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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.

Friday, February 10, 2017 | No comments

SB 98: Ending Government Immunity

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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Historically under the monarchies of England, the Crown could not be held fully liable when the government caused catastrophic injury or death. Unfortunately today in some states, including Utah, these types of government immunity laws have still not been repealed. When the actions of one of Utah’s 150,000 state or local government employees leads to such a devastating tragedy, there is a cap that prevents individuals and families from being made whole for medical bills, treatments, or even death.

Senator Jani Iwamoto is running Senate Bill 98 to severely weaken Utah’s current government immunity laws by setting up a process by which a citizen can basically appeal to the Utah Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee for excess damages beyond the cap. This committee (which normally deals with budgetary matters) would have the authority to award additional payment beyond the cap after deliberating over a submitted claim.

Long-term medical bills after an accident could be financially devastating to any family and normally the Federal government or a private company would compensate the victims of such an accident. Utah’s state and local government offer no such guarantee, but we believe that it is time to start holding them accountable by eliminating the arbitrary cap on government immunity.

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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Jurors have rights of which they are not made aware—and this is detrimental to the cause of justice. Specifically, jurors can determine a person not guilty of a crime they may ahve actually committed, if the particular circumstances of the case create a manifest injustice.

We laid out this situation in detail, providing the history and importance of juries, in a recent public policy brief.

Representative Marc Roberts has sponsored House Bill 332 in order to codify these juror rights, enabling attorneys or judges to ensure that jurors understand their importance and power, all in an effort to ensure justice is served.

The bill would establish that a defendant in a criminal case as the right to a jury that is informed of:

  1. the potential sentence and direct legal consequences of a guilty verdict; and
  2. the jury’s power to find a defendant not guilty when a guilty verdict would be manifestly unjust.

Utah has an indeterminate sentencing system, meaning that rather than imposing a specific sentence, judges impose a range—for example, five to life. The Board of Pardons and Parole gets to make the final determination, holding a person’s life—and justice—in their unelected hands. If jurors knew that sentencing a person would lead to a much longer sentence than they otherwise consider just, they might render a different verdict. But right now, jurors are not made aware of the consequences of their decision. This bill would change that.

It’s also important to realize that legislators cannot anticipate every consequence of their action. Often times they are presented a situation that leads to a law being passed, but that law unintentionally applies to a different situation the legislatore had not anticipated. This bill would therefore create a general escape valve of sorts, such that the application of any law which would be unjust in a particular circumstance could be dealt with under this provision, ensuring justice and allowing the defendant to escape the unintended legal consequence.

A new poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, and commissioned through the Utah Justice Coalition, reveals changing attitudes toward the death penalty by Utah residents. The survey of 784 Utah voters, conducted from January 13 to 15, shows that 64% favor alternatives to the death penalty for people convicted of murder.

The results contrast against a poll conducted last year by Dan Jones and Associates which contended that 52% of Utahns say the death penalty is the proper punishment for heinous crimes like murder. Today’s poll finds that only 29% prefer the death penalty.

Read the poll results here.

Libertas Institute previously published a public policy brief explaining the problems with a government execution policy and suggesting the need for repealing the law to reduce costs, spare victim’s families, and most importantly, ensure that innocent people wrongly conicted are not then executed by the state.

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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Last year, residents in Provo were circulating a petition in order to stop an expensive transportation project from moving forward. Multiple incidents were reported by volunteer signature gatherers at various government buildings that government employees and police officers were hampering their efforts by making erroneous claims about what could be done on public property. These incidents of harassment were direct violations of these citizens rights to free speech.

See our video report here.

Representative Norm Thurston is running House Bill 298 to address this problem. Just because a local government disagrees with you, doesn’t give it the power to impede your rights. Rep. Thurston’s bill makes this abundantly clear and reinforces the constitutional rights of any U.S. citizen.

The courts have left little room for interpretation on First Amendment rights—and this particular issue is no exception. A valid time, place, and manner regulation must be “justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech,” must be “narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest,” and must “leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information” Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288, 293 (1984).

In the Provo example above, the city imposed time and place restrictions per a building policy; however, when such an important and fundamental liberty is involved, particularly when the speech was political and pertained to city action, the limits on speech should have resulted from the far more deliberative process of city ordinance and have been far more tailored. This bill helps strike that balance.

Earlier today, the Trafalgar Group (TFG) released a public opinion survey commissioned by Libertas Institute and Americans for Prosperity. The survey showed that only 50% of likely voters support the proposed state income tax increase when asked the same biased question being asked by polls commissioned by Our Schools Now. Here is the response to that question:

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TFG Senior Strategist Robert Cahaly was quoted in the press release, “Like most issues, public opinion reveals itself based on the presentation of the question. When presented with a single digit fraction the income tax seems insignificant, but when the true cost of the tax increase is revealed there is a major opinion shift.”

