Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Violence Against Women Act update

The Violence Against Women Act has passed in the U.S. Senate and has moved to the House, where it is expected to face strong opposition. Senator Mike Lee was one of 22 Senators to vote against the bill. I originally wrote about his opposition to the bill here. Along with writing the post, I emailed him. It took two weeks, but I got a response from Senator Mike Lee's office in regards to the Violence Against Women Act. Here it is:

Dear Megan:
     Thank you for writing to Senator Lee regarding the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The Senator always appreciates hearing from fellow Utahns. Senator Lee is firmly committed to doing everything he can to help stop violence against women. However, he felt he was unable to support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
     Despite its good intentions, Senator Lee was unable to support the bill for three primary reasons. First, this issue is a state issue and outside the proper role of the federal government. Violent crimes are enforced almost exclusively by state governments and the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress has no authority to regulate domestic violence. States are better equipped to deal with these issues. Second, the strings Congress attaches to federal VAWA funding restrict a state's ability to govern itself. Congress should instead allow state and local leaders to have flexibility in enforcing state law instead of the one-size-fits-all federal requirements. Third, current federal VAWA funding includes many instances of duplication and overlap with other programs and has long been criticized as highly inefficient.
     Senator Lee favors state autonomy and local control. He wants to remove the federal restrictions that prevent states and localities from efficiently and effectively serving women and other victims of domestic violence. He supporters eliminating programs that are duplicated elsewhere in the federal government. For these reasons he was unable to vote for the bill.
     Senator Lee appreciates you sharing your views and ideas with him. Your views will be shared with the Senator and he is firmly committed to having meaningful dialogue with thoughtful citizens regarding the critical issues facing Utah and the Nation.
     Thank you again for writing and if there is anything we can do to be of assistance in the future, please don't hesitate to contact our office.
Best regards,
 Pete Blair
Office of Senator Michael S. Lee
(202) 224-5444

Friday, February 15, 2013

HB50 Update

HB 50 is the Dating Violence Protection Act, which would extend the ability to obtain restraining orders against an unmarried partner.  The bill passed the house 61 to 11, with 3 absent or abstaining.  Here's the information on the vote breakdown.  If your rep voted against, you might consider contacting to ask them for their reasoning.  This bill is important for protecting victims of dating violence, which is just as serious as domestic violence and deserves the same protections.   Contact your Senator to urge them to vote for this bill.

HB 50
Dating Violence Protection Act
/ Bramble
3rd Reading
Final Passage
Yeas 61 Nays 11 N/V 3 Closed

Yeas - 61
Anderegg, J.Anderson, JerryAnderson, JohnnyArent, P.Barlow, S.
Bird, J.Briscoe, J.Brown, D.Brown, M.Chavez-Houck, R.
Christofferson, K.Cosgrove, T.Cox, S.Cunningham, R.Dee, B.
Draxler, J.Duckworth, S.Edwards, R.Eliason, S.Fisher, Janice
Froerer, G.Gibson, F.Hall, C.Handy, S.Hemingway, L.
Hutchings, E.Ipson, D.King, B.Knotwell, J.Last, B.
Layton, D.Lifferth, D.Lockhart, R.Mathis, J.McCay, D.
McIff, K.McKell, M.Menlove, R.Moss, C.Nielson, J.
Noel, M.Perry, L.Peterson, J.Peterson, V.Pitcher, D.
Poulson, M.Powell, K.Ray, P.Redd, E.Romero, A.
Sanpei, D.Seelig, J.Snow, V. L.Stanard, J.Stratton, K.
Webb, R. C.Westwood, J.Wheatley, M.Wilcox, R.Wiley, L.
Wilson, B.

Nays - 11
Barrus, R.Christensen, L.Greene, B.Greenwood, R.Ivory, K.
Kennedy, M.Nelson, M.Oda, C.Roberts, M.Sagers, D.
Tanner, E.

