Releasing a defendant before trial using bail ensures that those who are presumed innocent until proven guilty can walk free until they are convicted or acquitted of a crime, while also ensuring they will not commit additional crimes upon release. The goal is to ensure justice while also keeping others safe.
The conditions of release are supposed to be based on an individual’s risk of flight and danger to the community. Although cash bail and bail bonds are still widely used in most pretrial hearings, they have not been used with their intended level of individualization because judges often lack adequate information to make this sort of personalized judgement.
As a result, the entire pretrial justice system has been largely inequitable—wealthier Utahns, regardless of their risk, are released on bail to await their trial while low-risk, poor Utahns are often incarcerated. By implementing a new risk assessment tool, judges can correct this unjust application of bail.Read the brief
Perpetual calls to increase funds for K-12 education generally fail to tackle the root causes of scarce funding and ignore the question of whether additional tax revenues are even needed. Often these appeals for greater funding center on increasing the state income tax.
Without a basic understanding of why Utah’s state income tax rate is where it currently is, it can be easy to wrongly conclude that simply raising the rate by a small fraction would do no harm to Utah’s economy.
Utah’s competitive advantage in attracting businesses depends on maintaining favorable regulations and taxes. This includes the state income tax, which impacts the relocation decisions of businesses and their employees.
If the state is serious about increasing K-12 education funding, we must first consider alternative options within the $16 billion budget, rather than pursuing a fruitless state income tax increase that will most certainly hurt Utah’s economy.Read the brief
A century ago, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that “the right to work for a living … is of the essence of that personal freedom and opportunity which it was the purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment to secure.” Utah law should protect this freedom and opportunity.
But a report of occupational licensure laws by the Institute for Justice recently found that Utah has the 13th most burdensome laws compared to other states. Clearly, there is opportunity for reform.
Utah’s Constitution says that “a free market system shall govern trade and commerce,” but this principle is often violated. While reasonable regulations can protect public health and safety, occupational licensure laws in Utah often exceed this limited scope, creating unnecessary and unfair barriers to entry.
We propose a constitutional amendment to protect one’s right to work, which will require the government’s regulation of that right to be evidence-based and narrowly tailored.Read the brief
Monopolies in the education system have stifled innovation and limited a parent’s options to customize their child’s learning. Education reforms like charter schools and open enrollment have had moderate success in many states but lack the innovative nature to truly reinvent the system.
Flexible Education Spending Accounts (FSA) offer an opportunity for parents to go beyond choosing where their child is educated to having a say in how their child is educated.
Top-down, one-size-fits-all reforms fail more often than not because they do not address the uniqueness of students with different learning styles, geographic limitations, and upbringings. Instead, public education needs a marketplace for reforms that parents and teachers can turn to.
An FSA goes beyond merely reforming at the top or providing school choice by engaging parents directly in shaping how funding is used in their child’s education.Read the brief
Yet at the same time, legislators refuse to legalize a plant that shows promise in reducing that overdose rate and providing relief to thousands more Utahns for whom cannabis shows a high potential, whether by alleviating pain, managing symptoms, or even reversing or altogether mitigating an underlying condition.
Throughout the state, sick and suffering individuals secretly consume cannabis for health reasons, yet do so at great personal risk, jeopardizing their employment, risking having police officers serve a no-knock warrant on their home, forfeiting their right to keep and bear arms, and giving the state a reason to potentially take their children away.
Utah’s drug laws must be amended to allow peaceful people to use cannabis for legitimate medicinal purposes.Read the brief
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 the brief
Utah voters passed Initiative B in 2000 to protect property rights and due process by limiting the government’s authority to take ownership of a person’s property. Ever since then, police and prosecutors have attempted to undermine the expressed will of the voters.
Civil asset forfeiture allows the government to confiscate property from an individual who may not even be charged with a crime. This power has been abused around the nation, including in Utah.
Contrary to claims that this legal tool is used to go after drug kingpins and crime syndicates, 74% of forfeiture cases in Utah involve under $5,000 in assets. This low amount enables the government to easily take the property; a person whose small amount of cash was taken is unlikely to pay an attorney thousands of dollars to recover it.
Critics are correct to point out that civil asset forfeiture is legalized theft. At a minimum, it is a law in dire need of substantive reform.Read the brief
Governments regularly struggle to apply antiquated laws to new, innovative businesses. Food truck owners have experienced this firsthand, with cities unaware of how to best classify and regulate their mobile kitchens.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in a patchwork of arbitrary and redundant policies that frustrate truck owners, provide no consumer protection, and in the aggregate result in significant compliance costs that threaten to undermine an upstart business.
Unnecessary regulations should be eliminated—duplicative health and fire permits, prohibitions on operating within a certain distance from restaurants, mandates to change locations frequently, costly bonding, background checks, and more. Even worse, many cities in Utah completely ban food trucks.
Food trucks are highly popular and provide a great community service and economic development opportunity. Barriers placed in their way should be reduced or removed.Read the brief
The pursuit of justice is plagued with many problems—over-criminalization, perverse incentives, faulty forensics, and disproportionate penalties. Fortunately, police and prosecutors enjoy significant discretion throughout the process to weed out cases where justice would not be served.
Despite this discretion, agents of the government still prosecute many cases where the application of the law is clearly unjust and the alleged criminal should not be found guilty. Jurors, as the final step in the system of justice, have this same discretion—but are not told about it. People cannot exercise a power they do not know exists.
Jurors are unable to see that justice is done if they are not aware that they, like the police and prosecutors, can use discretion to determine whether a prosecution should be allowed to move forward. For that reason, jurors should be fully informed and their power of discretion preserved to ensure justice is served.Read the brief
In 2015, the Utah Legislature reauthorized the use of the firing squad as a form of capital punishment. Unfortunately, the debate never addressed the acceptability of the death penalty itself, despite lengthy consideration by the legislature of a comprehensive package of criminal justice reforms during the same time.
This missed opportunity can be corrected. The legislature should consider abandoning the use of capital punishment in favor of life without parole.
While the death penalty might appeal to our emotional appetite for justice—or revenge—the reality is that it is not justly administered, the risk of executing an innocent is too high, and it does not serve victims very well.
Given the low value and high cost of the death penalty, capital punishment does not give taxpayers much bang for the buck. Instead it has become a bloated and bureaucratic policy that blindly seeks retribution despite a significant moral, social, and financial cost.Read the brief