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Friday, January 6, 2017 | No comments

HB 112: Common Sense Carry

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Utah law prohibits a person from having a concealed firearm, imposing a class B misdemeanor as the penalty. Anybody who obtains a concealed firearm permit is exempted from this provision.

Four years ago, a bill passed the legislature which would have also exempted any person 21 years or older “who may lawfully possess a firearm, as long as the firearm is not loaded.” The bill was vetoed by the Governor, and the legislature failed to muster enough interest in holding a veto override session.

Similarly, Representative Lee Perry has sponsored House Bill 112 to provide this legal protection to adults carrying an unloaded weapon over the age of 21 “who may lawfully possess a firearm.”

Additionally, while current law holds property owners harmless against civil or criminal liability when they allow a person to carry concealed on their property, and that person discharges the firearm while on the property, this bill extends that liabilty protection to business owners as well—those who are leasing the property upon which their business is located.

Sometimes known as “constitutional carry,” this bill may also be described as “common sense carry.” Utah law allows any adult to openly carry an unloaded firearm. (A handgun with ammunition in the magazine, but not in the chamber, is “unloaded” according to state law.) If a person does this, but then covers their firearm with a jacket without having a concealed carry permit (perhaps to avoid problems in a crowded location like a restaurant or gas station), they would be in violation of the law. It is, therefore, common sense to fix this problem and allow responsible adults to cover their firearm as they deem appropriate, without having to pay the government a fee to obtain a permit to do this.

While we would favor reducing the age to 18—that of a legal adult—this bill is an important protection of the right to keep and bear arms; the government’s permission should not be needed to exercise a fundamental right.

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

After a failed attempt by Senator Urquhart last year to increase the criminal penalties for so-called “hate crimes,” Senator Daniel Thatcher is sponsoring Senate Bill 72 this session to implement a similar approach.

This legislation, if enacted, would increase the penalty by one degree (e.g. going from a 3rd degree felony to a 2rd degree) if a criminal offender “acted against an individual because of the offender’s perception of the individual’s ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation.”

This bill seems especially incongruous in light of the recent criminal justice reforms which involved a widespread reclassification and reduction in crimes, in part to keep people out of prison who should not be there.

The motives involved in a crime are not important to the action itself. Whether an assault was instigated by the aggressor’s jealousy, drunkenness, anger, or discriminatory “prejudice” about the victim’s personal characteristics is immaterial. Taxpayers should not be required to subsidize higher incarceration rates in pursuit of misnamed “social justice.”

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Two years ago, Libertas Institute proposed legislation designed to help the public understand how often, and under what circumstances, agents of their government take property from people through asset forfeiture law. The bill, sponsored by Senator Howard Stephenson, passed unanimously and was signed into law by the Governor.

The first-of-its-kind report was issued last summer, reveals what has been suspected, namely, that the use of forfeiture by prosecutors in Utah is almost entirely for drug offenses—97.5%. Combined with the previous year’s law enforcement transparency report showing that 83% of forcible entry warrants are served for drug offenses, an alarming picture begins to unfold: property rights and individual liberty are being undermined in the name of a failed ‘war’ on drugs.

Further, the report reveals that 94% of forfeiture cases were done civilly rather than criminally—in other words, prosecutors didn’t actually have to convict the person in order to take the property. Additionally, the median value of cash taken by the government was a mere $1,324—a far cry from the “drug kingpins” and organized crime that prosecutors often cite in order to justify the existence of civil asset forfeiture.

Because of this low value, the report notes that most forfeitures are not contested; 61% of cases were not challenged, allowing the government to take the property. This not too surprising, as property owners are financially disincentivized to right. Why would one spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees hoping to recover $1,324?

Senator Stephenson has sponsored new legislation designed to collect a few additional points of data to improve future forfeiture reports. Here are the key changes:

Read more »

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Criminal justice reform includes more than just fixing the process before prosecution, in court, or during a prison sentence. Often people forget what happens to ex-convicts once they leave prison and how hard it can be to fully integrate back into society, even after paying their dues.

