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Bills, Bills, Bills
Here's what bills to keep a close eye on once the session starts.
By Kelan Lyons
Bills and the Legislative session are like peanut butter and jelly, Bert and Ernie, Utah and Mormons. Here's a list of bills to keep an eye out for, and a few laws that are inexplicably still on the books:
Down with daylight saving!
Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, wants to squash an annual annoyance: daylight saving time. Judkins' bill would allow Utah to remain on Mountain Daylight Time year-round, so long as the U.S. Congress permits it. Screw you, seasonal affective disorder! Never again will we have to use that "fall back, spring forward" crap to remember whether we'll be gaining or losing an hour of sleep.
No more babies on the campaign trail!
Reps. Stephanie Pitcher, D-Holladay, and Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, have sponsored bills that would let candidates for public office use campaign funds for childcare when they're campaigning. Or, lawmakers could just give Chuck E. Cheese's a giant tax break in the hopes they steeply discount their services.
Giving working families a break!
The federal earned income tax credit, or EITC, puts money in the pockets of low- to moderate-income working families. If Rep. Robert Spendlove's, R-Sandy, bill passes, Utah would join the 29 other states, plus Washington, D.C., in establishing its own EITC, benefitting children and parents who have been living off of low wages for generations.
Die with dignity!
Picking up the torch that former Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck left, freshman Rep. Jen Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, floated a bill that would allow a terminally ill patient to end their life on their own terms. Restrictions and safeguards abound—an age requirement and the request can be rescinded at any time—but the gist is that gravely ill Utahns would have access to medication that would end their suffering.
Ban conversion therapy already!
Local LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah is asking lawmakers to ban conversion therapy, a destructive and hateful form of "help" that attempts to change a person's sexual orientation. The practice is frequently linked to suicide. The LDS church gave Fox 13 a lukewarm statement that seems supportive if you squint hard enough, but it's unclear how they'll flex their ecclesiastical might once the bill is filed.
Roe v. Wade, who?
In keeping with the conservative crusade to protect the unborn at the expense of the living, Rep. Cheryl Acton, R-West Jordan, proposed legislation to restrict women's right to terminate their pregnancies. The bill would cap the procedure at week 15 of the pregnancy. (Currently, women can receive abortions 21 weeks and 6 days after the start of their last menstrual period.) Expect its constitutionality to be challenged, should the bill pass.
Protect those guns!
There will be a slew of Republican- and Democrat-backed gun safety bills this year. Some, like Reps. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, and Stephen Handy, R-Layton, hope to protect Utahns suffering with suicidal thoughts by distancing them from their firearms. Others, like Brian King and Patrice Arent, Dems from Salt Lake City and Millcreek, plan to establish a universal background check system and ban the sale of bump stocks at the state level. If the Utah Gun Exchange folks were willing to follow the Parkland kids around the country for talking about gun reform, expect them to oppose the majority of these bills.
Classic, P-in-the-V heterosexual sex is A-OK in Utah, (though it's recommended you get married first), but consensual sodomy is still a Class B misdemeanor. State sodomy laws can't be enforced thanks to the '03 Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court ruling, yet the Beehive State is still one of a dozen that keeps these homophobic laws on the books, making our leaders just as much of asshole-ish as those in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Crime and punishment
Using similar language as the post-Civil War 13th Amendment, Utah's Constitution bans slavery but carves out an exception if such "involuntary servitude" is a punishment for a crime. Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, aims to amend the state Constitution and drag Utah into ... the year 1900. (Let's be honest, we've got a long way to go to make it to 2019.) Should her bill pass with a two-thirds majority vote, the public will need to OK the language change in the 2020 election.
State lawmakers clearly have it out for LGBTQ Utahns and those convicted of a crime, but they also apparently loathe beavers. In 1971, legislators updated the state code to allow residents to kill the bucktoothed bastards, so long as they're damaging your property. Just submit a request to the Wildlife Board, then go to town. You can "kill or trap" the tree-gnawing imbeciles, per the Utah Code, but it doesn't say how you end their miserable lives, just that you may. The less creative among us might use the rodents for target practice, but the true pioneers will channel their inner Bill Murray, pretend they're hunting groundhogs and rig the land with explosives, to give the little scoundrels the send-off they deserve.