SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers passed several bills this week, including a bill to allow the use of hemp oil for epilepsy treatment and a bill to include school faculty in a law prohibiting sexual relations with students.
The Senate failed to pass a bill raising the legal smoking age to 21, the education committee passed a bill to require carbon monoxide detectors in schools and after just 15 minutes, a committee approved a bill to limit aggressive panhandling on state roads.
Opponents of a bill that would allow political candidates to bypass Utah's unique caucus and convention system to get on a primary election ballot argued Monday that the Legislature has no right to dictate how political parties conduct business.
Former Republican state Rep. Chris Herrod said SB54 violates the First Amendment and freedom of association.
"The party gets to decide the way that it works," Herrod told the House Government Operations Committee. "It's sophistry to say we're not imposing the will (of) the government on the political party."
Parents facing termination of their parental rights could opt for a jury to decide the case under legislation approved Monday by Utah House of Representatives.
Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, sponsor of HB318, said the legislation's intent is to uphold parents' fundamental liberty interests guaranteed by the Constitution.
Once a child is removed, "it's permanent," Christensen said.
While acknowledging that parental rights termination proceedings involve serious ramifications for parents and children, Christensen said, "We've got to balance this and get it right. And it's not right currently."
A bill defining any member of a school faculty as holding a "position of special trust" and subject to legal penalties for engaging in sexual contact with a child was passed unanimously Monday by the Utah House.
HB213, sponsored by Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, clarifies existing statute to close a legal loophole through which prosecutors have struggled at times to make a case against adults who were not directly involved in the classroom education of a student victim.
An attempt to raise the legal smoking age in Utah to 21 failed in the Senate on Monday.
Under SB12, Utah would have been the only state in the country to prohibit tobacco use for anyone under 21. The Senate defeated the bill 12-16.
After only 15 minutes of discussion, a Senate committee unanimously voted to recommend a bill that would prohibit aggressive panhandling that impedes traffic on certain roads.
HB101 would also make it illegal to solicit on sidewalks within 10 feet of an ATM or bank entrance.
wo conflicting bills to reform State School Board elections are now under consideration by the Utah House, reawakening the debate on whether education officials should be subject to partisan scrutiny.
On Monday, the House Education Committee voted in favor of a previously defeated bill that would create direct partisan elections for school board members.
During a committee meeting last week, lawmakers advanced a bill calling for nonpartisan election of school board members, while a similar bill creating partisan elections failed by a single vote.
That bill, HB228, was reconsidered Monday with a different combination of committee members present, allowing it to proceed to the House floor with a 8-5 recommendation.
The latest version of the House GOP's alternative to Medicaid expansion was approved in committee Monday after the sponsor of the bill said it would attract some $80 million in federal funds.
Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, told members of the House Business and Labor Committee that it's not accurate to say the plan in HB401 only involves state tax dollars.
A bill requiring carbon monoxide detectors in schools cleared a House committee hearing Monday on its way to final passage.
SB58, sponsored by Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, has passed two committee hearings and floor debate in the Senate — with commanding majorities in each instance — and will now go before the House for consideration.
A bill meant to quell the lingering fight over the Common Core State Standards gained committee approval Monday after a significant overhaul of the bill language.
During presentation of the bill, HB342, sponsor Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem, said she was exhausted with jet lag from traveling between two universes: one where the Common Core is a progressive series of education standards and another where it is a sinister federal takeover of local schools.
The Common Core State Standards are a series of benchmarks that define the minimum skills a student should learn in each grade and have been voluntarily adopted by all but five states. They were created by a coalition of state officials and education experts, but critics nonetheless view the standards as a federal intrusion into local control of education.
An attempt to raise Utah's minimum wage to $10.25 an hour didn't get much traction in a legislative hearing Monday, but state lawmakers are open to studying the issue.
The House Health and Human Services Committee referred HB73 for possible study over the summer.
"This really is a complex issue. It's more than increasing the amount of wage someone earns," said Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove.
Two-year-old Leah McClellan, dressed in light purple, stared at the ceiling of the House gallery while lying in her grandfather's lap.
She hardly moved and didn't crack a smile like other toddlers might.
Leah is on medication that has severe side effects — such as making her sedated and catatonic — and is only a somewhat effective treatment for the five to 20 seizures she has daily.
Leah smiles on "good days," which happen only about once a month, her mother said.
What Leah was oblivious to Monday afternoon was the Utah House's 62-11 passage of a bill that would allow the use of hemp oil extract for the treatment of seizures related to intractable epilepsy. HB105, which has been revised and substituted seven times, will now go to the Senate.
A House committee unanimously recommended a bill Tuesday that would improve communication between sexual assault victims and law enforcement.
HB157 looks to clarify a victim's bill of rights when it comes to receiving information about forensic exams, such as rape kits.
The bill requires victims be notified whether the evidence has been submitted for DNA analysis and about the results of analysis. It also requires the investigating agency to tell the victim if it chooses not to have the evidence analyzed or intends to dispose of the evidence, said House Minority Leader Jen Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, the bill's sponsor.
A committee of parents appointed to review the state's year-end test materials may be tasked in the future with fielding complaints on Common Core if a bill approved by committee Tuesday becomes law.
SB275, sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, would expand the duties of the 15-member committee to include the review of complaints related to curriculum standards and instructional materials.
The House Judiciary Committee endorsed a bill Tuesday that aims to protect children when one of their parents is suspected of killing the other.
SB173 would make it possible for concerned parties or the state to petition that children be placed in protective custody if law enforcement investigators identify a parent as the primary suspect in the killing of the other parent.
Nothing in the bill changes the presumption of innocence, said sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.
Contributors:Benjamin Wood, Dennis Romboy, Lisa Riley Roche, Marjorie Cortez