Absent or not voting - 3
Dunnigan, J.Grover, K.Hughes, G.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

SB55 Insurance Coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Senator Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, is sponsoring a bill that requires insurance to cover autism treatment. On Thursday, the bill made it out out of Senate Business and Labor Committee on a 5-2 vote.

From The Salt Lake Tribune: "SB55 covers children through age 17, with a benefit of $50,000 a year for those through age 8 and $25,000 for older children."

Insurance companies are fighting this mandate, even though a study of mandates in five states showed that the average premium increase was only 31 cents per member per month.

Many of us know someone with autism. My nephew is on the spectrum, and it has been so hard to see how much his parents have to fight to get coverage, therapy, and treatment. The Affordable Care Act has made great strides to ensure children with autism or other diseases cannot be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions, but there are still gaps in coverage for many families. The Utah Autism Coalition rallied at the Capitol on Thursday to show their support for this bill. They set up a ball pit containing 18,532 colorful balls. Each ball represented a Utah child with autism.

If you support this bill, please contact your Senator to urge them to vote for this bill.

(Picture found on the Utah Autism Coalition Facebook page)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

HB 33 Expungement Process Amendments

Representative Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, is proposing legislation in the upcoming 2013 Legislature to make it easier for recovered addicts to clean their records and gain back their lives.

From City Weekly: Currently, the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification, the agency in charge of expunging criminal records, does not allow for the wiping of multiple felonies. Hutchings says the research and counsel of treatment professionals and law enforcement show that a drug offender could be hit with multiple felonies from a single criminal episode and thus, in one fell swoop, be disqualified from cleaning his or her record.

The bill language would instead qualify individuals to have multiple felony drug offenses expunged from a single criminal episode, or two felony drug-possession convictions from separate incidents. To qualify, however, the individuals need to have paid their dues—served sentences, paid court-ordered fines, finished probation and parole—and then wait seven years before seeking the expungements. Hutchings hopes that the change may also provide an incentive for offenders to seek treatment in earnest after a felony conviction, rather than falling back to drugs.

I strongly support this bill. I think our county has fought the "drug war" in such a way that they have made the problem worse. It's easier for people to fall back into drugs and crime after being labelled a felon then it is to recover and become a productive member of society again. This bill passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and will now go to the Senate for a vote.

HB 33

Expungement Process Amendments




3rd Reading

Final Passage

Yeas 72 Nays 0 N/V 3 Closed

Yeas - 72

Anderegg, J. Anderson, Jerry Anderson, Johnny Arent, P. Barlow, S.
Bird, J. Briscoe, J. Chavez-Houck, R. Christensen, L. Christofferson, K.
Cosgrove, T. Cox, S. Cunningham, R. Dee, B. Draxler, J.
Duckworth, S. Dunnigan, J. Edwards, R. Eliason, S. Fisher, Janice
Froerer, G. Gibson, F. Greene, B. Greenwood, R. Grover, K.
Hall, C. Handy, S. Hemingway, L. Hughes, G. Hutchings, E.
Ipson, D. Ivory, K. Kennedy, M. King, B. Knotwell, J.
Last, B. Layton, D. Lifferth, D. Lockhart, R. Mathis, J.
McCay, D. McIff, K. McKell, M. Menlove, R. Moss, C.
Nelson, M. Nielson, J. Noel, M. Oda, C. Perry, L.
Peterson, J. Peterson, V. Pitcher, D. Poulson, M. Powell, K.
Ray, P. Redd, E. Roberts, M. Romero, A. Sagers, D.
Sanpei, D. Seelig, J. Snow, V. L. Stanard, J. Stratton, K.
Tanner, E. Webb, R. C. Westwood, J. Wheatley, M. Wilcox, R.
Wiley, L. Wilson, B.

Nays - 0

Absent or not voting - 3

Barrus, R. Brown, D. Brown, M.

HB13 Protection of Children Riding in Motor Vehicles

From kuer 90.1: A bill making it illegal to smoke in a car with children is one step closer to becoming law after getting a favorable recommendation from the House Health and Human Services Committee. Democratic Representative Patrice Arent says her bill is aimed at helping the thousands of children without a voice who are being harmed by second hand smoke in cars.

