As hard as it may be to believe, the 2014 Legislative Session is rapidly approaching, and lawmakers are beginning to get their ducks in a row—preparing bills they hope will become the law of the land. Though it is early to definitively state what the session will look like when festivities begin on January 27, a look at the names of the early bill titles being released does give some indication of what various lawmakers wish to propose. By law, all bill titles must accuracy reflect the content of a bill.
At this point, the content of the bills is still hidden from the public as lawmakers finalize language and attempt to shore-up support from fellow legislators and interest groups prior to releasing the bills’ wording. It is only when the content is released that true analysis can take place (and our “Flagged Bills” section fires up again). But taking into account last year’s committee hearings, along with the prior interests lawmakers have taken on topics, we’ve got some ideas on what Utah should expect from the 60th legislative session.
An annual favorite at the Utah Legislature with its Republican super-majority, there are already two bill titles on the subject.”Certificate of Still Birth Amendments,” from Representative Jim Nielson (Republican – Woods Cross) could reignite the debate surrounding the issuing of such certificates. Utah currently has on its books laws that allow (but does not require) parents to obtain a still birth certificate if they so choose. Anti-abortion activists claim that having such laws help provide closure in the event a child is stillborn while pro-choice supporters worry that if such laws became mandatory, it would unnecessarily add stress on mothers.
Also out is the ambiguously named “Abortion Amendments,” from Senator Stuart Reid (Republican – Ogden). Reid has not taken strong positions on abortion in the past, though he does vote for anti-abortion bills. It is too early to tell if these amendments will have any dramatic effect on Utah’s policy related to abortion—but it is worth keeping an eye on.
Representative Patrice Arent (Democrat – Salt Lake City) is continuing her years-long push to improve air quality in the Beehive State. One intriguing 2014 bill title implies she believes Utah should endorse Tier III standards for air quality. Tier III standards are related to vehicle emissions, and the implementation of the standards—as suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency—could go a long way towards slowing down the Wasatch Front’s annual winter inversion.
Senator Todd Weiler’s (Republican – Woods Cross) “Air Quality Amendments” bill title is likely related to his promise to eliminate medical waste incineration in the state. His constituents have complained about the medical waste incinerator owned by Stericycle, and how it consistently violates spollution standards. Weiler has said in the past he is willing to work with the company, and does not want to do harm to an unrelated incinerator in Tooele County.
Another bill title of note is Representative Marie Poulson’s (Democrat – Salt Lake City) “Income Tax Credit for Purchase of Transit Pass.” The Utah Transit Authority recently began a push towards electronic fare payment in an effort to reduce cheating of the system and eventually transition to distance-based payments, as opposed to the current trip-based payment system. Poulson appears to want to incentivize the purchase of these tap-on/tap-off cards by giving tax breaks for Utahns purchasing bus or Trax trips.
Another annual favorite. If the current bill titles are any indication, the 2014 legislative session will have a very mixed attitude towards alcohol and how current policy effects not only drinking, but also tourism.
Representative Kraig Powell (Republican – Heber) is proposing “Alcoholic Beverage Service Amendments,” which may attempt to modify a bill Powell successfully passed last year, and became known as Utah’s “intent to dine” policy (where servers at a restaurant must receive confirmation that a patron intends to eat along with their alcoholic beverage). The original bill came about after word got out in the press that state enforcement officers from the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control (DABC) were being inconsistent with their enforcement of old law, which required that restaurant goers actually order food before they could order a drink. Powell’s 2013 bill changing it from “ordering food first” to “telling a server they would order food” was an attempt to clarify the policy, however problems have persisted.
“Driving Under the Influence Amendments,” from Representative Mike McKell (Republican – Spanish Fork). When he’s not a part time lawmaker, McKell is a personal injury lawyer and no doubt has an understanding of DUI related laws. He also may have an interest in altering DUI related laws. A freshman on the hill, McKell’s record is far from established on the issue of alcohol—however lawmakers have been getting pressure from conservative think tanks to reduce the legal blood alcohol level from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent.
Editors note: This is the first of a three part series related to reviewing the upcoming legislative session. Part 2 is here and addresses Equality, Firearms, Elections, and Business. Part 3 is here and addresses Education, Government, and Health and Human Services.