Personal Freedom

A Few Good Laws Going Into Effect Today

Today is the day we’ve all been waiting for—drum roll please—it’s Utah’s 2019 bill implementation day! The legislature passed 574 laws this past session, and today, most of them take effect. We’ve compiled a list of a few of the new laws worthy of praise.

Data Privacy

For most of us, electronic devices are part of our everyday life. From photos and texts to financial documents and bank records, people use their phones and laptops for just about everything. Many assume this information is private, but that’s not entirely true. Although the information on a physical device is protected with a warrant, those same warrant protections didn’t apply to third party data providers who also hold much of that information. House Bill 57 sponsored by Representative Craig Hall changed that.

Utah is now the only state in the country that protects third party data privacy with a warrant requirement. If law enforcement wants to search the information an individual stores on the cloud, they will first have to have probable cause and judicial approval. This also includes data that a third party produces about you in the course of your using their service. This bill was passed unanimously through the House and Senate. Other states should quickly follow Utah’s lead in order to protect their residents privacy rights from intrusion of government.

Governmental Immunity Reforms

If the government harms you or your property, it can be extremely difficult to hold them accountable due to governmental immunity laws. Every state has immunity laws and many are overly burdensome due to the onerous technicalities and confusing language—Utah’s governmental immunity act is no exception.

Representative Mike McKell sponsored House Bill 311 to help solve this problem. The multi faceted bill fixes many areas of the law. It extends the time frame from one to two years for which an individual can pursue a personal injury claim against a governmental entity, allowing them to have more time to prepare their case for court. The bill also resolves some of the problems with the notice of claim process that a claimant must follow prior to filing their lawsuit against government.

If an individual sues the government and wins, they may not be able to be fully compensated for their losses due to statutory caps on the amount of money the state can pay in damages. HB 311 raises the cap on the aggregate amount individuals can be awarded in a single occurrence from $2 million to $3 million. This is a good step, but still may not be enough to fully compensate everyone, especially in accidents with multiple people. In cases where the cap prevents full and fair compensation, individuals can pursue funds beyond the cap due to a new process established in the bill.

Competency Based Occupational Licensing

Individuals work at different paces and a one size fits all approach to schooling and testing can be difficult and frustrating for many people to follow. To accommodate for this reality, Representative Norm Thurston sponsored House Bill 226. The bill allows occupational license regulators to give the option to allow applicants to demonstrate competency as an alternative to a time-based licensing requirement. Rather than mandating a person complete 2,000 hours of work for their desired profession, they may only need to do 1,000 so long as they can prove they are competent in the necessary skills. Licensing hours are arbitrarily created, and are not adaptable to the needs of each persons learning abilities. This approach changes that.

Occupational Licensure for Prior Criminals

If an individual with a criminal past is seeking to become licensed for a specific profession, they must complete all the required hours and exams like everyone else. But after they do so, they might find out it was all for nothing—their criminal history prevents them from obtaining the license. To prevent this from happening, Representative Eric Hutchings sponsored House Bill 90 which will allow individuals to petition the Department of Occupational Licensing (DOPL) to see if they can qualify for a license before they begin pursuing one. DOPL will review their application and notify the individual as soon as possible. This simple process has the potential to help many individuals who are uncertain about their criminal history affecting their career opportunities.

Regulatory Sandbox

With many tech startups thriving in Silicon Slopes, Utah has a reputation as an entrepreneur friendly state. But the laws don’t always match this reputation the state is so proud of. New laws can be quick to stifle innovation by over-regulating, preventing companies from growing with their ideas. Representative Marc Roberts sponsored House Bill 378 to prevent this from happening in the future for future business ventures involving financial technology.

When onerous regulations unnecessarily prevent financial technologies from even testing their products in the market, there is often nothing they can do to change that. But now, HB 378 will allow these companies to petition the Governor’s Office of Economic Development  (GOED) for exceptions to the regulations that stand in their way. GOED will establish a committee with the power to hear from the companies and grant “permission slips” to allow them to develop their business without the regulations that poorly apply to their model. This will allow new tech startups to grow and progress without harmful legal burdens.

Consent for Pelvic Exams

Prior to Senate Bill 188 sponsored by Senator Dan McCay, individuals who had to undergo sedation for a medical procedure were subject to pelvic examinations—without their knowledge or consent. Medical professionals performed these examinations on unconscious patients in order to teach medical students about the procedures. This horrifying invasion of privacy is now illegal in the state of Utah. If a doctor wished to perform this procedure, they must fully inform the patient, and obtain their consent prior to a pelvic exam.