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SALT LAKE CITY — With the New Year comes a freshly elected congress and a new legislative agenda for Utah. The following are some of the major legislative items that will be debated and voted on throughout 2015.
Last Friday, the U.S Supreme Court decided to hear a challenge to Oklahoma's lethal-injection system, after three death-row prisoners died gruesome deaths under the drug.
Given the problems that Oklahoma and other states have come across in administering lethal injections — in that some have ended inhumanely— there is potential for future national bans or difficulty in acquiring the drug. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, is introducing a bill in the House of Representatives recommending that if lethal injection is not available, a firing squad can be used for capital punishment. Essentially, House Bill 11, The Death Penalty Procedure Amendments, give the government the ability to use a firing squad in an execution, if the state cannot acquire the drugs necessary for lethal-injection within 30 days.
Because of Utah’s substantial air quality problems, significant measures have been and will continue to be enacted into 2015 to combat the issue. Individuals who are repeat offenders of visible motor emissions will face penalties in a new bill put forth by Rep. Perry, R-Perry, HB 17, Motor Vehicle Emissions. A bill like this was voted on last year, HB 271 but ultimately did not pass in the House.
In emergency situations, under the Emergency Placement of Children Act, HB 39, children could be placed in a friends’ home by Division of Child and Family Services even if they are not legally foster parents. Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, from the House is pushing this bill in the new legislature. One of Anderson’s specialities is in child welfare, and is currently on the Child Welfare Legislative Panel.
Senator Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, is proposing a bill, Senate Bill 16, that allows parents to get a birth certificate for early stillborns. The certificates would be issued if the baby was 16, but less than 20 weeks gestation.
Following the 2014 legalization of gay marriage in Utah, Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, is sponsoring a law and a resolution, HB 66, for a constitutional amendment that would exempt clergy, state and local government officials and judges from having to solemnize marriages that go against their religious beliefs.
“We can't have government requiring a Catholic priest to marry someone in the Catholic church who has been divorced, because that is contrary to Catholic doctrine,” Anderegg said regarding the issue.
While the FDA has an important role in keeping harmful or ineffective drugs off the market, its processes are so slow and cumbersome that it often keeps new drugs from patients that could extend and preserve their lives.
–Rep. Gage Froerer
Representative LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, is pushing a bill through the House outlawing the tattooing of minors. Currently, under Utah law a minor can get a tattoo with parental approval, however HB 43 bill would overturn this allowance.
Some tattoo parlor owners have suggested that this bill would actually force kids to use alternative means to get tattoos, “forcing them back into the basements of some of their buddies to get it done,” rather than actually protecting them.
In another proposal, raising age limits for minors, called the Age Limit for Tobacco and Related Products, HB 130, comes from Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, who wants to raise the smoking age from 19 to 21 years of age.
Senator Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, agreeing with Powell, acknowledged during a the Health and Human Services Interim Committee meeting, that personal liberties are an important consideration, but said that “21 seems to be a more responsible age than 19” also noting, “there must be a balance between freedom and what is best for society.
For patients that are terminally ill, HB 94, a bill proposed by Rep. Greg Froerer, R-Huntsville, wants to allow these individuals access to investigational drugs and devices that do not yet have FDA approval.
“While the FDA has an important role in keeping harmful or ineffective drugs off the market, its processes are so slow and cumbersome that it often keeps new drugs from patients that could extend and preserve their lives,” Froerer noted in a recent Op-Ed piece in the Standard Examiner.
Students might have to pass a civics test, or citizenship skills test, in order to graduate from high school according to a new bill, SB 60, The American Civics Education Initiative, proposed by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper. Students would have to correctly answer 60 out of 100 questions, and he or she would be allowed to take the test as many times as necessary to pass.
For those who decide to home-school their children, a new tax credit could be enacted for homeschooling parents, under House Bill 134, introduced by Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain. A similar bill was also introduced in 2014 by Lifferth, but ultimately wasn’t passed by congress. The 2014 bill would have provided $500 tax credit to those who home-school.
Lifferth intended the tax credit to be of some financial assistance for home-school families who do not receive the textbooks or other materials that the public education system provides.