Affirms the state legislature has the exclusive authority to adopt and enact any laws regarding the use of firearms within the state. When the federal government attacks the citizens’ rights, it is the duty of the state government to take reasonable and prudent measures to protect these rights. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (49-17-9) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
F) H.B. 121 (D. Pitcher) Allows a cohabitant to commit another person’s firearm to law enforcement for 60 days. This bill violates an individual’s right to due process by allowing an individual to turn in another person’s property. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (44-28-3), Senate (21-4-4) and was signed into law by the Governor.
G) H.B. 147 (L. Christensen) Enlarges government by creating the Utah Marriage Commission. The aims of the commission may be noble including promoting programs which help couples achieve strong and lasting marriages, but this begins to put government (an institution of force) into a role traditionally played by religion, families, churches and other private entities. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (59-11-5), Senate (22-2-5) and was signed into law by the Governor.
H) H.B. 156 (L. Christensen) Permits a child age 12 or older to petition for restoration of terminated parental rights under certain circumstances. Helps restore families and empowers children to make decisions for their own future. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (60-13-2), Senate (23-1-5) and was signed into law by the Governor.
I) H.B. 157 (R. Edwards) Enlarges government by creating a two-year pilot program within the Department of Health to provide hearing aids to qualifying children with hearing loss. If an individual cannot forcibly take money from their neighbor to pay for their children’s needs, the government does not have that right either. This type of aid is best left to charities, where individuals are able to give of their own free will. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (71-0-4), Senate (22-4-3) and was signed into law by the Governor.
J) H.B. 164 (M. Roberts) Empowers municipal and county leaders and law enforcement officers to act when federal government conduct on federal managed land poses an imminent threat to citizens or their property. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (58-13-4), Senate (22-5-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
K) H.B. 233 (R. Menlove) Continues the role of government regulation in the funeral industry by repealing the sunset date of the funeral services licensing act. Licensing creates barriers of entry for new business, which deprives consumers of choice. It is not the proper role of government. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (50- 11-14), Senate (24-0-5) and was signed into law by the Governor.
L) H.B. 236 (M Brown) Protects private property rights by prohibiting a county from adopting a land use ordinance that, in certain circumstances, requires a property owner to revegetate or landscape. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (62-10-3), Senate (21-5-3) and was signed into law by the Governor.
M) H.B. 251 (R. Menlove) Repeals the sunset date of a program that provides employment services to a person with a disability. Programs such as this are best run by religious and charitable organizations. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (63-3-9), Senate (25-0-4) and was signed into law by the Governor.
N) H.B. 268 (P. Ray) Allows an individual to exercise his/her second amendment rights without being charged for disorderly conduct for openly carrying a firearm. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (54-12-9) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
O) H.B. 274 (B. King) Enacts a nonrefundable corporate and individual income tax credits for employing a homeless person. Creates inequality under the law, as an individual who is homeless would receive preferential treatment over an individual who was not homeless. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (41-33-1) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
P) H.B. 317 (J. Anderegg) Protects an individual’s fourth amendment right to privacy by prohibiting the sharing of concealed firearm permit information with the federal government. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (62-9-4), Senate (28-1-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
Q) H.B. 391 (J. Anderegg) Prohibits the Department of Healthfrom expanding the Medicaid program unless a number of provisions are met. As originally substituted the bill required the legislature to approve any expansion of Medicaid spending in the state. The Senate watered down this bill. While the bill is an improvement, it was disappointing that the Senate did not reinforce the separation of powers. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (51-23-1), Senate (27-0-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
R) S.B. 34 (H. Stephenson) Protects taxpayers by requiring elections for bond debt, leeway, levy or tax to take place at the general election. Previously municipalities could hold special elections in which voter turnout might be low. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (56-17-2), Senate (29-0-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
S) S.B. 39 (S. Reid) Requires the State Board of Education to offer instruction to parents regarding sex education for their children. Teaching adults how to parent is not the proper role of government. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the Senate (25-0-4) but was defeated in the House(16-50-9)
T) S.B. 55 (B. Shiozawa) Allocates $1.5 million for the general fund for the treatment of autism. Charitable donations are not the proper role of government. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the Senate (20-6-3) but did not come up for a vote in the House.