As someone who was exposed to secondhand smoke as a child, I support this bill. If this bill passes, people would be charged with a $45 fine. For some reasons, many of our lawmakers are against this bill. This is Arent's second attempt at getting this bill passed. The bill went to the House Health and Human Services Committee on the 5th and was given a favorable recommendation. Republican Representative Mike Kennedy of Alpine was one of two members of the committee to vote against the legislation. He’s concerned passage would eventually lead to government overreach. “I could also enforce the candy bar in the car," Kennedy says. "I could outlaw trick-or-treating, which is probably one of the most toxic holidays that we have for the long term obesity issues, the cavities, and the other troubles that come.”

Seriously?! I just don't know what to say to his response. I very much disagree that this is government overreach. For one, people can only be fined with this as a secondary offense (if they have gotten pulled over for some other reason and are found to be smoking in a car with children). Also, Arent made it clear in the text of the bill that this violation can not be used as a basis or evidence of child abuse or neglect.

We need to protect our children. Contact your Representative to urge them to support this bill.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

HB50 Dating Violence Protection Act

From the Salt Lake Tribune:
The proposed "Dating Violence Protection Act" would give adults and emancipated minors the right to ask judges for protective orders against people they are dating.
Utah code makes protective orders available for spouses and people who have lived together, but not for people who are dating and never cohabited.  
This is the 8th year this bill has been run, and likely due to influence from the Eagle Forum, it's been killed every year.  Gayle Ruzicka apparently feels that allowing teens to get protective orders would be frivolous.

HB50 has passed the House Judiciary Committee with a favorable recommendation, and now moves on to the House.  Contact your representative and encourage them to vote for HB50.
If you don't know who your representatives are, go here, and scroll to the bottom of the page.

HB 289 Fireworks Ammendment

HB 289 prohibits cities from banning state legal fireworks.  Cities would still be able to restrict fireworks in certain areas where the fire danger is higher, but they wouldn't be able to ban fireworks *cough* hello fireworks lobbyists *cough*.

I find this amusing in a not-amusing sort of way considering how much our state government seems to resent any intrusion by the federal government.  Apparently local government control is only a good thing down to the state level.  After that, oversight and restrictions are more necessary.

HB 289
Fireworks Amendments
HBUS Amended 15-0-1
3rd Reading
Final Passage
Yeas 73 Nays 1 N/V 1 Closed

Yeas - 73
Anderegg, J.Anderson, JerryAnderson, JohnnyArent, P.Barlow, S.
Barrus, R.Bird, J.Briscoe, J.Brown, D.Chavez-Houck, R.
Christensen, L.Christofferson, K.Cosgrove, T.Cox, S.Cunningham, R.
Dee, B.Draxler, J.Duckworth, S.Dunnigan, J.Edwards, R.
Eliason, S.Fisher, JaniceFroerer, G.Gibson, F.Greene, B.
Greenwood, R.Grover, K.Hall, C.Handy, S.Hemingway, L.
Hughes, G.Hutchings, E.Ipson, D.Ivory, K.Kennedy, M.
King, B.Knotwell, J.Last, B.Layton, D.Lifferth, D.
Lockhart, R.Mathis, J.McCay, D.McIff, K.McKell, M.
Menlove, R.Moss, C.Nelson, M.Nielson, J.Noel, M.
Oda, C.Perry, L.Peterson, J.Peterson, V.Pitcher, D.
Poulson, M.Ray, P.Redd, E.Roberts, M.Romero, A.
Sagers, D.Sanpei, D.Seelig, J.Snow, V. L.Stanard, J.
Stratton, K.Tanner, E.Webb, R. C.Westwood, J.Wheatley, M.
Wilcox, R.Wiley, L.Wilson, B.

Nays - 1
Powell, K.

Absent or not voting - 1
Brown, M.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Utah Senator Mike Lee and the Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first signed into law in 1994 by then President Bill Clinton. From Wikipedia: "The Act provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted. The Act also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice."