Instead when voters are informed of the monetary repercussions of such an action, support for the initiative deteriorates. This survey was conducted in such a way that likely voters were not pressured by live interviewers to write a blank check for public education. Even when voters were informed about Utah’s last place per student spending ranking, support hardly increased.

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Pollster Robert Cahaly also stated, “The question on cost per student affirms that in the abstract the public is willing to consider additional education support. This poll demonstrates that most Utahns share the current American consensus opinion on spending and taxes: ‘We want everything considered important to be well funded and we don’t want to pay more in taxes to make it happen.'”

Today’s new survey shows that majority support for a state income tax increase is not a foregone conclusion. Not only are voters against raising the state income tax, but they also have a negative opinion towards most of the other alternative tax increase proposals. We suggest that the legislature instead find a way to restore K-12 public education funding that has been earmarked for Higher Education. As we have written before, increasing funding for public education is not correlated to improved outcomes.

You can find the full poll report here.

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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Several years ago, the Utah legislature passed a law that authorized gold and silver as legal tender in the state. Despite this movement, Utah law prohibits public treasurers from holding gold or silver.

Representative Ken Ivory is sponsoring House Bill 224 to allow treasurers to hold specie legal tender (gold and silver) in a “commercial specie repository” located within the state. Currently there are two: Brinks and the United Precious Metals Association.

Few Utahns are aware that refined gold is the state’s top export, and that Utah is the third largest gold-producing state. It seems quite in line with our state’s rich gold holdings to enable public treasurers to hold and transact in this form of money.

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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated, as its official opinion, that “There is no absolute right to consume… any particular food.” This statement, contained in a reply to a lawsuit filed against it by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, lays bare the thinking behind voluminous federal laws and regulations governing the production and sale of food, as exemplified in the contentious passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act a few years ago, which significantly expanded the regulatory reach of this federal agency.

Last year, we published a public policy brief establishing opposition to this claim, asserting that individuals do indeed have the right to grow and consume food, and that neighbors and consumers have the right to acquire food at a farm, free of burdensome regulations intended for—and properly applied only to—food meant to be acquired at restaurants or retail outlets where the consumer is totally unaware of the food’s source and safety.

House Bill 277, sponsored by Representative Marc Roberts, advances this initiative by aiming to statutorily exempt direct-to-consumer food sales from certifiation, licensure, regulation, or inspection by the state. This exemption would apply to food that is:

  1. both produced and sold within the state;
  2. sold directly to an informed end consumer (who does not resell the food); and
  3. for home consumption only (not used in preparation at restaurants, sold at retail establishments, etc.).

Before selling food that has been exempted, the producer is required to tell the end consumer that the food is not certified, licensed, regulated, or inspected by the state. Effectively, this creates a “buyer beware” scenario, and allows consumers to access local foods for lower costs, as the producer would not be required to comply with costly regulations designed and properly applied only to producers whose food is sold to individuals who have no awareness regarding the source or safety of the food.

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Utah is one of only 13 states that taxes social security payments as income. Social security, unlike welfare, is an earned benefit by those who work and contribute to the program, and not given to everyone. While working, workers are already taxed to pay for their social security contribution and for Utah to tax the income post-retirement is akin to double taxation on the state’s part.

Unfortunately exempting Social Security from income tax would cost the state approximately $127 million annually, causing short-term budgetary problems for the legislature. Though it would be ideal to absolve most seniors of the responsibility of paying state income tax on their social security benefits, the legislature is making a small step forward in the right direction.

Representative John Westwood’s House Bill 49 exempts seniors whose adjusted gross income is made of social security benefits by 50% or more. Retirees who have a hard time dealing with rising costs due to their fixed incomes would be provided a non-refundable tax credit which on average would come out to be about $700.

HB 49 is an important first step to future expansion of this tax credit that would promote financial security and self-reliance for seniors who have structured their retirement to depend upon these promised payments.

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
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Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Utah is one of the only states in the west that continues to allow water subsidies using property taxes. This has resulted in Utah not only having the “cheapest” water rates in the country, but the highest per-person municipal water use in the U.S. While there is constant talk of drought, consumers are given incentive to overuse water with little consequence.

The problem lies in how Utahns indirectly pay for much of their water. Instead of seeing the real costs on a water bill, the real costs are hidden in property taxes. Consumers have little incentive to monitor their own usage because on its face, water seems extremely inexpensive.

Senator Jim Dabakis is sponsoring Senate Bill 151 in order to fix this imbalance and bring property tax relief to Utah families. No longer would water districts be able to hide the true cost of water in your property tax bill. SB 151 would end property tax subsidies in the more urban areas of Utah, while exempting rural communities that face a more complex water reality.

In the past this idea has been suggested by a legislative audit and the Utah Foundation as a way for consumers to better monitor their own consumption of water. Utah is a desert state and conservation of this precious resource is important. Marketing campaigns and harassment by elected officials have proven ineffective. Allowing market forces to apply to water consumption will provide the change that Utah needs.

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