Losses & Victories 3/7/03
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 debate—and
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
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
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 church—on
a yearly basis—provide 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
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
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 Auditor—Expansion
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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