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This Bill passed the Senate 23-5 and the House 62-7.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

In 2015, along with the Utah Taxpayers Association, we sued the state seeking to overturn a clearly unconstitutional law requiring disclosure of information about our donors. With the help of the great attorneys at the Center for Competitive Politics, who represented our organizations in this lawsuit, we were able to come to a a settlement with the state of Utah.

House Bill 43, passed by the legislature in 2013, was sponsored in response to a political consultant’s illegal use of non-profit organizations to hide the identity of the source of his donors—from the payday lending industry—to fund a negative campaign against Representative Brad Daw, who had sought to regulate the industry’s practices. The bill passed the Senate 20-8 and passed the House 60-13.

The law compelled private non-profit organizations—such as Libertas Institute—to publicly disclose the personal information of their donors when the organization spends $750 or more on political activity in a single year. This created a substantial chilling effect, harming our potential to raise funds from people who may not wish to be publicly identified with their ideological and financial support, whether for family, business, religious, or personal reasons.

In response to the settlement, Senator Lyle Hillyard has agreed to sponsor Senate Bill 275 to repeal HB 43 in its entirety so that the statute will reflect the agreed settlement. As the floor sponsor for HB 43, we applaud him for his willingness to correct the law.

You can read further about our arguments against HB 43 in an op-ed we co-authored with our co-plaintiff in the Salt Lake Tribune.

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

Chances are you’ve seen the billboards asking Utahns to “Stop the Opidemic.” This marketing effort aims to help people understand that the opiate overdose crisis has reached epidemic levels.

The program is well-intentioned, and opiates pose a significant problem. Utah has an alarmingly high number of deaths due to these addictive and dangerous drugs. On average, 24 Utahns die every single month from overdosing on opiates. Something needs to change.

But is the marketing campaign the right way to effect real change?

Read more »

This Bill passed the Senate 58-10 and the House 53-17. The governor signed this Bill into law.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

Utah’s “Zion Curtain” law compels restaurants to create an opaque barrier between where patrons sit and where alcoholic drinks are mixed. Proponents argue this is beneficial and necessary in order to keep children from seeing said alcohol. Previous reform efforts have stalled, in part because the legislature is unwilling to substantively reform Utah’s alcohol laws without the agreement of the LDS Church, which has supported the “Zion Curtain.”

Yet for all the complaints over this policy, it actually applies only to a minority of restaurants. When the law was passed in 2009, all existing restaurants were grandfathered in and therefore did not have to create the barrier.

That would all change under House Bill 442, sponsored by Representative Brad Wilson, which would eliminate the exemption and compel all restaurants that serve alcohol to choose between either the “Zion Curtain” or a newly established “Zion Moat” which requires “at least 10 feet from any area where alcoholic product is dispensed to the dining area and any waiting area, measured from the point of the area where alcoholic product is dispensed that is closest to the dining area or waiting area.”

In other words, restaurants have to either install a costly barrier to hide the booze or rearrange their interior such that tables are further than 10 feet away from the bar.

The bill also includes a number of other changes, including a 2% increase in the already steep tax imposed upon alcoholic beverages. For example, the tax on spirits goes from 86% to 88%. (If you’re in the military, you’re in luck—the legislature caps the markup to soldiers at a comparatively low 17%.)

Utah’s confusing, arbitrary, and unjust alcohol laws need major reforms, but this bill complicates matters in a negative way. Many restaurants enjoy a freedom under existing law that would be removed, compelling them all to create unnecessary barriers at a significant cost. We oppose this bill.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | No comments

SB 250: Food Truck Freedom

This Bill passed the Senate 23-1 and the House 73-0.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

In a public policy brief late last year, we outlined the many regulatory burdens faced by food truck owners throughout Utah as a result of duplicative and redundant ordinances and fees required of them by city governments.

To respond to this concern, Senator Deidre Henderson has sponsored Senate Bill 250, which would streamline these regulations, eliminate redundancy, and prohibit problematic city regulations.

Specifically, this bill would:

  • establish a reciprocity system so food truck owners don’t have to obtain a business license in each city in which they desire to operate;
  • prohibit cities from establishing protectionist boundaries around restaurants in which food trucks are denied the opportunity to operate;
  • prohibit cities from denying a business license for a food truck on the basis of the applicant’s criminal history;
  • require that counties honor health and fire permits issued in other counties; and
  • streamline event permits and other regulations.

This is a great start towards freeing up the market for food truck owners who currently struggle to succeed.

This Bill did not reach a vote in the House.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

In 2015, the Utah Legislature passed HB 362 which not only raised the gas tax by 5 cents a gallon, but also authorized counties to place a .25% sales and use tax increase on the November 2015 ballot in order to fund local transportation projects and the Utah Transit Authority (UTA). When the dust settled, 10 counties passed the increase.

Now Representative Brad Daw is resurrecting the concept with House Bill 367 which would allow cities and townships whose counties did not (and do not plan to) implement the tax increase to place a .10% sales and use tax increase on the ballot in order to fund local transportation projects.

