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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.

Following the opening of an investigation of Kody Brown and his multiple wives for violating Utah’s long-standing anti-polygamy law, litigation resulted in a court victory for Brown. The case was appealed and a panel of judges at the Tenth Circuit dismissed the lawsuit for lack of standing. Brown and his wives have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and are awaiting a decision.

In an attempt to moot the lawsuit, the Utah Attorney General’s office proposed legislation in the 2016 legislative session, sponsored by Representative Mike Noel, to make a minor change to the law. A House committee lowered the criminal penalty (from a third degree felony to a class A misdemeanor) but the entire House of Representatives passed an amendment to restore the penalty as a felony.

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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.

Over the past few years, nationwide concern has developed with regards to the amount of physical restraint being used on special needs students in public schools. Incidents range from incidents ending in large financial settlements to altercations resulting in the death of a student.

Last year, Representative Carol Spackman Moss proposed HB 181 to address this issue, but it never received a vote on the House floor. For the upcoming 2017 session, she has a new and improved bill, HB 92, which we support as a sound solution to addressing the ambiguities of the current law. HB 92 will no longer allow public school employees to use corporal punishment under any circumstances. The potential risk of damage to school property can no longer be used as a rationale to employ physical restraint unless there exists a risk to physical safety. Only then can “reasonable and necessary” restraint be employed. The bill also establishes a process for the replacement of damaged property while protecting the rights of the student.

Rather than looking to the federal government for answers, as is proposed by some who are concerned with this issue, Utah is taking action with HB 92 to protect students from the potential excessive use of force by teachers and administrators. By the same token, we hope that the Utah State Board of Education is looking for ways to better train teachers and administrators in handling these types of situations.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 | No comments

HB19: Reforming Civil Asset Forfeiture

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 Attorney General’s office, Statewide Association of Prosecutors, and the Utah Chiefs of Police Association conspired to deceive the legislature into passing a bill that reformed civil asset forfeiture. The sponsors of the bill told their colleagues it was nothing more than “recodification” (a re-arranging of law, with no substantive changes) while knowing that it in fact contained several key provisions that eroded property rights and due process, making it easier for the government to take ownership of property.

Civil asset forfeiture, put simply, is the ability of government to permanently take property from a person who hasn’t necessarily been charged with—let alone convicted of—a crime.

While this deception was uncovered by Libertas Institute, and largely overturned a year later (despite significant opposition from the Attorney General’s office), much more reform is needed.

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Summary:

The cost of vehicle safety inspections to Utah drivers grossly outweighs the intended and perceived bene ts, which themselves are dif cult to discern—to the extent they exist. Of the many studies performed on this issue, there is no conclusive evidence that vehicle safety inspections reduce mechanical-error car accidents.

Such accidents are rare in Utah; only 3.8% of car accidents occur due to a mechanical error. Improved roads, public education efforts and the vehicles themselves have minimized accidents; mandatory inspections do not appear to contribute to this rate being so low.

Utah drivers collectively pay over $25 million annually due to this program—money that should be retained for them to use on actual maintenance as needed by their vehicle. Tax- payer funds currently allocated for the state’s vehicle safety program should be redirected to the Department of Public Safety to patrol Utah’s roads on the lookout for unsafe vehicles.

Read More in our Public Policy Brief

The juvenile justice system is a complex ecosystem of policies, processes, and programs aimed to deter and/or punish minors who commit a crime. With little reform over the years, there has not been sufficient oversight to control costs, reduce recidivism, and ensure that justice is actually being served through existing criminal laws and the methods by which they are enforced against youth offenders.

Last week the Utah Juvenile Justice Working Group released its recommendations on how to improve this system. The working group was created by Governor Gary Herbert, Chief Justice Matthew Durrant, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, and House Speaker Greg Hughes for the purpose of developing recommendations in three areas:

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The following op-ed, written by our president Connor Boyack, was published this past weekend in the Salt Lake Tribune.

A group of business owners and former politicians have announced a plan to pursue a ballot initiative that—were it to pass—would increase each Utahn’s income tax rate. The proposal, pitched as a way to help children, is saturated in misleading messaging and is ultimately unnecessary.

“Our Schools Now” is a new label for a group of politically connected insiders, led by Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson, a behind-the-scenes influencer in Utah politics. They recently announced their initiative proposal, telling the public that they are seeking only a “7/8 of 1 percent increase” to the personal income tax.

This is misleading because it lacks context—it makes it seem like a numerically insignificant amount. In reality, that seemingly tiny amount constitutes a 17.5% increase on each Utahn’s income tax burden.

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A new report by the Utah Commission on Criminal Juvenile Justice highlights the much-discussed Justice Reinvestment Initiative passed last year by the legislature—a package of criminal justice reform policies aimed to address the growing incarceration rate.  

Drug possession offenses are now considered a class A misdemeanor—a penalty of up to one year in jail—instead of a 3rd degree felony, which carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison. This in turn has steered offenders into rehabilitation centers for treatment instead of perpetuating a cycle of abuse by placing them in prison for punishment for having a mental illness or addiction problem.

Prison population was projected to increase to 7,498 before the Justice Reinvestment Initiative was enacted in 2014, which changed the way Utah punished drug offenders. After the reform was enacted it was estimated that the number of incarcerated individuals would decrease to 6,674. However, the results are better than expected at 6,371, which is 15% lower than estimated numbers before the reform was put into place. Drug offenders used to make up 40% of the prison population; after the reform, they only make up 33.8%.

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Police and prosecutors continue to fight efforts to reform civil asset forfeiture—a law allowing them to take property from innocent people not charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime.

In the last legislative session, prosecutors got the police to issue a highly misleading letter to the legislature hours before a key vote. A second letter issued doubles down on the attempt to misrepresent facts in order to protect a policy that makes prosecutor’s jobs easier.

Following a poll revealing that 86% of Utah voters oppose civil asset forfeiture, and a significant outreach effort by Libertas Institute to the public, pressure has increased to once again attempt to reform the law. (And now we have the unfortunate distinction of lagging behind California on the issue…)

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Representative Lee Perry, a Highway Patrol Lieutenant, is running a conceal carry bill for the 2017 session to decriminalize gun owners from concealing their firearm. In 2013, a similar bill sponsored by Rep. Mathis passed, but was vetoed by Governor Herbert.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the Governor remarked, trying to claim that current law does not inhibit our right to bear arms.

But doesn’t it?

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Price shopping for medical services can be very difficult and time consuming, as prices aren’t generally accurate, and they vary depending on who’s paying the bill. If you have to price shop through an insurance company, it gets even more difficult.

Health care providers rarely disclose their prices. For those that do, consumers are often not informed as to whether the posted price is for cash, with insurance, a co-pay, Medicare, etc. At times these disclosed prices do not incorporate all necessary costs—for example, an anesthesiologist’s fees.

Insurance companies often post general price ranges for their customers and contract with care providers to change pricing, which is often hidden from consumers as well.

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