The bill ended at the beginning of 2013 after failing to be reauthorized during the 2012 legislative session. All of the women in the Senate (with the exception of Nebraska's Republican Senator Deb Fischer) co-sponsored the bill to be brought for a vote during this session.

Utah's own Senator Mike Lee was one of only eight senators to vote against considering the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. It is likely that Lee is against added provisions that expanded the number of visas available to illegal immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse (a provision that has already been dropped), as well as provisions that protect LGBT victims of violence and Native American victims of domestic violence. However, Senator Lee is somewhat infamous for explaining away his very partisan votes with his extreme beliefs about unconstitutionality.

Lee has not spoken about his vote today, but his argument against the 2012 bill can be found here: "The Violence Against Women Act oversteps the Constitution’s rightful limits on federal power. Violent crimes are regulated and enforced almost exclusively by state governments. In fact, domestic violence is one of the few activities that the Supreme Court of the United States has specifically said Congress may not regulate under the Commerce Clause. As a matter of constitutional policy, Congress should not seek to impose rules and standards as conditions for federal funding in areas where the federal government lacks constitutional authority to regulate directly."

For ways to contact Senator Lee, look here. You can be sure I'll be sending him an email myself. If I get a response, I'll be sure to post it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

HB 274 Tax Credits for Employing a Homeless Person

From kuer 90.1 FM: Salt Lake County Democrat Brian King crafted the bill that would give businesses a tax credit of between five hundred and two thousand dollars for hiring an individual who is homeless. King said the legislation is designed to help some live more stable lives.

"What this is doing is giving individuals and a group of individuals who are struggling to be contributing citizens an opportunity to join our ranks as contributors," said King.

During the House Revenue and Taxation committee hearing on Wednesday, infamous Eagle Forum lobbyist Gayle Ruzicka spoke out against the bill: "I think this idea of creating an unfair advantage" — giving a tax credit for hiring a homeless individual instead of hiring someone else also in need of a job — "over a period of time [could make] the people you didn’t hire end up homeless."

I tend to agree with Linda Hilton, project director for the Coalition of Religious Communities, who said the tax credits would help give homeless individuals equal footing — not an advantage — when they apply for jobs.

The bill passed in the House today on a vote of 41-32. It now heads to the Senate for consideration. This bill is King's second attempt at implementing this tax credit. He sponsored the bill in the 2012 legislative session, where it was passed in the House but killed in the Senate. Contact your Senator to show your support for this bill.

Yeas - 41
Anderson, Jerry Arent, P. Barlow, S. Briscoe, J. Brown, D.
Chavez-Houck, R. Christensen, L. Cosgrove, T. Cox, S. Cunningham, R.
Draxler, J. Duckworth, S. Dunnigan, J. Edwards, R. Eliason, S.
Fisher, Janice Froerer, G. Gibson, F. Handy, S. Hemingway, L.
Hutchings, E. King, B. McIff, K. McKell, M. Menlove, R.
Moss, C. Nielson, J. Noel, M. Perry, L. Peterson, J.
Pitcher, D. Poulson, M. Powell, K. Ray, P. Redd, E.
Romero, A. Seelig, J. Snow, V. L. Tanner, E. Westwood, J.
Wheatley, M.

Nays - 33

Anderegg, J. Anderson, Johnny Barrus, R. Bird, J. Christofferson, K.
Dee, B. Greene, B. Greenwood, R. Grover, K. Hall, C.
Hughes, G. Ipson, D. Ivory, K. Kennedy, M. Knotwell, J.
Last, B. Layton, D. Lifferth, D. Lockhart, R. Mathis, J.
McCay, D. Nelson, M. Oda, C. Peterson, V. Roberts, M.
Sagers, D. Sanpei, D. Stanard, J. Stratton, K. Webb, R. C.
Wilcox, R. Wiley, L. Wilson, B.

Absent or not voting - 1

Brown, M.