2017 State Legislative Session

January 23rd – March 9th, 2017

For 45 days 104 state representatives gathered on the hill to propose, debate and pass all of our state’s legislation for the year. The total tally of bills reached 1,272 by Feb 2 – an unprecedented number – many of which involved critical issues facing our communities.

During the session Action Utah put out over 200 calls to action on 40 bills (listed below). Our successes? 19 good bills, resolutions and appropriations passed and were funded. Another 7 bad bills were blocked, stalled or amended. 5 good bills simply ran out of time and did not receive a final vote, but we hope to see each of those revisited by the state legislature soon.

Action Teams

Action Utah volunteers from across the state joined our four legislative session Action Teams to tackle bills in the following issue areas: communities and families, public health, environmental stewardship and government. Action Team members met with legislators, lobbyists and issue-specific advocacy organizations to coordinate strategy, create calls to action, lobby legislators, write letters to the editor and op-eds and attend rallies and press conferences.

We thank all of our volunteers for making a big impact on the hill this year, and we look forward to doing even better in the upcoming 2018 State Legislative Session!

ACTION UTAH 2017 STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSION BILL PRIORITY LIST

The following is a list of bills that Action Utah prioritized and took action on during the 2017 State Legislative Session. Our actions were all fully vetted and carefully coordinated with the legislative sponsors and lobbyists active on the bills.

Communities and Families:

HB 36: Affordable Housing Amendments (Rep. Edwards / Sen. Weiler) – SUPPORT – This bill passed with nearly full funding to help create more affordable housing options in Utah to fill the current 47,000 unit shortage. Also to be thanked is Tara Rollins, Executive Director at the Utah Housing Coalition.

HB 137: Public Education Requirements (Rep. Stratton) – OPPOSE – This bill attempted to allow parents to give prior consent for children to participate in a new abuse prevention course rather than opt out, as is currently the law, potentially keeping children in abusive situations from receiving information. The bill was held in committee.

HB 178: Good Landlord Amendments (Rep. King / Sen. Bramble) – SUPPORT – This bill passed with an amendment and changes the Good Landlord policy so that landlords are not incentivized to discriminate against people with criminal histories.

HB 200: Mandatory Sexual Assault Kit Testing (Rep. Romero, A. / Sen. Weiler) – SUPPORT – This bill passed with partial funding to mandate that a backlog of rape kits and all future rape kit submissions are actually tested and entered into a statewide system. Rep. Romero and Sen. Weiler were great advocates for women’s issues this legislative session between this and several other bills.

HB 237: Firearms and Domestic Violence Modifications (Rep Perry / Sen Bramble) – OPPOSE – This bill was abandoned by the bill sponsors after the NRA opposed certain portions of the bill (which Utahns supported and would have protected victims of domestic violence) and pushed for others. Expect to see a new version of this bill next session. Constituents, weigh in with Rep. Perry and Senator Bramble if these issues matter to you.

HB 239: Juvenile Justice Amendments (Rep. Snow / Sen. Weiler) – SUPPORT – This bill makes important changes to our current system, which takes hundreds of kids out of their homes every year as “punishment” for low-level misconduct like truancy (missing school), having alcohol or drug paraphernalia, trespassing and shoplifting. This is very expensive, very ineffective and very bad for Utah youth and families. This bill passed.

HB 251: Campus Advocate Confidentiality Amendments (Rep. Romero, A / Sen. Weiler) – SUPPORT – This bill extends privacy rules to victims reporting abuse and violence to college campuses. It passed with unanimous votes through the entire legislative processes and has been signed by the Governor.

HB 274: Human Trafficking Modifications (Rep. Romero, A. / Sen. Harper) – SUPPORT – This bill passed unanimously in every vote and allows Utah courts to vacate a conviction for specified offenses if the individual convicted is found to have acted under force, fraud, or coercion, thereby protecting victims of human trafficking for being criminalized.

HB 278: Expenses of Minor Children (Rep. Chavez-Houck / Sen. Weiler) – SUPPORT – This bill involving the expenses of minor children passed this year to require that billing companies, upon request, bill divorced parents separately for their respective portion pursuant to court order (rather than one parent paying up front and then attempting to collect the other parent’s share later). Also to thank is Stephanie Pitcher and the Utah Women’s Coalition.

HB 303: State Building Amendments (Rep. Hemingway / Sen. Escamilla) – SUPPORT – This Utah Women’s Coalition bill will require the installation of diaper changing facilities in new and renovated government owned and political buildings after getting a vote of support in the 23rd hour of the legislative session.

SB 89: Adoption Agency Amendments (Sen. Escamilla / Rep. Snow) – SUPPORT – This good bill was passed to reduce the sometimes predatory nature of adoption (“child placing”) agencies by creating ethics minimums for those agencies.

SB 210: Equal Pay Amendments (Sen. Anderegg) – SUPPORT – This bill did not tackle the issue of equal pay, but rather allowed for the state to collect the data on any potential equal pay issues in Utah at zero expense to taxpayers. Although this bill was held in committee Senator Anderegg will continue to study this issue over the interim.

