2019 Bills

But Were There Any Bad Bills Run in 2019?

Throughout Utah’s legislative session, there are quite a few bills that you might not have heard about, simply because they failed to pass or because the worst parts were amended out of the bill.

Here are a few examples of bills that Libertas Institute actively worked against to successfully defeat:

House Bill 13 attempted to criminally prohibit talking on (or simply holding) your cell phone while driving. Studies have shown that pursuing this type of policy does little to increase public safety (and may even make roads more dangerous).

House Bill 34 would have violated the free speech and free association rights of donors to nonprofits who engage in educational activities involving public policy by requiring the nonprofits to reveal their donors.

House Bill 170 would have made it a criminal offense for a person to not call 911 in an emergency involving a serious bodily injury. An idea that sounds fine on paper, but would have too many negative consequences.

House Bill 189 wanted to increase the criminal penalty to a felony upon the fourth conviction for theft. “Three Strikes” laws and the like have been proven to not work and instead create larger problems within the criminal justice system.

House Bill 293 sought to undermine the plea in abeyance process by treating such pleas as a conviction for ten years on a person’s criminal record. This disregards why pleas in abeyance exist in the first place.

Senate Bill 171 attempted to expand existing filmmaking tax credits to include post-production video editing, as well as increasing the dollar amount of available tax credits. These types of tax credits have been shown to do little to grow the local economy, and the expansion would have discriminated against many other computer tasks that wouldn’t be eligible for taxpayer subsidy/incentive.

And here are a few examples of bills that Libertas Institute was successfully able to modify into a more agreeable bill:

House Bill 120 first attempted to create an expensive and draconian school safety program as an overreaction to school shootings in other states, with databases of information about children, increased police officers in schools, and mandatory threat assessment teams to monitor reports about problematic children. After our intervention, with a coalition of other concerned organizations, the legislation now simply provides schools with best practice information and creates a student support team pilot program to continue to study the issue and explore best practices can be studied and proven before they are considered statewide.

House Bill 287 tried to criminalize, by default, any sexual relationship between college/university professors, instructors, teaching assistants, etc. and their adult students. The bill would have opened up an entire pandora’s box of problems by criminalizing the behavior of two consenting adults. Instead, the bill now only applies to those underage.

Senate Bill 43 initially included a provision that made it a first degree felony when a person shared illegal drugs with another person that resulted in that person’s demise. Not only would this be extremely difficult to conclusively improve, but it lacked any element of mens rea, or criminal state of mind. The death may have been totally accidental, or the result of a mixture of drugs and other substances instead, but the unwitting drug supplier would have then been charged with, and likely convicted of, this maximum level of criminal penalty. We were able to get this provision completely removed from the bill.

Beyond encouraging legislators to pass a variety of good policies, Libertas Institute also serves as a watchdog for poorly written legislation—a monumental task considering the over 800 bills that are numbered each year!