On the House floor this morning Rep. Chavez-Houck brought forward H.B. 506 Martin Luther King, Jr. Special Group License Plate. With the passage of this bill, drivers would be able to purchase MLK license plates for a $35/annual fee; the revenue raised would benefit organizations that provide programs that create or support civil rights awareness. This bill had an interesting committee hearing, which got sidetracked on the issue of abortion because the words 'human rights' appeared in the bill. Rep. Daw stood today on the House floor and read a letter from the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. dealing specifically with the bill. The letter emphasized Dr. King's death before Roe v Wade, and surmised if he had lived to see it he would not have been 'pro-choice'. After the letter was read, Rep. Daw made the motion to amend H.B. 506 removing the words 'human rights' and replacing them with 'inalienable rights as set forth in the Declaration of Independence'. With this amendment the bill passed the House with a vote of 61-10, and will now be heard in the Senate. Sen. H. Stephenson is the Senate sponsor.
Multiple announcements of retirement came today:
Rep. Litvack, the House Democratic Minority Leader, announced today that he will not seek reelection. Rep. Litvack has served in the House for 12 years. The statement on his retirement can be read here.
Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, also announced she will not seek reelection this year. Sen. Morgan served for 10 years in the House of Representatives, and has spent the past 4 years serving in the Utah Senate. Read her statement here.
1SHB123 Education Savings Account from Rep. Dougall would have created a pilot program for 500 students that gave them an education account to be used to pay for their classes in the public education system. Students could have shopped for classes provided by different public providers, and would have paid for those classes out of their account. School fees could also have been paid for out of the account. The bill was a backpack funding bill, an idea that I highlighted in the post: Does Every Student Cost the Same? The program was very expensive to administer. Rep. Powell spoke against the bill, saying the benefits did not outweigh the enormous cost and chaos it would cause. Rep. Watkins asked if any organization supported the bill, Rep. Dougall responded that it was supported by Parents for Choice in Education and the Sutherland Institute. Rep. Sumsion supported the bill, saying it was ultimate local control - parents and students would have control of their education and he thought more parents may become engaged in their child's education with this program. When the House finally voted, it was overwhelmingly defeated 26-46. To see who voted for/against look here.
Should students have to pay for concurrent enrollment classes? For months Sen. Urquhart has been working on a proposal to streamline the delivery and increase the availability for concurrent enrollment classes. Concurrent enrollment are classes taken by high school students for college credit. Those months of work resulted in S.B. 284, a bill which proposes charging high school students $30/credit hour for concurrent enrollment classes. Most classes are 3 credit hours, so the average class would be $90. $90 is comparable to an AP Test fee - which is around $85. There is a provision in the bill that allows the cost to be waived for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. The bill passed the second reading in the Senate, it will require one more vote in the Senate and then will be heard in the House.
Rep. Eliason is running a bill that will increase the waiting period required before an abortion is performed to 72 hours. Rep. Moss spoke against the legislation, saying if we really want to cut down on the number of abortions performed we wouldn't be fighting against contraception education. The bill, H.B. 461, passed the House 59-11.
This evening executive appropriations met to hammer out the final details on the state's budget. Look for numbers in the next day or two.