There are only 17 days remaining as the Legislative Session enters its final stretch. With most bills still to be heard, the next few weeks are sure to be busy and productive. Also, this is the time of the session that some of the worst bills sneak through with insufficient debate, so I am doing my best to carefully examine each bill.
During the past few weeks I have been working at least 14 hours a day and most waking hours of the weekends, but things are going to be much busier through the rest of the session. I will still be reading every email message I receive, but have less time to respond. When you contact me, it is helpful to know the specific bill number or description of the appropriation you are writing about, the rationale for your position, your home address and whether you need a response.
HB 150 - Custody Amendments Related to Parents with Disabilities
I am sponsoring a number of bills this year that are all in different stages of the law-making process. Last week, I had my first bill pass both the House and Senate, leaving only a signature by the governor before it becomes law.
In some custody disputes, a parent with a disability might face assertions from the other parent, or assumptions from the court, that their disability makes them less capable of parenting. The current law allows judges to presume or infer that a parent's disability makes them less capable of providing for their child's best interests. The court can draw these conclusions without making a record of the analysis used to reach those conclusions. It then becomes the burden of the parent with the disability to prove that despite their disability, they are fit to parent their own child.
HB 150 properly places the burden on the parent who wants to assert that the disability should limit the other parent's custody rights. This legislation also protects parents with disabilities by ensuring there is a clear record for appeal. The court will be required to document its specific concerns as part of the record and how those concerns are not alleviated by the parent's access to resources and accommodations. Such findings are already the best practice among many members of the Judiciary. HB 150 codifies this practice in statute to ensure it is uniformly applied.
The support shown for this legislation throughout the whole process has been amazing. Although there were many questions asked, not a single negative vote was cast at any stage in the process. I am grateful to the many legal experts and members of the community who worked tirelessly to support this legislation and came to testify in favor of it. When this legislation becomes law, it will truly make a difference in people's lives.
HCR 10 - Encouraging Identification and Support of Traumatic Childhood Experience Survivors
There are many meaningful resolutions being presented this year. One which is important to me is HCR 10 - Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Identification and Support of Traumatic Childhood Experience Survivorssponsored by Rep. Ed Redd, who is also a physician. The resolution seeks to bring attention to the research that shows the impact that adverse childhood experiences can have on an individual as they grow and develop.
In explaining the resolution, Rep. Redd noted that some kids get a disproportionate share of bad experiences in their early lives. These traumatic experiences change the wiring in a child's brain. As a result, there is an increased risk of having negative adverse effects in their lives. These negative effects can range from difficulty in school and substance abuse, to attempts to take one's own life.
I am serving as a cosponsor of this resolution, which passed the House unanimously. It will next be considered by the Senate.
Air Quality Legislation
Last week I mentioned a list of legislation being followed by the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus. To help you follow clean air legislation this session, I have posted the Clean Air Caucus tracking sheet on my website. It is a helpful way to follow everything the Legislature is doing to benefit clean air. You can find it here.
Bills of Interest
Many of you have written to ask my position about the bills listed below. You can always find the votes on each bill on our website under the "status" of the bill. Just click on the actual vote number on the right side of the page.
HB 241 - School Accountability Amendments: This bill does away with the system that assigns a single letter grade to Utah schools. The grading system has caused problems for schools for a variety of reasons. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation.
HB 207 - Federalism Amendments: This bill appropriates $350,000 for the development of a Federalism curriculum. The bill originally mandated that legislators take the course, although that language was deleted. I voted against this bill. If the state has $350,000 more to spend for education, there are many higher priorities.
Most of you have probably heard about the following two resolutions. The overwhelming legislative support for these proposals was one of the reasons that the Outdoor Retailers decided to move its conference out of Utah.
HCR 11 - Concurrent Resolution urging the President to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument: I support President Obama's designation of the national monument and voted against this resolution.
HCR 12 - Concurrent Resolution Urging Federal Legislation to Reduce or Modify the Boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: I also voted against this resolution for more reasons than I can list in this message.
Art at the Capitol
Visiting the Capitol during the Legislative Session is a great experience. There are many fun and interesting things to do for big or small groups. You can view House and Senate proceedings, sit in on committee hearings or just take a picture in front of our mighty century-old state house. You may not be aware, however, that the Capitol is host to a wonderful art collection. Below are a couple of the great pieces by local artists that are currently on display. I look forward to showing you more each week.
Visitors at the Capitol
In the News
Thank you so much for reading this newsletter and staying in touch with me throughout the Legislative Session. I have been so impressed with the groundswell of enthusiasm for political activism in the last few months. I encourage you, as we head into the final weeks of the session, to stay informed and active to help make Utah the community we want it to be.