Editors Note: This is the second of a three part series related to reviewing the upcoming legislative session. Part 1 was released Wednesday and addressed Abortion, Pollution, and Alcohol. Part 3 is here and addresses Education, Government, and Health and Human Services. Bill titles do not present specific policy, just the topic discussed within the yet-to-be-released legislation.
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.
Republican Senator Steve Urquhart (St. George) managed to push a bill through a Senate committee last year making it illegal to fire someone from their job or evicting them from their home simply because they’re gay (commonly referred to as the non-discrimination bill), but the bill died on the Senate Floor without ever receiving debate. It appears Urquhart isn’t done yet, and is fulfilling the promise he made after the 2013 session to bring the bill back again with his bill titled “Antidiscrimination Amendments.”
Although Utah already has some of the most lax gun laws in the nation, the subject inevitably makes it to the forefront every year. What’s missing from the 2014 list (so far, at least) is any repeats of Representative Brian Greene’s (Republican – Pleasant Grove) 2013 bill which would have made it illegal for federal law enforcement officials to enforce federal firearm laws in Utah (it was killed on the floor after the Legislature’s attorneys pointed out it was unconstitutional).
Only two bill titles of note have appeared thus far: “Incentives for Firearm Manufacturing Companies,” from Senator Howard Stephenson (Republican – Draper) and “Concealed Weapon Permit for Service Members,” from Representative Val Peterson (Republican – Orem). The first would most likely encourage more arms manufactures to open shop in the state, and give Browning (the manufacturer of the official state gun, the M1911 pistol) a run for their money. The second appears to be an attempt by Peterson to speed up the concealed weapons permit process for those who have received professional firearms training from the United States government.
Representative Kraig Powell (Republican – Heber) is leading the charge this year with a whole slew of election and campaign related bills. This should come as no surprise as Powell had nine election-related bills last year, many of which he abandoned without trying to get them to pass. Many of the bill titles listed for 2014 are the same as last year. “Campaign Contribution Disclosure and Limit Amendments,” “Campaign Contribution Limits,” “Campaign Contributions Amendments,” and “Campaign Finance Amendments” will all likely attempt to limit anonymous cash and require more detailed reporting of campaign contributions.
One intriguing bill, also from Powell, is “Voting Age Amendments.” As the voting age is set by the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, it is unclear exactly what Powell is attempting to achieve. It’s possible he may be pushing for early voter registration, a practice many states use where teens under the age of 18 can pre-register to vote when they get apply for their drivers license. Teens still wouldn’t be able to vote until 18, but they will be ready to do so when their first Election Day comes around.
Utah has always been viewed as a pro-business state, and the upcoming legislative session will no doubt see a number of new policies their sponsors hope will encourage economic growth. Two early bills of note are “Construction and Fire Codes Amendments,” from Representative Mike Noel (Republican – Kanab) and Economic Development and Science, Technology and Research Amendments, from Representative Brad Dee (Republican – Ogden).
Noel’s bill is notable as it most likely is the result of a temper tantrum that occurred on the House floor during the 2013 session, when the body was discussing updates to the fire code. Noel was fundamentally opposed to fire codes being debated by those who live in urban areas and, therefore, have no idea what fire codes are necessary in the more rural parts of the state. Other lawmakers argued that having an urban/rural split in fire codes would cause confusion for inspectors, decrease property values in rural areas, and cause insurance premiums to increase for property owners.
Dee’s bill concerning economic development as it relates to science and technology research may be focused on encouraging the growth of mini Silicon Valley’s around state universities—including Weber State, which sits next to Dee’s district. It may also be related to recent growth around so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and practical application initiatives, aimed at encouraging education related to those four topics.