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Losses & Victories 3/7/03


This general report on some of the fruits of this legislative session was provided by Daniel B. Newby:


Foreword from Daniel B. Newby:

Below is the low-down on some of the most critical bills related to freedom I attempted to follow this session. I have divided them into "Losses" and "Victories." Please examine the bills for yourself.

Again, these bills appeared to be the most significant to me. There are a host of other bills and issues I did not cover, including taxes and spending (both are too high), term limits, credit unions, initiative processes, and others. I leave them to other citizens to cover and debateand for us all to discover as we continue to read the fine print of what I believe has been the worst legislative performance since my arrival to Utah over a decade ago.

Daniel B. Newby

P.S. This message is my personal opinion. To receive an alert on this subject directly, email me at daniel.newby@velocitus.net.



House Bill 123, "Prohibition of Public Funding for Abortion," by Rep. Morgan Philpot would have eliminated taxpayer funding of abortion on demand. Taxpayers would no longer have been forced to directly or indirectly pay for abortion procedures performed for any reason other than to save the life of the mother, incest, rape, or permanent, irreparable, and grave damage to a major bodily function of the pregnant woman (this last exception does include "mental, psychological, or emotional harm, illness, or distress"). It passed the house 56-15 and was sent to the senate on February 25, 2003. The senate refused to consider this bill (I will provide a more detailed report on the shameful senate machinations in a few days).

Senate Bill 27, Substitute 3, "Susan Gall Involuntary Commitment Amendments," by Sen. Leonard Blackham, will loosen involuntary commitment requirements. Under Utah law, when you are merely accused of mental illness, you can be involuntarily committed to a mental institution. Your fate is decided by a judge or his appointed commissioner, and you will likely have to contend with the "professional" opinion of state-funded psychiatrists. You have no trial by jury, you do not have to commit a crime, and (as with property forfeiture schemes) you have little recourse. Once committed, you may be subjected to mind altering drugs and other "treatments." SB 27 eliminates the current "immediate" standard of protection, and utilizes a new, loose definition under "substantial danger." The bill language is poorly written, very vague and open-ended, and therefore can be used to target just about anyone for just about any reason. It passed the senate (21 to 8) and then passed the house (56 to 15 with 4 absences).

House Bill 109, Substitute 1, "Informed Consent for Electroconvulsive Treatment and Reporting Requirements," by Rep. Katherine Bryson, would have required prior informed consent before electroconvulsive (shock) treatment could be administered to adults. Children under 14 would not have been allowed to receive this treatment. It would also have established additional reporting requirements for all such treatments. This bill passed the house (46 to 21 with 8 "absences") and was sent to the senate on February 25, 2003. The senate refused to consider this bill.

Senate Bill 225 Substitute 1, "Limitation of Judgements Against Government Entities," by Sen. Leonard Blackham, would force the courts to limit the damages that are awarded to the innocent victims of negligence or abuse by government agencies or employees ($532,500 for one victim and $1,065,000 for two or more victims). A widow with multiple small children, for example, would be hard pressed to survive or continue a decent standard of living for decades on such meager limits. SB 225 does not apply to the private sector. This bill passed the senate (27 to 2), and passed the house (47 to 20 with 8 "absences").

Senate confirmation of Judge Ronald E. Nehring to Utah Supreme Court in a 28-1 vote. Judge Nehring was a key and active proponent in the Utah judicial system’s refusal to keep gun storage lockers in state courthouses. This was in direct violation of a recent state law passed by the legislature.

House Bill 159 Substitute 1, "Voluntary Contribution Act Amendments," by Rep. Chad Bennion, waters down the definition of "political activities" to allow multiple abuses for various lobbying efforts, and eliminates the bulk of the victory recently achieved in the Utah third district court. It passed the house (42 to 29 with 4 "absences") and then passed the senate (17 to 8 with 4 "absences").

