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Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

Legislation in years past, and in this session as well, has sought to alter the process by which candidates for the Utah State Board of Education are nominated and eventually elected.

One of the chief concerns has been the current power of the Governor to appoint a committee that has the power to terminate candidacies of persons they prefer not to see elected to the Board.

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New legislation proposed by Senator Steve Urquhart seeks to legally prohibit certain landlords and business owners from discriminating against people due to their “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” Additional legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Dabakis would prohibit discrimination in a place of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Both of these bills—along with the underlying laws they seek to amend—violate property rights and should therefore be opposed.

In a press conference this morning, the LDS Church announced its support for the general idea behind these measures. Advocating “fairness for all,” proponents argue that common decency demands enacting laws that will protect religious liberty while protecting the “right” of LGBT persons to rent residential property or be employed at a certain business. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, kicking off the conference, called for “solutions that will be fair to everyone.”

In referencing the general idea behind the Church’s support, Sister Marriott of the Young Women’s General Presidency argued that “basic rights such as securing a job or a place to live should not depend on someone’s sexual orientation.” However, no person has the right to somebody else’s property; it is incorrect to say that person X has a right to employment in person Y’s business—for any reason. A right for one person creates a corresponding duty for another; if a gay man has the right to rent an apartment from a person who personally detests gay people, that implies that the landlord has a moral duty to do so. He does not, and therefore the right does not exist.

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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

In years past, legislators have attempted, unsuccessfully, to modify the nomination process and structure of the State Board of Education. There has been general consensus around the need to get rid of the Governor’s power to arbitrarily terminate the candidacies of those seeking election to a Board position, but lawmakers have been unable to agree on whether, in addition to that change, the Board should also be elected through the partisan process, or be kept non-partisan.

Senate Bill 104, proposed by Senator Al Jackson, seeks to re-ignite that debate—and then some. As written, the bill would:

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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Supporters of Libertas Institute are well aware of Utah’s recent controversy surrounding civil asset forfeiture in our state, whereby the Attorney General’s office deceived the entire legislature into undermining property rights by removing several provisions of law that restricted when the government may forfeit a person’s property.

While the subject of civil asset forfeiture has received national attention, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent announcement to modify when the federal government will partner with states to forfeit property, there remains much more opportunity for reform.

To that end, Representative Brian Greene has introduced House Bill 167 to further restrict the power of the state to forfeit a person’s property in absence of a criminal conviction.

Here are some highlights of the bill:

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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Last year, Representative Marc Roberts sponsored legislation to prohibit political subdivisions in Utah (cities, counties, etc.) from providing assistance to the National Security Agency (NSA). That bill was heard in committee and referred for interim study, where it was again presented to a legislative committee for discussion.

Despite recent opposition from the Governor, who expressed support for the agency’s operations in the state, Rep. Roberts has again introduced his bill in hopes of withdrawing support for federal agencies that engage in widespread surveillance of innocent Americans.

House Bill 150 would require that the water being supplied to the NSA’s data center in Bluffdale be shut off as soon as the city’s $3 million bond is paid off.

Under the bill, political subdivisions may not:

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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Last year, Libertas Institute proposed model legislation to restrict when law enforcement officials could use forcible entry (e.g. no-knock warrants) to enter a person’s home. After negotiations and some modifications, the resulting legislation successfully passed.

This legislative effort was a first step in a larger effort to find the right balance between public safety and individual liberty. Together with ACLU Utah and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Libertas Institute has proposed additional changes that move us closer to that balance point. Several of the provisions were discussed and debated at our Fourth Amendment Forum this summer, featuring a panel comprised of several law enforcement representatives.

Senate Bill 82, sponsored by Senator Steve Urquhart, seeks to make the following changes:

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015 | 4 comments

HB141: Legalizing Zenefits in Utah

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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

In late 2014, the Utah Insurance Department attempted to shut down operations of Zenefits, an online human resources startup company. This service offers free access to human resources and benefits management software to small businesses; Zenefits earns money when their client businesses choose insurance benefits for their employees through Zenefits as a broker. However, not all clients use them as an insurance broker—and their software is still free to use for all.

The Utah Insurance Department’s “Market Conduct Division” recently ruled that the free software is a “rebate” and violates state statute governing the sale of insurance. The company argued that the division was misapplying the statute, and that their operations are legal under Utah law. In response to the controversy created by the public outcry over this government threat, Governor Gary Herbert issued a statement saying that he was “willing to work with all stakeholders to ensure Utah has the right policy to embrace innovative ideas while protecting consumers.”

To that end, Representative John Knotwell has authored House Bill 141, which makes explicitly clear that free goods or services (such as those offered by Zenefits) may be provided “for free or for less than fair market value” if they “are offered on the same terms to the general public” and that their receipt is not contingent upon receiving an insurance quote or purchasing an insurance product.

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Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

In Utah, the independent practice of interior design, when seeking building permits to make modifications to certain architectural elements of an interior, is restricted to the existing licensing requirements under architectural licensing. Some interior designers want the ability to work independently from architects and seek their own licensing recognition to allow them to obtain building permits independently from architects. This summer, the interior design lobby in Utah applied to become a licensed occupation in Utah. New applications for licensure must first be reviewed through a sunrise process by the Occupational and Professional Licensure Review Committee. During that process, the committee declined to grant the interior designers’ request and instead favored alternatives to full licensure. One option the committee favored was to grant interior designers an exemption from existing architectural licensing requirements for the work of interior design. However, the industry did not reach agreement on what constituted interior design, how interior design differed from architecture, what, if any, impacts on public health and safety interior design had, and what, if any, requirements would be required to qualify for an exemption.

House Bill 126, sponsored by Representative Fred Cox, an architect by trade, aims to address some of these issues by regulating interior design through a separate professional licensure act, something the review committee did not favor. The bill is designed to carve out a portion of existing architectural work that interior designers could also conduct independently of architects. It grants licensed interior designers the ability to submit plans independently for building permit approval which current architectural licensing does not permit. However, it also creates an entirely new category of licensure along with a professional licensing board and new requirements for interior designers to meet to obtain this license.

Generally, the trend across the country has been to deregulate interior design and reduce the number of licensed occupations. Utah should not break this trend. New licensing acts come with a number of concerns:

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U.S. Attorney General announced today that his office would no longer allow state and local law enforcement officials to participate in the Equitable Sharing civil asset forfeiture program, with limited exceptions.

Under this program, police officers could transfer a civil asset forfeiture case to federal agents, where lower legal standards made it easier to forfeit—and cash in on—the seized assets. 80% of the resulting revenue would flow back to the state or local agency, creating an easy and enticing avenue for generating funds for the department.

This “policing for profit” was the highlight of an Institute for Justice report that revealed the prevalence of this problematic violation of property rights. The Washington Post also recently published a lengthy investigation into the issue, helping to bring it to the fore of public consciousness.

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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Below is the executive summary for our policy analysis released last year, “Income Tax Credit for Home-schooling Families.” To read the entire report, click here. The resulting legislation is House Bill 134.

The Utah Constitution requires 100% of the state income tax to be used as revenue for government education services—“public” and “higher” education.

Families who choose to educate their children outside of this taxpayer-funded system must therefore pay for the education of others’ children before their own. Curriculum, learning kits, field trips, travel costs, and other necessary expenses are post-tax costs. The state, by imposing an income tax, requires these families to financially prioritize the education of other children first.

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