SCR 6: Concurrent Resolution on Guarding the Civil Liberties and Freedoms for All People (Sen. Shiozawa / Rep. Arent) – SUPPORT – This resolution simple states the Legislature’s and the Governor’s commitment to protect the civil liberties, religious freedoms, constitutional rights and dignity of all Americans, legal immigrants, and refugees, including the governments willingness to welcome “efforts to educate and promote understanding and good will among the pluralistic communities that are an integral part of Utah’s rich history and heritage.”

Food Tax Hike – OPPOSE – This controversial policy proposal died due to great public outcry before it could be added to an overall tax policy bill at the end of the session.

Public Health Policy:

HB 66: Opiate Overdose Response Act Amendments (Rep. Moss / Sen. Shiozawa) – SUPPORT – This good bill, which passed earlier in the session, amends the Opiate Overdose Act to decrease the liability of civilians and professionals administering Naloxone in the event of an overdose. This bill is a positive step toward addressing opiate abuse.

HB 71: Hygiene Tax Act (Rep. Duckworth) – SUPPORT – This women’s issues bill was left held in committee instead of moving on to eradicate the tax on feminine hygiene products and diapers by categorizing them as necessary supplies. This bill would have aided low income women.

HB 76: End of Life Options Act (Rep. Chavez-Houck) – SUPPORT – This bill, which proposed expanding End of Life care options for families and their loved ones did not pass this session.

HB 122: Medicaid Waiver for Postpartum Mental Health (Rep. Redd / Sen. Escamilla) – SUPPORT – This bill would’ve given a Medicaid Waiver for postpartum mental health care, which the Health Department expected a high number of women to use, but the bill was unable to get out of committee.

HB 130: Cannabinoid Research (Rep. Daw / Sen. Vickers) – SUPPORT – This bill was approved this session to allow for the medical research of cannabinoid to further understand its impact and efficacy in patients. This bill received near unanimous votes in the state legislature.

HB 154: Telehealth Amendments (Rep. Ivory / Sen. Christensen, A.) – NEEDS AMENDMENTS – This otherwise terrific bill needed work, as the original draft included unconstitutional legislation that was certain to cost the state enormous sums of money in litigation with near certainty of losing. Senator Brian Shiazowa, a physician himself, worked with the bill sponsors to create important amendments to make the bill constitutional and get it passed.

HB 215: Reproductive Health Education and Services Amendments (Rep. King) – SUPPORT – This bill proposing an opt-in, age-appropriate healthy relationships and reproductive health education program did not pass committee despite being on par with the work of LDS speakers like Elizabeth Smart. Rep. King has vowed to continue work on this legislation in the interim.

SB 108: Emergency Administration of Epinephrine Amendments (Sen. Shiozawa / Rep. Redd) – SUPPORT – This good bill amends Epinephrine Administration rules to allow for device manufacturers beyond the EpiPen, decreasing costs for patients and caregivers who need emergency medication for allergies and addressing a complex health burden many Utahns experience.

SB 135: Maternal and Child Health (Sen. Escamilla / Rep. Redd) – SUPPORT – This bill requires a study of Utah’s Home Visiting programs to improve efficiency of the current programs, support better postpartum services in the future and thereby improve postpartum health for moms and babies as well as infant nutrition and sleep.

SB 159: Helmet Requirement Amendments (Sen. Shiozawa / Rep. Dunnigan) – SUPPORT – Amends helmet requirements so that individuals ages 18-21 are now required to wear helmets while operating certain motor vehicles. This will reduce injuries and deaths in a high risk age-group and will save enormous amounts of preventable ER costs.

Environmental Stewardship:

HB 29: Energy Efficient Vehicle Tax Credit Amendments (Rep. Handy / Sen. Bramble) – SUPPORT – This bill fell one vote short in the House, failing to extend a very successful tax incentive that had been helping Utah tackle clean air by transitioning to EVs and taking advantage of the new EV structure grants won by Rocky Mountain Power.

HB 134: Emission Testing Amendments (Rep. Arent / Sen. Bramble) – SUPPORT – This bill would have helped reduce diesel vehicle emissions by requiring that all non-attainment counties require light and medium duty diesel vehicles and trucks under 14,000 pounds to undergo emissions inspections, including a visual inspection to look for modifications and tampering of emissions control systems. Although this bill passed in the House and Senate Committee, it did not get a final vote this session and failed to pass. Rep. Patrice Arent, the Founder and Co-Chair of the Clean Air Caucus, deserves major kudos for her hard work on clean air this session.

HCR 5: Concurrent Resolution on Clean fuel school buses (Rep. Handy / Sen. Adams) – SUPPORT – One of two clean air bills sponsored by Rep. Steve Handy this session, this concurrent resolution will appropriate a large portion of the Volkswagen settlement funds, along with matched funding by the state, to completely replace all dirty fuel school buses in the state with clean fuel models, protecting air quality and particularly the vulnerable lungs of the children riding the buses.