Expungement is one such process that can be life-changing for ex-convicts who have kept their lives on track and want to continue to progress in society. Expungement allows for the records and proceedings of a criminal conviction to be sealed from public record. This allows an ex-convict to then be allowed to answer questions like “Have you ever been arrested?” or “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” with a simple “no” (assuming that there are no other convictions or violations on record). In brief, expungement is one of many tools our justice system can use to reduce recidivism.

The state of Utah currently allows people to apply for expungement under very specific circumstances. For example, alcohol-related traffic offenses, certain types of felonies, misdemeanors can be expunged if the ex-convict has paid all fines, fees, restitution, interest and a certain amount of years have elapsed without any other arrests, convictions, or infractions since the person was incarcerated, on probation, or on parole.

Senate bill 12 relaxes current statute to make it somewhat easier to become eligible for expungement. Senator Daniel Thatcher’s bill removes prior “infractions, traffic offenses, or minor regulatory offenses” from consideration for expungement. This means that someone who applies for expungement, after waiting for years to shed the label of criminal, cannot be denied because of a previous petty offense.

This bill opens the door for more citizens who have made restitution and have steered clear of any further criminal activity to have greater opportunities for housing, employment, and education while shedding the label of being a former criminal.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 | No comments

HB 100: Higher Education Transparency

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

As the cost of tuition and higher education overall continues to rise, it’s time for colleges and universities to be more forthcoming about the viability of certain degree programs and careers. Taxpayers deserve greater transparency as they fund higher education not only through state taxes, but through federal loans and grants as well.

Representative Kim Coleman is seeking to address this growing concern with House Bill 100. Her bill requires government-run higher education institutions to disclose on their respective websites critical information for prospective students like job placement data, average earnings of graduates, and total costs for degree programs.

It is not only important for students weighing their options between different schools and degree programs to have this kind of information, but also that taxpayers can be aware of the costs and success of the programs of higher education institutions. These disclosures will lead to a more efficient allocation of resources in higher education towards those degree programs which are more successful and provide the appropriate earnings potential that a graduate is seeking.

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

In a past study, Utah was cited as the 12th most onerously licensed state in the nation. This is a metric that harms free enterprise in our state. We believe that Utahns should have the right to work and engage in their occupation free from government mandates to obtain a permission slip from bureaucrats. Too often, industries seek to create barriers to entry for new practitioners using government regulation via increased occupational licensing requirements. House Bill 94, sponsored by Representative Brian Greene, aims to ensure closer review of these regulations.

The Occupational and Professional Licensure Review Committee is important in reigning in the increase in such licensing regulations and in ensuring that when regulations do exist, they avoid unnecessary intrusions on individual liberty. Expanding the scope of the committee’s work in this area will further help to bring scrutiny on state regulations.

This bill modifies the statute governing the committee that reviews all new requests for state licensure of professions (sunrise reviews). This committee also reviews the sunset provision for statutes that license occupations. The bill aims to broaden the reach of the committee by allowing it to review “any occupational or professional licensure matter” outside of a sunrise or sunset review, and to also conduct sunset reviews for all licensed occupations in the state, no matter the section of code they are licensed under.

Additionally, the bill clarifies that in reviewing the creation (sunrise) of new regulations for occupations, the committee can consider a “less restrictive alternative to licensing, including registration or certification” in order to “avoid unnecessary regulation and intrusion upon individual liberties by the state, while still protecting the health and safety of the public.” These are sound approaches to check occupational licensure in Utah and will help to promote and preserve free enterprise and the right of Utahns to freely pursue their careers.

It is time for Utah to reform its occupational licensure regulations—not just in order to preserve free enterprise, but also to avoid legal liability. Last year we wrote about a Supreme Court ruling that calls into question the actions of licensure boards that restrict competitive markets. In light of this ruling, it is imperative that the legislature expand the role of this review committee.

