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Annual Report Card on Utah Legislature
PDF version (Contains ratings charts and rankings)
How Did Your Representatives Represent You in 2017?
In 45 days our legislature passed 535 bills a new record.
Of the bills passed Utah Data Points (utahdatapoints.com) showed on average 93% of House members voted together; while 97% of Senators voted together. This demonstrates that the partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats in the state is very narrow.
This year’s GrassRoots numbers demonstrate that the House was more partisan than the Senate. Average GrassRoots scores in the House were 40%; while in the Senate they were 32%. Overall House scores increased from 2016; while Senate scores fell dramatically.
One of the areas which demonstrated the shift towards larger government is the number of tax and fee increases which were introduced; several of which passed. Legislators voted to raise the gas tax yet again (SB 276), voted to raise the short-term lodging tax (SB 264) and taxes on phone bills (SB 198). These bills combined will raise taxes by over $36 million in 2019. Efforts to enforce an internet sales tax (SB 83 and SB 110) failed because of a House committee stopping the measure; but almost passed unanimously in the Senate. The Senate even almost voted to increase the cost of a marriage license! (Fortunately it failed 14-14). A proposal to increase various driver license application fees and background check fees that are paid when purchasing a firearm (HB 388) passed the House but never came to a Senate floor vote.
The House passed several good bills which didn’t even receive a vote in the Senate. This included asset forfeiture reform (HB 19) and a bill which allowed a person to defend himself (HB 259). The Senate had several good bills which were introduced but failed; this included an effort to scale back compulsory education in the state.
While a great asset forfeiture bill did not get a Senate vote; both houses did vote to allow individuals who are found innocent of a crime to receive their property back (SB 87). Another bill which allows individuals as young as 18 to conceal carry was also passed (HB 198).
Roberts Tops House; Dayton Leads senate
House Summary: Marc Roberts (R-UT) received the top score for the House in this year’s report. Rounding out the top 10% were Brian Greene (R-UT), Ken Ivory (R-UT), Dan McCay (R-SL), Kim Coleman (R-SL), John Knotwell (R-UT) and Tim Quinn (R-Wasatch).
Senate Summary: Margaret Dayton (R-UT) received the top score in the Senate. Also, finishing in the top 10% were David Hinkins (R-Emery) and Lincoln Filmore (R- SL)
Governor: Governor Herbert received a 27% compared to his lifetime average of 44%. Herbert’s previous scores were: 71% (2010); 73% (2011); 75% (2012); 28% (2013); 29% (2014); 41% (2015), 24% (2016).
Averages: The House received an average score of 44% compared to members’ lifetime average of 46%. The Senate averaged a 31% which is below the Senators average of 48%.
Analysis of Bills for 2017
Bills are listed by number with house bills listed first. The sponsor(s) of the bill is in parentheses with the primary sponsor listed first. 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://le.utah.gov.
A) H.B. 19 (B. Greene, H. Stephenson) As frequently practiced asset forfeiture deprives a person of his property without due process. It is contrary to the traditional presumption of innocence in our legal system. Asset forfeiture infringes the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth amendments. Bill seeks to protect these rights. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (58-10- 7) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
B) H.B. 36 (B. Edwards, T Weiler) Creates the Economic Revitalization and Investment Fund and appropriates over $2 million for affordable housing. Presumes that a free market fails to provide people of modest means with viable housing alternatives. Favors central planning over the personal choices of citizens. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (62-9-4), Senate (25-1-3) and was signed into law by the Governor.
C) H.B. 99 (M. Noel, K. Van Tassell) Violates the principle of equality under the law by effectively providing harsher penalties for a variety of crimes if one has also been convicted of bigamy Passed the House (48-25-2), Senate (15-14-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
D) H.B. 121 (S. Handy, G. Davis) Creates the Local Food Advisory Council to promote locally owned farms, and make recommendations to a Legislative Interim Committee. The Council is a hodge-podge of appointees representing various bureaucratic and private interests, and, as such, is yet another potential breeding ground for crony capitalism. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (41-28-6), Senate (23-1-5) and was signed into law by the Governor.