Senate Bill 108, "Dangerous Weapons Amendments," by Sen. Michael Waddoups, allows religious organizations to provide insufficient warning that they do not desire firearms on their premises. All that is required is that the churchon a yearly basisprovide a brief announcement in a bulletin or congregational meeting, or publish a brief announcement in the local newspaper. (As a consolation prize, concealed carry holders can also monitor a state government website every week to make sure the church they wish to attend allows firearms.) Any concealed carry parishioner or visitor who is not aware of the current whims of the religious organization is subject to an infraction (an arrest-able offense in Utah)without so much as a verbal warning. Private property owners have the right to restrict firearms on their premises. But people need to have fair warning. Like the "no shirt, no shoes" policy of many restaurants, someone representing the organization must first verbally provide a warning. If the parishioner or visitor does not immediately respond in an appropriate fashion, then the incident turns into an act of trespass and needs to be treated as such. Let he who has never failed to read every line of a church bulletin (or stayed awake and present for every church announcement) throw the first infraction.

House Joint Resolution 19, "Resolution Reaffirming Protection of Liberties and Civil Rights of Citizens of Utah," by Rep. Eric Hutchings, would have asked Utah’s congressional delegation to work to repeal portions of the USA Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Bill and other federal actions that threaten the rights of Utah citizens. This bill passed a house committee (9 to 0 with 4 "absences") on February 27, 2003. It was sent back to the house rules committee from the floor on March 3, where it died.

House Resolution 7, "Resolution Urging Congress to Withdraw the United States from the United Nations," by Rep. Don Bush, would have asked the U.S. Congress to withdraw from the United Nations. It passed a house committee 9-2, went to the floor on February 11, 2003, and was sent back in rules on March 3, 2003.



Senate Bill 31, "Property Forfeiture Amendments," by Sen. John Valentine, would have gutted Citizen’s Initiative B, the Utah Property Protection Act, approved by 69% of Utah voters in November 2000. SB 31 would have repealed those provisions of Initiative B that restrict the ability of Utah law enforcement agencies to transfer your seized property to the federal government. Once your property is transferred, the federal government can forfeit it without a court hearing, and return up to 80% of the proceeds to the Utah seizing agency. Unlike the Utah statute, under federal forfeiture law property owners are presumed guilty and must attempt to prove their innocence. SB 31 directed 2/3 of the net forfeiture proceeds to a special account controlled by the Utah Attorney General, to dispense as he saw fit to various law enforcement agencies. SB 31 directed the other 1/2 of the net forfeiture proceeds to the Office of Administrative Courts. The sponsor let it die in the rules committee.

House Bill 85, "Hate Crimes Amendments," by Rep. David Litvack, would have added enhanced penalties for politically incorrect thoughts (bias and prejudice) and would have established group rights. It passed the house (38 to 35 with 2 "absences"), was reconsidered, and was withdrawn by the sponsor to the rules committee, where he allowed it to die.

House Bill 76, "Truancy Amendments," by Duane Bourdeaux, was a backdoor attack on homeschool families. Currently, under Utah state law, when parents receive a letter from the government school district regarding a potential truancy issue, they must provide some type of "response" in order to avoid the threat of being charged with a Class B Misdemeanor. HB 76 would have forced parents to submit to the whims of education bureaucrats and judges under the nebulous auspices of taking "reasonable steps to work with school authorities." It passed the house (64 to 9 with 2 "absences") and failed the senate (8 to 17 with 4 "absences").

Senate Bill 200, "State AuditorExpansion of Duties," by Sen. Michael Waddoups, would allow the State Auditor to conduct performance audits of most state agencies. This bill passed the senate (24 to 0 with 5 "absences") and house (73 to 0 with 2 "absences").

Senate Bill 219, "Governmental Immunity Act Amendments," by Sen. Leonard Blackham, which would have established governmental immunity protection for injuries arising from unauthorized access to government records, data, or electronic information systems. It passed a senate committee (5 to 0 with 2 "absences") and was sent back to the rules committee where it expired.

House Bill 169, "Process for Creation of New School Districts," by Rep. David Cox, would allow smaller school districts to be created through a reasonable, though not perfect, initiative process. Most of the oppressive control mechanisms (aside from taxation) that restrict local control of government schools are found at the school district level. Utah has some of the largest districts in the entire nation. These mammoth bureaucracies are full of waste, red tape, and excess — they seem to exist to make government schools more hellish. Drastically reduce the size of school districts and you will likely increase the ability of parents to set policies more in accordance with the local community. More parental control means less power for the Utah Education Association. It passed the house (48 to 25 with 2 "absences") and senate (15 to 14).


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