A forum for Utah Moms to learn, discuss and act on legislation that will affect their families.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Home Stretch

With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, there are still a lot of bills moving through the process.  Unfortunately, I have been so busy this session I have not been able to address as many as I would have liked.  Here is an overview of bills you may be interested in, and where they are in the process.

H.B. 13 Offender Registry Review by Rep. Draxler
This bill allows certain sex offenders to petition to have their names removed from the registry.  It has very stringent requirements.  Rep. Peterson wrote a post about the bill on this site, which can be read here. This bill has passed through both the House and Senate and is awaiting the signature of the Governor.

H.B. 33 Firework Amendments by Rep. Dunnigan
This bill decreases the amount of days that fireworks can legally be discharged.  Fireworks will now be allowed from July 1-7, July 21-27, on New Years Eve and during Chinese New Year.  The bill has passed through both bodies, and awaits the signature of the Governor.  Blog post on this bill can be read here.

H.B. 57 Age Difference in Sexual Offenses by Rep. Greenwood
This bill makes it a sexual offense if the is offender is 7 years older than the 16 or 17 year old victim, rather than the 10 year age difference currently in law. The bill is through the House and now must be heard in the Senate.

H.B. 59 Alcohol Beverage Control Act - Liquor Revenues for Public Education  by Rep. Bird
I posted a summary of this bill here. The bill earmarks liquor revenue for the public education fund.  This bill has been waiting to be assigned to a committee for a hearing since the session began.  It was finally assigned to the House Workforce Services Committee, but at this point it is unlikely to be heard.

H.B. 62 Provisions Regarding School Supplies by Rep. Powell
Rep. Powell has run a bill asking the Legislature to allow elementary schools to solicit donations from parents for years.  This was the year he succeeded!  The school may send home a list, with the following verbiage on it: NOTICE: THE ITEMS ON THIS LIST WILL BE USED DURING THE REGULAR SCHOOL DAY. THEY MAY BE BROUGHT FROM HOME ON A VOLUNTARY BASIS; OTHERWISE, THEY WILL BE FURNISHED BY THE SCHOOL.
The bill has passed both bodies of the Legislature and awaits the signature of the Governor.  Look for requests this fall for supplies from your child's school.

H.B. 70 Air Quality Task Force by Rep. Arent
Every year the air quality in Utah can begin to resemble pea soup.  It is disgusting.  It is unhealthy.  Rep. Arent would like meaningful legislation to help improve the quality of the air.  In an attempt to discover what can be done legislatively, this bill ask for a task force to be formed to study the issue of air quality for one year and to make recommendations on legislation.  The bill has passed the House, and now must be heard in the Senate.

H.B. 123 Education Savings Accounts by Rep. Dougall
I mentioned this bill in the post: Does Every Student Cost the Same? The bill has been amended, or changed.  Instead of a sweeping program for all high school students, the bill now will call for a pilot program of 500 students in 11th & 12th grade to be given education savings accounts.  Though the implications of the bill are now less devastating, the basic premise of the bill still remains flawed.  The bill passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 8-6, with Speaker Lockhart appearing to cast her vote in favor of the bill (though the Speaker is on the committee, I think this is only the second time this session she has come and voted - she does that when they need her vote for their desired outcome).  If you have concerns about this bill, now is the time to contact your Representative in the House.

H.B 147 Online Education Amendments by Rep. Last
Last year the Legislature passed a sweeping online education bill (SB65) from Sen. Stephenson.  After seeing the effects of that legislation for one year, many school districts and parents were concerned at both the cost and the threat that Utah's Electronic High School may be discontinued.  This bill supports online education, but with more reasonable cost options available for high school students and reaffirms the existence of Electronic High School.  It repeals SB65. The bill passed the House Education Committee, and now will be heard on the House floor.

H.B. 199 Elimination of Daylight Savings Time  by Rep. Nielson
I wrote about this bill here. If it had passed it would have kept Utah on Mountain Standard Time year round. The bill was defeated in committee.

H.B. 272 Pilot Program for Autism Spectrum Disorders Services by Rep. Menlove
Brandy, Dax's Mom, wrote a post about insurance coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorders on H.B. 69 here. H.B. 69 mandated insurance coverage, but because of the cost of the bill, many were hesitant.  Instead Rep. Menlove is running H.B. 272 which will be a pilot program to cover these children.  The bill sets aside $1.5 million dollars for the program.  If the pilot is successful, the hope is that it can be expanded.  It is not exactly what Utah Moms of children with Autism were wanting, but it is a step that will help some of these children.  The bill has received a bit of press, and seems to have the support of the body to pass.  It is currently waiting to be heard on the floor of the House.  Contact your Representative in the House if you feel strongly about this bill.