E) H.B. 159 (S. Handy, S Adams) Provides that an individual applying for a driver license is automatically registered to vote, unless he opts out. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (40-28-7) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
F) H.B. 198 (K. Lisonbee, T. Weiler) Lowers the age at which a person may obtain a concealed weapons permit from 21 to 18. While GrassRoots would prefer that a permit not be required to exercise a Constitutional right, this bill allows more individuals greater freedom to exercise their rights of self-defense. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (63- 12-0), Senate (23-6-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
G) H.B. 235 (M. McKell, C Bramble) Authorizes the use of automated traffic enforcement safety devices on school buses to photograph possible traffic violations. GrassRoots is concerned that these types of cameras often establish “guilt” of property. Often the vehicle owner is presumed guilty even if they are not driving the vehicle. Bill also provides that 20% of proceeds of fines and forfeitures collected for said traffic violations shall be directed to the school district or private school owning the school bus and safety device. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (54-18-3), Senate (27-0-2) and was signed into law by the Governor.
H) H.B. 259 (C Maloy, M Dayton) Protects an individual’s right to self-defense by clarifying that an individual does not have an obligation to retreat if they are threatened. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (53-15-7) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
I) H.B. 265 (D. McCay, D Henderson) Repeals the requirement that certain vehicles obtain a safety inspection certificate to be registered to operate on a highway. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (54-17-4), Senate (19-6-4) and was signed into law by the Governor.
J) H.B. 312 (M. Winder, H. Stephenson) Appropriates $250,000 annually to a housing pilot program for low income students. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (57-15-3) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. K) H.B. 332 (M. Roberts) Requires that a jury be informed of the potential sentence for a guilty verdict. A good step in the direction of respect for a jury’s original constitutional role in preventing injustice. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Failed in the House (29-45-1).
L) H.B. 388 (E. Hutchings, D. Thatcher) Increases various fees including various driver license application fees and the background check fee that is paid when purchasing a firearm. GrassRoots approves of NO vote. Passed the House (44-30-1) but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
M) H.B. 392 (T. Hawkes, T. Weiler) Creates the Air Quality Policy Advisory Board to make recommendations to the Legislature on how to improve air quality in the state. The Board is a hodge-podge of appointees representing various bureaucratic and private interests, and, as such, is yet another potential breeding ground for crony capitalism. The functions of this Board would be more appropriately performed by a purely Legislative Committee composed of elected representatives of the people. Passed the House (72-0-3), Senate (21-5-3) and was signed into law by the Governor.
N) H.B. 441 (F. Gibson, A. Millner) Appropriates $9.8 million for homeless shelters in Salt Lake County. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (70-1-4) the Senate (26-3-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
O) H.C.R. 11 (G. Hughes, W. Niederhauser) Resolution calling upon the president to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument Designation and associated federal encroachment on local self- government. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (60-14-1) and Senate (22-6-1) and was signed by the Governor.
P) S.B. 29 (A. Christensen, B. Edwards) Increases the marriage license fee by $20. Bill raises first amendment questions by allowing the $20 to be refunded if a couple goes through pre- marriage counseling including counseling from ecclesiastical authorities. Could the state establish a license as to who could provide this counseling and what constitutes an ecclesiastical authority? GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Failed in the Senate (14-14-1).
Q) S.B. 60 ( G. Davis, E. Hutchings) Raises privacy concerns as bill mandates specific communication between private schools and local education agencies regarding students with disabilities. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the Senate (23-5- 1) but did not come up for a vote in the House.
R) S.B. 83 (W. Harper, M. McKell) Deputizes out-of-state businesses selling to Utah residents to help enforce Utah sales tax laws. Bill imposes fines on sellers on out-of-state businesses if they fail to provide prescribed information to the state of Utah. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the Senate (24-1- 4) but failed on a House Committee vote with Reps Greene, Ivory, Lisonbee, J. Moss, Quinn, Sagers and Stanard voting against.
