SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah’s 2021 General Legislative Session is underway with many high focus bills on the table.
ABC4 News is following the session and has compiled a list of 10 of this year’s talked-about bills.
Senate Bill 64, Domestic Violence Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Jani Iwamoto, passed unanimously on the Senate floor Tuesday.
According to Sen. Iwamoto, the bill enhances the penalty for repeat domestic violence offenders.
The bill modifies the circumstances under which the penalty for certain domestic violence offenses may be enhanced and states that adjudication in juvenile court is not a conviction for purposes of a penalty enhancement for a domestic violence offense. The bill also makes technical changes.
Sen. Iwamoto tells ABC4 that data shows domestic offenses in Utah are “cyclical in nature and escalate over time.” She says Utah’s statistical data shows domestic violence offenders’ abuse tends to escalate and she wants to help end the cycle through this bill.
House Bill 212, Homeless Youth Protection Amendments is sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Weight. It proposes modifications to be made to provisions related to shelter, care, and services for Utah’s homeless youth.
The bill clarifies that a person who provides shelter, care, or services to certain homeless youth may refer the homeless youth to temporary or permanent housing. The bill also makes technical changes.
If passed, the bill would help homeless youth obtain food, clothing, hygiene products, and other basic necessities like a bed to sleep in, a place to shower, assistance in school enrollment, and transportation resources.
House Bill 204, Feminine Hygiene Products Tax Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Robert Spendlove, proposes sales and use tax provisions on feminine hygiene products.
The bill modifies sales and uses tax definitions, creates a sale and uses tax exemption for feminine hygiene products, and makes technical and conforming changes.
House Bill 210, Qualifying Conditions for Medical Cannabis, sponsored by Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion, proposes amends to be made to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis.
This bill amends the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis and makes technical changes.
The bill states that current scientific evidence “clearly supports” the efficacy of medical cannabis treatment and lists the following conditions that would qualify under the bill, which include HIV or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, or cancer.
House Bill 192, Fertility Treatment Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Raymond P. Ward, proposes expansions on insurance coverage for fertility preservation and criminalizes improper conduct related to fertility treatment.
It will not cover IVF, but fertility preservation, Rep. Ward shares with ABC4 News. He says he believes those who want to have a family should be able to.
He says oftentimes male or female Utahns will have cancer that takes away their ability to have children. He says this bill would provide those people with help to one day have a child of their own.
On July 30, Sarah Frei and her three friends were hit head-on by a drunk driver in Cache County. All four survived, but Sarah lost her legs and is paralyzed from the waist down. The drunk driver walked away.
“There are a lot of drivers who leave jail while they’re still drunk because they’ve posted bail without having to see a judge,” shares Rep. Steve Eliason.
If passed, H.B. 47 will require those drivers who hurt or kill someone while driving drunk to see a judge before they can be released on bail.
House Bill 198, License Plate Amendments, sponsored by Stephen G. Handy, proposes a new standard-issue license plate called the Utah Dark Sky license plate.
Utah currently has 21 designated dark sky places throughout the state.
The Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities and parks to limit light pollution so the sky and stars can be seen.
“In 2018 I was approached about a Dark Skies-oriented issue regarding the growing concerns over light pollution. The resolution addressed concerns about outdoor street lighting and urged cities to provide hoods in some instances,” Rep. Handy shared with ABC4. “Sen. Evan Vickers was the Senate sponsor, and I handled the resolution in the House. It passed.”
Currently, Utah motorists have the option to choose from one of three standard license plates, In God We Trust, Delicate Arch, and Skiing and Snowboarding. “There are many other specialty plates: Clean Air, Wildlife, Autism, Veterans, Purple Heart, Universities, etc. etc. For a specialty plate, individuals pay an additional fee, usually $25 a year, that will go to support that organization,” Rep. Handy shares.
The proposed Dark Skies License Plate would be a fourth standard plate.
“The full license plate image is needed to display the exciting image. Once this gains traction and becomes available, I could see hundreds and thousands of Utah-licensed vehicles at Disneyland, for example. The Darkest Skies in America slogan would be a huge draw for added tourism to our national and state parks,” Rep. Handy says. “Utah truly has the Darkest Skies in America!”
Rep. Handy says the bill passed out of committee and is now awaiting debate on the House Floor.
House Bill 205, Universal Background Checks for Firearm, sponsored by Brian S. King, requires a background check for certain firearm sales.
The bill defines terms requiring background checks for the transfer of a firearm between persons who are not federal firearms licensees.
The bill states it would create exceptions for family members, law enforcement agencies, and officers. It also allows for temporary transfers under specific circumstances, provides criminal penalties for a violation of the provisions of this bill, and makes technical changes.
House Bill 160, Distracted Driver Amendments, sponsored by Carol Spackman Moss, proposes provisions related to the use of handheld wireless communication devices like cell phones while operating a motor vehicle.
The bill provides limited exceptions to the prohibition on the use of a handheld wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle on a roadway and amends penalties for a violation.
House Bill 21, Stalking Amendments, is sponsored by Rep. Candice B. Pierucci. Shortly after being appointed to the legislature, Rep. Candice B. Pierucci says constituents reached out who had a terrible stalking experience.
“Over the summer I have been working with the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice in a work group that included representation from the defense, prosecutors, sentencing commission, courts, and victims’ advocates to work on a bill that is measured and improves and clarifies our stalking code,” Rep. Pierucci tells ABC4. “We reviewed the laws of all fifty states to see if there were best practices of other states that could be incorporated in our state law to provide clarity. This bill has the support of the Criminal Code Evaluation Task Force and the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.”
Rep. Pierucci says as she has continued to meet with victims’ advocates and attorneys, she believes increasing the number of acts for stalking from two to three is not wise.
“Which is why I introduced the amendment to keep the number of acts at 2,” she says. “The bill was amended in committee and no longer increases the acts from two to three.”
“The language that remains in the bill is the addition of very broad intent language, that the acts evidence “a continuity of purpose.” It does not require that the offender have a continuity of purpose but that the acts evidence a continuity of purpose. This gives victims, law enforcement, and prosecutors the power to proceed in these cases based on what the acts suggest, regardless of whether or not the defendant admits to having a singular purpose behind the multiple contacts,” Rep. Pierucci shares.