HCR 11: Concurrent Resolution Urging the President to Rescind Designation of Bears Ears National Monument Designation (Rep. Hughes / Sen. Niederhauser) – OPPOSE – Not only was this bill proposed in opposition to the will of a majority of Utahns, the House broke the rules to force it into a rushed vote without public commentary. As a resolution, it does not create any new law, but does act as a false show of support from Utah for the request it makes to Trump.

HCR 12: Concurrent Resolution Urging Federal Legislation to Reduce or Modify the Boundaries of Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument (Rep. Noel / Sen. Okerlund) – OPPOSE – Like HCR 11, this resolution was rushed through the state legislature by sponsor Rep. Noel, who himself has been making a play for head of the BLM under Trump to bring public lands under state control. This res0lution passed, requesting the dramatic reduction of Grand Staircase by 74% based on false arguments about the negative impact of the monument on the economics and agricultural industry of the area.

SB 151: Property Tax Relief Modifications (Sen. Dabakis / Co-sponsor Sen. Stephenson) – SUPPORT – This bipartisan tax bill advocating for lower property taxes is not an environmental bill at first blush, but had it passed it would have changed the way water conservation districts get paid and thereby incentivize institutions and big water users to conserve water while rewarding good water conservation by smaller consumers.

SB 154: Solar Access Amendments (Sen. Fillmore / Rep. Gibson) – SUPPORT – This bill, which passed on the last day of the session, will limit HOAs’ control over preventing homeowners from installing rooftop solar on their own homes.

Bear River Development – OPPOSE – Developers have been lobbying behind the scenes to create an expensive damming project on the Bear River that would have a catastrophic effect on air quality in the Salt Lake air shed.

Appropriation for air quality monitoring equipment upgrades and research (Rep. Arent) – SUPPORT – This year’s request for funding was thankfully granted due to strong advocacy by Rep. Arent and by the community to provide the second half of the appropriations needs requested last year to replace outdated air quality monitoring and conduct research on Utah’s air quality problems. Updated air quality monitoring equipment is essential for providing accurate information on when it is safe for children, the elderly and other vulnerable community members to be outside.

Government Policy:

HB 11: State Boards & Commissions Amendments (Rep. Thurston / Sen. Dayton) – OPPOSE – This bad bill would have eliminated the bipartisanship requirement for appointees to 29 state boards and commissions under the premise that this one requirement, and none of the others, created undue challenge in finding qualified appointees for board positions (though this claim has yet to be substantiated). The bill was stalled by public outcry in the House, then amended to reduce the number of boards impacted, then amended back in the Senate to the original list and passed by the state legislature. Although Governor Herbert requested the bill in the first place, he aptly registered a public perception problem that delegitimizes government under absolute rule by one party, and he vetoed the bill on Friday. Among those who spoke out eloquently in opposition to this bill along the way were: Senator Iwamoto, Senator Knudson, Rep. King, Rep. Briscoe and Senator Escamilla. Rep. Peterson removed 5 boards from the list for the amendment in the House.

HB 19: Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Amendments (Rep. Greene / Sen. Stephenson) – SUPPORT – This bill would have protected immigrants, refugees and communities most vulnerable to civil asset forfeiture by requiring that criminal charges actually be filed in order for the government to keep your property, that a clearer connection be established between the seized property and the alleged crime, and that it become easier for regular people to get their property back. Though this bill failed, a similar bill, SB 87 by Sen. Thatcher, did pass this year.

HB 93: Judicial Nominating Process Amendments (Rep. Nelson / Sen. Hillyard) – OPPOSE – This bill would have eliminated the ability to even consider diversity in appointees for the Utah judiciary when all other qualifications among candidates are equal. The Utah State Board, Dean of the law school at University of UTah, CCJJ, ACLU and others strongly opposed the measure. Thankfully it failed in a Senate committee hearing.

HB 159: Amendments to Voter Registration (Rep. Handy / Sen. Adams) – SUPPORT – This simple bill would have made voter registration automatic for Utahns when they obtain a drivers license to help improve Utah’s historically low voter participation numbers. After passing in the House and Senate committee, the bill unfortunately ran out of time to receive a final Senate vote.

HB 285: Voter Registration Amendments (Rep. Chavez-Houck / Sen. Henderson) – SUPPORT – This bill would have also improved voter turnout by making a three-year successful trial into permanent legislation to allow people to vote the same day as registering throughout Utah (“same day registration”). Rep. Chavez-Houck and a group of Republican election clerks gave a terrific presentation of the trial’s success over the past three years, and should be commended for a job well done, despite the measure failing to pass.

HB 349: Ranked Choice Voting (Rep. Chavez-Houck / Rep. Roberts) – SUPPORT – Although this bill had 17 co-sponsors, and passed in the House, it failed in a Senate committee. The bill would have enabled voters to rank choices for candidates as first, second, third and so forth, rather than being required to vote for only one candidate for an office.  This method of voting encourages greater voter participation, more civility (if a candidate has to appeal to more than just their base), and results in less taxpayer cost.