If local municipalities truly were in such need of funding for transportation, then they should find ways to adjust their budgets to find the funding they need. Lavish recreation centers, golf courses, and fitness equipment are just some of items that cities sometimes prioritize above needed transportation projects. At a time when Utah taxpayers are already dealing with numerous new taxes and facing still more, another sales tax increase is unnecessary and irresponsible.

The following counties could be affected:

Box Elder
Salt Lake

This Bill did not reach a vote in the Senate.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

Senate Bill 210, sponsored by Senator Jake Anderegg, forces companies to adopt and disclose to employees a written policy that is used by the employer to determine how employees are compensated, or which benefits are provided, based on the employee’s performance. The sponsor’s intent is to address the issue of women not being paid as much as men for similar work.

The mandate applies to companies that employ 15 or more individuals in Utah for 20 or more weeks of the year.

The bill also prohibits employers from changing the criteria in these policies within six months of when they apply to an employee, to delay the ability of an employer to change the compensation expectations of each employee.

Additionally, the bill requires the Department of Workforce Services to “conduct a study that analyzes any difference in pay between men and women in the state” and present the findings to the legislature. The department is also required to “create and maintain an index of the current pay range for individuals employed in [each] occupation in the state.” Finally, the department is required to (using taxpayer dollars) “conduct an advertising campaign to promote the availability and utility” of the index.

It is not the proper role of government to compel a business owner to adopt and disclose a compensation policy, nor is it a justified use of taxpayer dollars to study and catalog employee wages, nor conduct an advertising campaign of the same.

This Bill passed the House 67-0, but did not reach a vote in the Senate.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

One of the largest factors driving up health care costs today is the lack of transparency of the true costs of health care services and the lack of incentives for consumers to pursue high quality, low-cost options. Representative Norm Thurston has an idea to change that dramatically.

The first substitute of House Bill 127 authorizes insurance companies to create savings reward programs. This would allow a member of a health benefit plan to shop for low cost options, while receiving financial incentives when the final cost of a service ends up being lower than the average cost of that particular health care service. It is important to note that this does not mandate insurance companies to comply with this law.

HB 127 does mandate that PEHP, Utah’s public employee insurance program, create these savings reward programs to allow government employees to shop for low cost options. The success of similar public employee programs in other states has led private consumers to urge their own insurance programs to offer similar services.

Often, the costs of health care services vary drastically from one provider to the next. Programs and tools that encourage average citizens to weigh their health care options and consider cheaper avenues will help lower the costs of health care over time for everyone. If HB 127 passes, it might not be too long before you see innovative services like this one from New Hampshire appear in Utah.

This Bill passed the House 67-0, but did not reach a vote in the Senate.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

We believe that Utahns 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.

In a past study, Utah was cited as the 12th most onerously licensed state in the nation. This circumstance harms free enterprise in our state. House Bill 331, sponsored by Representative Norm Thurston, focuses on one important aspect of reducing licensing: reciprocity with licensing from other states.

While we are opposed to licensing in general and oppose barriers to entry, we see reciprocity as a common sense way to reduce existing licensure burdens by providing an opportunity for individuals that move to Utah to obtain a license here without having to duplicate the efforts they have already made in another state to qualify for a similar license.

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 continue to look at ways to severely reduce the unnecessary burdens of occupational licensure.

This Bill did not reach a floor vote in the Senate.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Currently, if an individual or police officer intentionally conceals or withholds important evidence in an attempt to cause someone to be charged with a crime, they are in violation of the law. But what if a prosecuting attorney does something similar by concealing or withholding “exculpatory” evidence which would alter the outcome of a case?

At this time in Utah, there is no punishment or significant consequence for a prosecuting attorney who deliberately withholds this kind of evidence. Senator Todd Weiler aims to change this circumstance in court rule with SJR 7. Court rules are regulations that govern the procedures of a court and how various matters pending before court are handled and processed.

SJR 7 changes court rule to direct prosecutors to reveal exculpatory evidence (evidence that may exonerate the defendant). Unfortunately, this bill doesn’t make this kind of behavior a crime. More work is needed on this issue and we believe that this type of act should be punishable with the penalty of a felony. SJR 7 is a step in the right direction, but expect to see weightier legislation next year.

This Bill passed the House 46-21, but did not reach a vote in the Senate.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

As healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, cheaper alternatives for consumers are needed for many traditional services. Compounding pharmacies are one important example. These pharmacies prepare personalized medications for patients by using a practitioners’ prescription to correctly mix together the necessary ingredients to create the exact strength and dosage form needed by a patient. Compounding individualizes medication to fit the needs of any given patient.

As is typical of the healthcare industry today, these types of pharmacies are over-regulated. Representative Ray Ward has introduced House Bill 189 to change that and offer consumers more choice. HB 189 would allow a compounding pharmacy to prepare any “prescription drug in a dosage form which is regularly and commonly available from a manufacturer in quantities and strengths prescribed by a practitioner.”

In layman’s terms, this would allow a compounding pharmacy to sell generic brand drugs to the public and allow a consumer more access to cheaper medicines that still fit the specificity of their prescription. As advocates of a free market, we support this measure to remove this unnecessary regulation that unfairly protects name brand drugs.