U) S.B. 56 (T. Weiler) Creates the Utah 211 Referral Information Network to provide information about health and human services throughout the state. As was noted earlier, health and human services programs are more properly the work of churches and other charitable organizations and not of government. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (47-20-8), Senate (28-0-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
V) S.B. 66 (S. Reid) Increases the requirements for those seeking referendums on actions taken by municipal bodies. In a city or town, the only check on the city council is the citizens with a referendum. The referendum has been used to overturn several tax increases which cities sought to enact. This bill was designed to make it harder for citizens to put a check on their elected officials. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the Senate (27-1-1) but did not come up for a vote in the House.
W) S.B. 71 (A. Osmond) Enlarges government by creating the Results-based Early Education board which may enter into contracts with private entities to provide funding for early childhood education. Bill included a provision that the board could have up to $10,000,000 of outstanding obligations. GrassRoots approves of a No vote. Defeated in the Senate (11-18-0)
X) S.B. 73 (J. Stevenson) Creates the Outdoor Recreation Office. Bill will cost taxpayers $100,000. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (60-10-5), Senate (23-1-5) and was signed into law by the Governor.
Y) S.B. 187 (C. Bramble) Prohibits a person from acting as a food handler for a food service establishment unless the person successfully completes an approved food handler training program and holds a valid food handler permit. As with so many occupational permitting and licensing proposals, this bill is an attack on individuals’ right to contract and on free enterprise. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (65-7-3), Senate (24-5-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
Z) S.B. 267 (J.S. Adams) Creates a tax credit for the purpose of building a new convention hotel in Salt Lake County. Enactment of this bill would mean the state may forgo approximately $2.9 million in FY 2015 and approximately $75 million over the life of the tax credit. Grassroots approves of a NO vote. Passed the Senate (15-13-1) but was defeated in the House (35-39-1).
AA) S.B. 275 (J.S. Adams) Tasks Questar Gas with building the infrastructure necessary to convert fleets of government vehicles and allows Questar to pass the cost on to residential rate payers. Because Questar will be receiving government assistance to build refueling stations, it will give them an unfair advantage over other natural gas providers who may want to start similar refueling stations in the future. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (58-13-4), Senate (28-0-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
Charity and the Proper Role of Government
By Don Guymon
One of the most fundamental principles of our government is that individuals are endowed with God given rights. Rights guaranteed in our US Constitution.
The preamble of our Constitution declares “We the People” ordained and established this constitution. It is “We the People” who vested government with our authority.
We have the right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. It is also important to remember that nowhere do our founding documents state that we are endowed with rights to control our neighbor, the power to control their property, and the power to control how they seek to pursue happiness.
If we do not have the authority to control our neighbors, then how can vest the government we with such authority?
Since we have the right to defend our lives, it stands to reason that government has the right to defend our lives. We do not have the right to take over our neighbor’s home and property, hence government does not have that right (unless there is evidence that they are hurting others).
We have the right to promote our health, and to seek lawful means to pay for our healthcare costs, but we cannot rightly go to our neighbors and forcibly take money from them to pay for our healthcare.
While there may have been noble intentions behind the Legislature considering paying $1.5 million for children’s autism coverage and $200,000 for hearing aids, government does not have the right to tax money from you and your neighbors to pay for it.
Our government today goes to extraordinary measures to collect taxes from its citizens; including taking away people’s property, making people pay large fines and even putting individuals in jail.
Because government has such great power (power which it may not have derived properly), it has the duty to exercise that power within its proper role so that citizens can enjoy the fruits of their labor and not face the severe punishments that come when they cannot pay their taxes.
While our citizens do not have the right to expect their neighbors to take care of them; we do have a moral obligation to take care of our neighbor. All too often people only talk about morality in terms of sex, but morality is far more than that. We have a moral obligation to look out for each other. This moral obligation also includes the duty to take care of ourselves and to live in a self- reliant manner.
When government steps outside of its proper role by providing charity, it hurts society because instead of looking out for each other we expect the government to do it. It is also costing our society financially.
Our federal government is over $16 trillion in debt. Despite a “War on Poverty” which the government has been fighting since 1964, we are nowhere near winning. A 2011 New York Times article noted that a higher percentage of Americans are currently living in poverty than any time since the program started. This is largely due to an inefficient system.
When we approve bills that cross the line into tax-funded “charity” then we unwittingly cripple the citizens we were trying to help. If we allow government to pay for some health care expenses, why shouldn’t it pay for all health care expenses?
Until we clearly discern between inalienable rights and their beguiling counterfeits we call entitlements; we will have a society that continues to drown in debt and flounders as individuals fail to take of themselves, and fails to look out for their neighbor.