The 2020 Utah legislative session got off to a slow start Monday, with a major winter storm delaying the morning committee hearings and House and Senate floor times.
It was another busy week on Capitol Hill, with committees hearing more bills and passing some on to the House and Senate floors. One topic of interest in this legislative session is in response to the vaping epidemic that hit national headlines during the second half of 2019.
As of Jan. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a total of 2,711 people hospitalized because of vaping or e-cigarette usage. Additionally, 60 deaths have been confirmed in 27 states and the District of Columbia.
The outbreak seemed to peak in September 2019, but new cases and deaths are still being reported in connection to e-cigarette usage. It’s turned a lot of lawmaker’s heads, leading to about six different bills being drafted to curb what they deem an epidemic.
An e-cigarette prevention program
Senator Allen Christensen proposed Senate Bill 40: the “Youth Electronic Cigarette, Marijuana and Other Drug Prevention Program.” Under this bill, it would officially create this type of program within the Utah Department of Health that specifically looks at these issues.
It would also create various reporting requirements and sunset dates: deadlines for when these reporting requirements must be done by.
Taxing nicotine products
House Bill 23 would establish new taxing regulations on nicotine products, which would be used to hire more officers to enforce these violations.
It would also place requirements on vendors to keep itemized receipts of sales, to ensure against under-the-table dealings. It also requires all products with nicotine in them is clearly marked and labeled.
A “no tolerance” policy
Rep. Jon Hawkins is proposing a bill that would establish a “no tolerance” policy for selling nicotine products to children. As a result, it would establish a minimum age to purchase nicotine products: 21 years old.
It would also require stores to create an age-restricted area where these products are, similar to how some Utah stores store alcohol in age-restricted areas as well.
In hopes of tying that to another bill, it would help with prohibiting students from using vape products in schools.
Other bills gaining attention this week
Although the week was off to a late start because of the weather, several bills still made their way through the legislature.
Vanity license plates
One bill in particular would allow the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles to refuse issuing a license plate that mocks someone’s race, color, age, gender, religion, etc.
This move is from Sen. Luz Escamilla and it comes after the controversy of a license plate that’s been spotted throughout Utah that reads “DEPORTM.”
The “DEPORTM” license plate was approved by the DMV in 2015, and has been driving around since then — despite three separate complaints that have been made against it.
A group called Moms Demand Action is promoting two pieces of legislation: an extreme risk protection bill numbered from Rep. Steve Handy and another that would require a universal background check bill.
This second one, requiring the universal background check, is being referred to as the “red-flag legislation.”
Under this bill, a family member or someone in law enforcement could request a firearm is taken away from someone who appears to be in crisis. After that request is made, the court would set a hearing where the gun owner could present their case to get their gun back.
This isn’t the first time the legislation has been introduced, but in the last three years it’s been presented it never gotten past a committee hearing.
Daylight Saving Time Amendment
Rep. Raymond Ward is proposing that Utah is put on a year-round Mountain Daylight Schedule instead of the Mountain Standard Time it currently operates under.
It would take effect on the first Sunday of November, while other states are turning back their clocks Utahns wouldn’t.
Utah isn’t the only state to propose this, nor would they be the first state to operate under this kind of schedule. Arizona has been operating under Mountain Daylight Schedule, not adhering to Mountain Standard Time, for years.