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

“Free speech zones” on college campuses have restricted the free speech rights of students and other peaceful protesters whose ability to speak out to an assembled audience is arbitrarily restricted. Despite recognition from the Supreme Court that a government entity may only establish “reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions” on the right of protest, some schools encumber this right with unreasonable requirements.

House Bill 54, sponsored by Representative Kim Coleman, statutorily requires public universities to follow this guideline, further specifying that such restrictions on expressive activities in outdoor areas of campus may only be allowed if they “are narrowly tailored to serve a significant institutional interest,” “are based on published, content-neutral, and viewpoint-neutral criteria,” and “leave open ample alternative channels for communication.”

Universities in violation of this law would be subject to litigation, as HB365 establishes a private cause of action, allowing a person whose free speech rights were violated to sue the school, and if victorious, receive a monetary award along with compensatory damages, court costs, and attorney fees.

While private universities have the right to impose limits on the free association rights of its students, government-funded universities must allow protest and spontaneous demonstrations without any intervention, unless public safety legitimately warrants it. This bill puts universities throughout Utah on notice that the free speech rights of its students must be strongly protected.

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck is sponsoring House Bill 76 to allow terminally ill patients the option of using life-ending drugs to avoid prolonged suffering.

Suicide is not a good idea. There are many resources available for those who are struggling personally with thoughts of suicide. However, the question of this bill is not the endorsement of the morality of suicide but rather the endorsement of criminal penalties for doctors who allow patients to access self-administered medications to terminate their own lives. Doctors should not be punished because they allow terminally ill patients to access life ending drugs. This bill merely codifies the procedures and controls that doctors must follow if allowing patients to access such drugs.

If a terminally ill patient does not want to prolong the suffering in their life, they should not be prevented from accessing life-ending drugs through a doctor. However, if doctors are asked to prescribe such drugs, they should undertake extreme care in ensuring that such patients are of sound mind and making such decisions voluntarily and with full knowledge of the consequences. This bill ensures that in order for doctors to be exempt from legal ramifications, they need to follow very tight and specific procedures before fulfilling the voluntary request of a terminally ill patient to obtain self-administered, life ending drugs.

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

Last year, Representative Ed Redd sponsored legislation that would have given a $20 rebate to individuals who, in participating counties, obtained pre-marital education/counseling. The bill narrowly passed the House but did not receive a vote in the Senate.

Senator Allen Christensen, who was the Senate sponsor of last year’s bill, is taking a different approach. Rather than establishing a pilot program for counties that desire to participate, the bill forces a new program on the entire state. And rather than giving a $20 rebate to participating couples—a discount off of the existing fee to obtain a permission slip to marry—Senate Bill 29 raises the license fee for every couple statewide, offering a rebate off of the new fee increase to couples who obtain the government-approved pre-marital education.

Government should not be in the business of marriage. Absent that needed change, it should certainly not increase the hurdle one must jump over in order to obtain the state’s permission to marry. While pre-marital counseling can be helpful, it should not be used as extortion to reclaim one’s own money.

 

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Several years ago, the Utah legislature enacted a law that prohibits the awarding of attorney’s fees under the private attorney general doctrine—a process by which a private citizen is compensated for performing duties normally expected of the elected Attorney General. Utah is now the only state that statutorily prohibits this process.

In a recent public policy brief, we explain the history of this issue, and why it is important to repeal the prohibition. When the government violates the rights of Utah citizens, the Attorney General would be duty bound to defend the government agency. As such, a private citizen who overturns the law through the courts should be compensated for representing and defending the public.

Representative Brian Greene has sponsored House Bill 79 to repeal this prohibition, thereby allowing appellate courts to once again consider the request for compensation in limited cases where the plaintiffs have successfully defended the important rights of the public.

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