H.B. 363 Health Education Amendments by Rep. Wright
This is the sex ed bill. In Utah all districts have either abstinence only or abstinence based sex education curriculum.  This bill would allow school districts to do away with the 4 hour sex education curriculum altogether.  It would also ban the discussion of or advocacy of contraception.  One side argues even saying the word condom is advocating for it's use, the other side argues if you can't discuss the realities of contraception than you have a harder time expressing the advantages of abstinence.  This bill has passed the House, and now awaits its turn in the Senate.  The general feeling at the Capitol is that the bill will pass.  But there has been a big push for those concerned with the removal of all explanation of contraception from the curriculum to contact their Senators.  For me personally, I find it distasteful to make a policy such as this from the state level.  Different districts have different needs.  Local school boards and charter school boards in conjunction with parents should be determining the needs of their students.  This should not happen at the state level.

S.B.31 Classroom Size Amendments by Sen. Morgan
This bill would mandate class sizes in grades K-3 to 20 in Kindergarten, 22 in 1st and 2nd, and 24 in 3rd grade.  If a school hires a paraprofessional to aid a teacher, the class size may be larger.  The bill is expensive.  There is concern that if schools are forced to have smaller class sizes in K-3, the 4th-6th grade classes will become larger.  It is a difficult decision.  On one hand I hate how many kids have been in my children's class rooms, 27 is too many in a 3rd grade class (what my son is currently experiencing), on the other hand, it could cause a negative ripple effect in the older grades if all our resources are aimed at those first 3 grades.  If I have to make a predication, it will be that this bill is not heard in the House at all.  But, I have been known to be wrong.  As of now it has passed the Senate and is waiting in the House.

S.B. 41 Regulation of Tanning Facilities  by Sen. Jones
This bill will require minors to be accompanied by an adult when they use a tanning facility, and will require that adult to sign a consent form every time the minor tans.  The bill has passed through the Senate and a House committee, it will require one more vote on the House floor & the signature of the Governor to become law.

S.B. 117 Publication of Education Fund Revenue Reductions by Sen. McAdams
I posted a summary of this bill here. It was simple but brilliant.  I attended the Senate Education Committee hearing on this bill, and was a little stunned at the rhetoric from the Senators.  The bill failed, and the prevailing argument that led to that failure was: people would question what the Legislature was doing if this bill passed, and people are not smart enough to understand the legislative process.  What a burden it would be on Senators to have to explain their votes! (hope you're sensing the sarcasm)

S.B. 128 Wireless Telephone Use Restrictions for Minors in Vehicles by Sen. Romero
This bill would restrict cell phone use when driving by minors.  The bill allows for exceptions if the driver is: reporting a crime, hazard or emergency, or speaking with their parent/guardian.  A teen found guilty would be fined $50.  The bill has passed the Senate, and now awaits a hearing in the House.  This is another bill I think may just never be heard.

S.B. 151 Students At Risk of Academic Failure Study by Sen. Stephenson
This started out as a voucher bill, I wrote about the new program it created the Student Opportunity Scholarship program here. The outcry must have been loud and the expense of the program large, because Sen. Stephenson substituted his bill for a study instead.  The study will look into the Carson Smith Scholarship Program as well as factors on why some students are scoring below proficiency.  The bill has passed the Senate, and now will be heard in the House.  I suspect it will pass.

S.B. 175 School Grading Amendments by Sen. Niederhauser
Last year the Legislature passed a bill, sponsored by Sen. Niederhauser, requiring all schools receive a letter grade (A-F).  After much study during the interim, that will be held off for now.  The original provisions of the bill call for a specific formula for coming up with the grades.  This formula was flawed.  As the State Office of Education in conjunction with others in the education community and Sen. Niederhauser continue to work on a formula, they will hold off on grading schools.  This bill has passed the Senate, and will now head to the House.

S.B. 223 Pledge of Allegiance Amendments  by Sen. Osmond
It is already required in elementary schools for the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited once a day, in secondary schools it is required to be recited once a week.  This bill would require the Pledge to be recited once a day in all public schools, and for it to be led by a student in the classroom - no more reciting the pledge all together as a school with the P.A. system.  The bill has passed through a Senate committee, and now awaits debate on the Senate floor.

S.J.R. 26 Joint Resolution on Engagement in Public Education System by Sen. Osmond
How often do Legislators actually visit classrooms?  Sen. Osmond is requesting members of the Legislature spend more time in public schools, and report on their visits in an online repository.  It will be interesting to see if this bill passes, and if it does, it will be interesting to see how much our elected officials ARE in the classroom.  The bill has not yet had a committee hearing, but has been assigned to Senate Education, where Sen. Osmond is the chair.

If you made it to the end, I commend you!  I hope you find the information above helpful.  If you have any questions on any of the above bills, please contact me.  For helpful hints on contacting your Legislator, look here.


Barbara said...

Thanks for the post and for your hard work and service as a Senator.

Sue said...

Fabulous summary of pertinent legislation. You are brilliant!