'Parker Jensen Bill' Dealt Setback

'Parker Jensen Bill' Dealt Setback

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Richard Piatt ReportingThe first of dozens of parental rights bills before the Utah Legislature bit the dust today in a Senate committee.

It was the first of the so-called Parker Jensen bills to come up for a vote. This bill would have given parents almost exclusive power over life and death decisions involving their children, but it would have required a major shift in current state policy.

This bill was deadlocked in committee, and therefore died. But it is one of at least 40 bills that deal with parental rights this year--and there are more that haven't emerged yet. House Majority Leader Jeff Alexander is trying to organize and consolidate the House bills, which is turning into quite a challenge.

At the same time, the Attorney General's office is trying to warn lawmakers about a sticky legal issue that looms: Changing the way DCFS operates could endanger an 11-year old court case tied to the agency that's already cost the state millions of dollars in reforming the way DCFS does business.

Alain Balmanno, Assistant Utah Attorney General: "I think many of these bills will cause problems for the state. Financial costs, court oversight costs, and ultimately protection of children costs."

Parker Jensen's parents led a highly publicized and successful battle last summer. They fought state efforts to gain custody and force chemotherapy on the boy for cancer.

There are lots of lawmakers who believe the child welfare system needs reforming. But it remains to be seen if the changes require changes in law, or changing how individuals in DCFS handle cases.

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