From the Hill: Week seven of the Legislative session

Photo by Christian Anderson

Photo by Christian Anderson

As the Legislature came to its end last week, I found myself going back and forth—as I often do—between wanting Utah’s legislative session to be longer or holding alternated biannual sessions, where year one the entire session focuses on the budget and the next focuses on all other legislative actions. Though bills would hopefully be more vetted in this process than they are in the current legislative session, I then go back to fear of what else the Legislature would pass if they had more than 45 days (33 working days) to do it. 

Regardless, here’s what happened during the session’s final week: 
 
HB369 awaits Gov. Gary Herbert’s signature. The bill’s original language, sponsored by Rep. Justin Fawson (R), would criminalize folks who do not disclose their HIV/AIDS positive status before sexual contact. Critics claim legislation similar to this during the AIDS hysteria era of the ‘80s to the ‘90s resulted in more stigmatization and less testing. The final version of the bill would only allow for this to be applied in cases of rape and includes Hepatitis C and B. The bill’s vote fell on party lines in both bodies.
 
Rep. Cory Maloy’s (R) HB259, which would forbid prosecution against folks who do not retreat from deadly situations when they can safely do so, died in Senate committee. when Malory failed to convince two Republicans on the committee that this did not change current law. Opponents criticized HB259 for being similar to the type of “Stand Your Ground” legislation passed in Florida that lead to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
 
Rep. Elizabeth Weight’s (D) HB271, which would have forbidden parents who kick their children out for being LGBT from using their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a defense against child endangerment prosecution failed to pass out of committee. 
 
Rep. Rebecca Edwards (R) had HB348 pass through the House by one vote. The legislation would have allowed voters to opt to make their voter information private and garnered criticism from political parties who say they need access to the information to conduct voter outreach campaigns. The bill stalled in the Senate and was never heard by a Senate committee.
 
HCR24 (House Concurrent Resolution) passed through the House in a 61 to 13 vote. The resolution called for the state to acquire Bears Ears National Monument, which former President Barack Obama established at the end of his term in the White House. Though the resolution does not change a statute or code or accomplish anything other than publicly saying Utah wants control of federal land, members of the GOP thought it was important enough to officially declare. All House Democrats voted against the resolution, but it was never heard in the Senate and thus did not pass.
 
Sen. Todd Weiler’s (R) SB185—which allows for minors harmed by pornography to sue porn production companies—is awaiting the governor’s signature after passing through both the House and the Senate.
 
Rep. Ken Ivory’s (R) HB207, which would have secured $350,000 to education state legislators on federalism—the constitutional relationship between states and the federal government—failed to pass through the Senate when 13 Senate Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the bill.
 
In a vote that fell along party lines in both bodies, the Utah Legislature passed HB141. The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Keven Stratton, would require abortion providers to give what the medical community calls medically inaccurate information about “abortion reversal” from medically-induced abortions. During the floor debate in the Senate, Sen. Curtis Bramble (R), said “We’re all entitled to our own facts.” Alternative facts included, I presume.
 
Rep. Karianne Lisonbee’s (R) HB198—which would lower the age that adults in Utah can acquire a concealed carry permit from 21 to 18—passed through the Senate and awaits the governor’s signature. Only one Republican, Sen. Brian Shiozawa, joined the five Democratic Senators who opposed the legislation.
 
Rep. Angela Romero’s (D) HB200 secured about half the funding legislative analysts believe the bill would need to mandate the processing of all rape kits in the State. Lawmakers approved $1.2 million, while full funding is expected to be about $2.4 million.
 
The legal blood-alochol content limit will likely drop to 0.05 from 0.08 after HB155 passed and Hebert indicated his support for the legislation. The Utah legislature also passed HB422, which allows for businesses to either keep the “Zion Curtain” or implement other types of barricades that prevent children from seeing bartenders mix drinks, such as constructing a wall or railing. HB422 will also include mark ups on alcohol across the state.
 
Sen. Luz Escamilla’s (D) SB221 wasn’t heard in the House after passing through the Senate. The bill, co-sponsored by Edwards, would have instructed a study of the gender wage gap  amongst state employees.