S) S.B. 87 (D. Thatcher, B. Greene) Requires that seized or forfeited property be returned to the owner when that individual is acquitted of a crime. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Passed the House (63-3-9), Senate (29-0-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
T) S.B. 100 (A. Millner, B. Edwards) Requires the Department of Workforce Services and the Office of Child Care to conduct a study concerning services and resources for children five years and younger and their families. Government is not too small. Commissioning more studies, by unelected bureaucrats, to tell us we need bigger government, is not a good idea. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (45-25-5), Senate 26-2-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
U) S.B. 110 (C. Bramble, M. Noel) Bill raises constitutional questions as it requires out of state companies to collect Utah sales tax on purchases by Utah citizens. Bill violates the principle of no taxation without representation. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the Senate (25-1-3) but failed on a House Committee vote with Reps Greene, Ivory, Lisonbee, Moss and Quinn voting against.
V) S.B. 115 (J. Anderegg) Protects parental rights by eliminating penalties for parents of truant school age children. GrassRoots approves of a YES vote. Failed in the Senate (13-16-0).
W) S.B. 159 (B. Shiozawa, J. Dunnigan) Increases from 18 to 21 the age under which an individual must wear a helmet while operating certain vehicles. A violation is an infraction punishable by a fine. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (43-30-2), Senate (17-12-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
X) S. B. 198 (W. Harper, S. Handy) Raises fees on phone lines (both wireline and wireless) in the state by a total of $16.7 million per year. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (55-17-3), Senate (27-2-0) and was signed into law by the Governor.
Y) S.B. 221 (L. Escamilla, B. Edwards) Requires executive director of the Department of Human Resource management to create a plan to eliminate gender-based wage discrimination. This is a prelude to additional unwarranted intrusion into what should be a free market place. As with other law-breaking if there is probable cause to believe that someone is breaking a law, then that individual may be investigated; but the possible existence of some discrimination somewhere is not a good reason to burden all employers. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the Senate (22-7-0) but did not come up for a vote in the House.
Z) S.B. 264 (R. Okerland, B. Wilson) Raises taxes on short- term lodging by $4.2 million in 2018 and $4.9 million each year thereafter. Also, establishes the Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant Advisory Committee, another hodge-podge of appointees representing various bureaucratic and private interests and another potential breeding ground for crony capitalism. GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (44-29- 2), Senate (20-4-5) and was signed into law by the Governor.
AA) S.B. 276 (K. Van Tassell, M. Schultz) Raises gas taxes by an estimated $4.2 million in additional gas tax in 2019 and $14.6 million 2020. Overall the bill is estimated to increase gas tax revenue in the state by $1.7 billion over the life of the bill (thru Fiscal Year 2033). GrassRoots approves of a NO vote. Passed the House (58-15-2), Senate (26-2-1) and was signed into law by the Governor.
Protection from Tyranny
By Don Guymon
After the recent general election, thousands took to the streets to protest because of their concerns about the new president.
While people are free to voice their concerns and have a duty to do so if they believe their God-given rights are in jeopardy, the reality is that our rights have been in jeopardy for years.
If our government is functioning in its proper role no one should fear the president because our government as outlined in the Constitution was designed so that no one individual would have extreme power.
But as we have seen the government grow in power over the years; we have created an environment in which we should be concerned about one individual having too much power.
Look no further than west of I-15 at the NSA data center. Personal information on us is being held in the center. What information does the government have on you?
President Obama recently set aside 1.3 million acres of land in south eastern Utah. Individuals will not be able to use that land to help feed their families and for the local communities to grow their economies. All of this was done with one swipe of a pen.
Congress has passed laws in which if someone is labeled an enemy combatant they can be denied due process and jailed indefinitely. We have created a government in which an individual can have their property taken away if they or their property are simply accused of a crime. Years ago, Utah’s citizens passed an initiative to end this practice in the state; only to have the legislature overturn their vote a few years later. Efforts to restore parts of this citizens’ initiative passed the House in recent years only to die in the Utah Senate without a vote.
While individuals worry about government providing their health care or other government handouts; government must have some way to collect this money from other individuals. The only way they can do this is through force.
Taxes aren’t voluntary, if they were voluntary you wouldn’t face going to jail if you didn’t pay your taxes.
If one is concerned about one individual or other entities in the government having too much power the best solution is the solution found in our US Constitution.
Let us remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, “"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."
Our founders knew what it was to live in a world of fear, therefore they put checks and balances in the Constitution and established a Bill of Rights.
If government operates in its proper role there is no need to fear whoever may lead at whatever level of government.
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