1998 State Legislature
February 9, 1998
Eye on the
1998 State Legislature
By Daniel B.
As the 1998
session of the Utah State Legislature advances, two
legislative trends are emerging—one toward limiting the size
and power of government and a stronger one toward expanding
government. A few significant examples of these trends are
presented below (bills cited are as originally filed, but may
be amended through the legislative process).
target accountability for government activity and impact.
Sections of House Bill 97, for instance, have the potential to
return a sense of accountability to Utah's public servants and
agencies for their actions. This bill would waive the immunity
government entities and employees currently enjoy from suit
for perjury, intentional false statements, or making a "false
statement with reckless disregard as to its truthfulness."
Successful plaintiffs could receive damages and attorney fees
from the agency and/or employee responsible. If perjury or a
false statement were proven, the court would be required to
force the governmental entity to take disciplinary action
against the employee.
strong measure would be taken through Senate Bill 88, which
would take a significant step toward understanding the
devastating impact of government regulation on the business
community. This bill would require rule-making agencies to
consider the fiscal impact a rule may have on businesses.
Perhaps this consideration, especially if provided to the
public, would halt some of the regulation that tends to
cripple segments of Utah's economy.
Unfortunately, most of the noteworthy legislation tends to
favor government expansion. In the name of "fulfilling
statewide public purposes," there are numerous proposals to
fund special interest projects, including:
to the Olene Walker Housing Trust Fund (House Bill 209);
to construct the Davis County Conference and Community
Center (House Bill 28);
million to the Species Protection Account (House Bill 199);
the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum, for construction
and preservation projects, including the Carriage House
addition (House Bill 87);
for the Roy City Museum (House Bill 294).
charitable projects are noble and good, forced charity is not.
Money for the Olene Walker Housing Trust Fund, for instance,
is a form of forced charity, used to "preserve, rehabilitate,
build, restore, or renew housing." Nevertheless, this bill has
already passed the House with unanimous approval (65-0).
disturbing than the $1.5 million price tag for House Bill 199,
this bill attempts to allocate money beyond the '98-99 fiscal
year: "Effective July 1, 1998, through June 30, 2004,
$1.5 million each year shall be transferred to the
Species Protection Account," (italics added). Proponents of
this type of language argue that this expenditure could be
stopped each year by specifically voting against this
allocation. Unfortunately, this dangerous wording brings Utah
one step closer to the day when the legislature approves
budgets far beyond the constitutional limits of the upcoming
200 would advance another type of special interest project by
increasing from $1 to $2 the amount of income tax a taxpayer
may designate to be paid to the Election Campaign Fund. The
practice of funding political parties at the expense of the
state budget, not to mention the cost of collecting this
special interest political revenue, opens an interesting can
of worms. Is it a legitimate role of government to fund
political organizations, especially when these organizations
use this money to lobby and control the government? Political
party leadership, which fought several hard battles to remove
state control and influence in party affairs, should be
adamantly opposed to this measure on principle.
210 would extend state power by forcing local governments to
annually review and report on their plans for moderate income
housing, and would appropriate $280,000 to the Department of
Community and Economic Development for assisting local
governments with those plans. While this mandate would not be
completely unfunded, it represents another significant
incursion of state power over local governments.
Some of the
most frightening language to date is found in House Bill 197,
which specifies that there shall be "no jury in the trial of
any class B or class C misdemeanor or infraction charged under
Title 41, Motor Vehicles, or under other traffic offense,
including local ordinances." This bill would continue a long
series of attempts to eliminate a defendant's right to a jury
of his peers. Fortunately, this bill appears to have been
halted in committee.
legislature has established a practice of passing bills that
have never gone to committee for review and consideration,
never received any type of public hearing, and have never been
made available to all members of the legislature. If this
practice is continued, the rules will be suspended in the
final hours of the session in order to vote on several unknown
bills. Only rumor and hearsay can predict what these secret
bills might contain, or what their impact on Utah might be.
have numerous opportunities to either control the size and
scope of government or continue on a march toward less
freedom. Citizens can only hope that legislators will seek out
and apply the principles of good government, which rely on
individual initiative, personal responsibility, the free
market, and a belief that people and local governments are
best equipped to handle their own needs and problems. These
principles can only be enforced by self-restraint and the
realization that each new law sets serious precedents for the
# # # # #
Daniel B. Newby wrote this article while
employed as Director of Operations & Development for the
Sutherland Institute, a Utah-based public policy research
Permission to reprint this article in
whole or in part is granted provided credit is given to the
author and to the Sutherland Institute.
Disclaimer: Newby left the Sutherland Institute
on January 28, 2003, and has conducted all his efforts since
that time as a private citizen. The Sutherland Institute
has officially and publicly disavowed and distanced itself
from Newby's political views, tone, and activities. As a
courtesy to the Sutherland Institute, we have posted
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