Lawmakers push abstinence-only sex ed; DABC leadership may be changed

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Abstinence-only education bill passes HouseState lawmakers moved a step closer Wednesday to making human sexuality instruction in Utah public schools abstinence-only or nothing at all.

After long and sometimes uncomfortable debate, the House passed an amended version of HB363. It now moves to the Senate. One amendment restricts teaching about sexual intercourse and erotic behavior and prohibits the advocacy of sex outside marriage, contraceptives and homosexuality.

The measure, which passed 45-28, also included an amendment requiring local school districts that choose to develop abstinence-only curriculum do it in consultation with parents.

Classroom instruction would stress the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as the only sure methods of preventing certain communicable diseases, according to the bill.

The measure, which passed 45-28, also included an amendment requiring local school districts that choose to develop abstinence-only curriculum do it in consultation with parents.

Sen. Mike Lee addresses Utah Legislature

Senator Mike Lee spoke to the Legislature Wednesday, focusing on what it's like to be the youngest member of the U.S. Senate, and stressing the importance of states rights. Lee ticked off areas that he says require state assertiveness, to protect the right:

• Not to be detained indefinitely by the executive branch

• Not to be told where to go to a doctor and how to pay for it

• Not to have religious institutions “bullied”

• To freely develop Utah's public lands to help build “what I believe will be the greatest school system in the entire U.S.A.”

Suicide prevention training for public school teachers

After hearing alarming testimony on the rate of suicides in Utah, the House Education Standing Committee unanimously forwarded a bill that would require suicide prevention training for Utah public school teachers.

Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, the sponsor of HB501, said the bill would require two hours of training every five years. He said that with respect to the already heavy burden on Utah teachers, the bill is intentionally broad to allow flexibility in implementing the requirement.

"We have a challenge in the state, we are trying to address that." Hutchings said. "This is a huge issue. It does some weird things to kids, emotionally, when something like this happens in their school."

$3 million goes to charter schools

The House Education Standing Committee voted Wednesday to send a bill to the full House that seeks $3 million in one-time funds to establish a Charter School Reserve Account.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, presented his SB152, which would establish the reserve account as well as create a program to enhance the credit rating of new and existing charter schools in Utah. With that credit enhancement, Valentine said, bonds for the construction of charter schools would contribute to the growth of the reserve fund and more of the schools' infrastructure cost would remain in Utah.

"We are exporting dollars to Wall Street that we could otherwise be using in our system," Valentine said.

Texting while driving ban gets an update

Texting while driving became illegal in Utah in 2009. Three years later, rapidly changing cellphone technology has lawmakers scrambling to catch up.

A new proposal, SB98, would update the texting ban to prohibit drivers from sending emails, reading text, viewing images or sending data on their cellphones as well.

Making or receiving phone calls would still be allowed under the proposal, and using a cellphone or other device for gps navigation would also be OK.

But the proposal may have to be updated to account for more recent advances in cellphone technology.

Health care bill moved to Workforce Committee

Despite opposition from some members of the Health and Human Services Committee, a bill to allow Utah to join an interstate compact to opt out of federal health care reform laws was moved over to the Workforce Services committee.

Sen. Stuart Adams said the move was needed because "I've got three bills tomorrow (Wednesday) in the Health and Human Services committee. I think given the time commitment and the number of bills they have, I think it's better heard in Workforce Services."

Some advocates are concerned about the change of venue because members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee are well-versed in the funding mechanisms of federal health care programs and the health care reform efforts under way in Utah.

Bill would change DABC leadership

A plan to reform the beleaguered Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control would put more oversight in the governor's hands.

It also attempts to "remove the profit motive" from the agency, said Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, adding that selling more alcohol should not be its goal.

"If we're going to have a DABC, it should be focused on control," he said.

Still, the proposal does not specifically address how alcohol is sold or how liquor licenses are issued in the state, but would restructure the agency's management.

Sen. Valentine's bill, SB66, would replace the current five-member commission with seven members, divided into two three-person subcommittees over licensing and compliance, and operations and procurement, respectively. The governor would appoint a seventh member as chairman.

Wilcox's bill, HB354, calls for a committee within the Department of Public Safety to collect data in five areas — over-consumption, over-serving, underage drinking, DUI rates and alcohol-related abuse.

It also would require the DABC to remit money made from its markup on alcohol sales to the State Tax Commission rather than retain it as a department "slush fund," Wilcox said.

Making DUI checkpoints illegal

HB140 makes the case that DUI checkpoints violate the constitution and civil liberties. The bill's sponsor is Rep. David Butterfield from Logan.

"The notion of rounding up whole groups of citizens and searching them for whatever it may be, that notion is really an un-American notion," He said.

Butterfield says research shows these arrests often don't hold up in court. He supports saturation patrols instead, which look specifically for signs of a drunk driver and therefore have probable cause to stop the car.

Contributing: Dennis Romboy, Ladd Brubaker, Benjamin Wood

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