Bail Reform

I, and every other legislator in the House, received hundreds of emails over the last two days asking us to vote against HB 206 Bail and Pretrial Release Amendments. These emails were computer generated from a platform created by The American Bail Coalition in Franklinville, New Jersey, they all said the exact same thing based on misinformation, and only one was from a constituent of mine. When this bill finally came up for a vote on the Floor, we all literally cheered.

I completely support this bill, and was actually planning to sponsor my own bill on this issue when Rep. Pitcher (the sponsor) reached out to me to let me know what she was doing. Rep. Pitcher is a prosecutor herself, and has worked extremely hard with all the stakeholders for the past year to come up with a bill that is supported by those who are charged with keeping our communities safe. The Statewide Association of Prosecutors (SWAP), the Sheriff’s Association, the Judicial Council, and the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice all support HB206. 

Defendants often sit in jail for months on non-violent charges before having their cases resolved simply because they cannot afford bail. I recently received a letter from an inmate in Purgatory jail. He was arrested last August on several non-violent charges and is still sitting in jail awaiting resolution to his case because he hasn’t been able to come up with his cash bail. Of course he has lost his job. All this, and he has not even been found guilty of anything yet. This is extremely common. Not only is it unfair and bad practice, but it is also very expensive to the taxpayers.

 HB206 encourages a more thoughtful, individualized approach to pretrial release determinations by looking to expand the tools judges have available to them to address what monetary bail cannot: public safety risk.

Essentially, this bill states that of those individuals who are eligible for bail, a judge should impose the least restrictive conditions necessary to 1) secure the individual’s appearance in court; 2) ensure the safety of the public; 3) account for the safety of witnesses and victims; and 4) ensure the integrity of the court process. Those conditions could include monetary bail; they could also include a daily call-in, random drug testing, a no-contact order, electronic monitoring, or house arrest. It is an individualized determination dependent upon the defendant, the crime for which they are charged, their criminal history, and the specific risk factors they pose.

The arguments against this bill stem from what has happened in New York; however, this bill differs considerably from bail reform efforts in New York, as the New York law does not allow judges to consider public safety risk when making pretrial release determinations. That alone is significant. The document below outlines the differences between New York’s law and this bill.

School Mental Health Screenings

I have also received emails about HB 323 School Mental Health Funding Amendments. Any time we are talking about students and mental health, we need to be careful that we do not usurp parent’s rights, put more burdens on teachers, or create or add to any difficulties or trauma a child is already experiencing. It is not a school’s job to diagnose or to treat a student’s mental illness, but as I wrote about in my last email, suicide and mental illness are an epidemic among our youth, and educators are left to deal with the fallout. This bill, from what I have studied, will give parents an opportunity to get some help for their child that they might not be able to afford or access on their own.

This bill requires the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, to approve a mental health screening program that is age appropriate for the various school grades. 

  1. This screening is optional on all levels: school districts choose if they want to participate, and parents must opt in for their child to participate. This gives parents who want and need the help offered in this bill the opportunity to opt in, while those who don’t want anything to do with this screening can do nothing and their child will NOT participate. 
  2. The burden of this bill is not on the teacher. If students experiencing trauma or behavioral difficulties receive help (remember, only if the parent opts in) because of this bill, it will hopefully create better classroom situations.
  3. Any intervention offered to a student by the school because of a screening would be facilitated by the school mental health professional and provided in the school setting–it would not include medications–and would always be implemented only with written consent from a parent. 
  4. A participating student’s screening data will not be included in the student’s record. 

As a parent with children who have suffered from mental illness, I really appreciate the tools this bill is supplying parents who need and welcome this help. Considering that Utah has one of the highest rates of youth suicide and mental illness in the country, I think this is an important issue that we have to address. I have not yet heard this bill on the Floor and am still studying it, but it seems like a good bill. 

Gun Bills

We heard two gun bills on the Floor this week: HB 271 Firearm Preemption Amendments and HB 267 Prohibited Persons Amendments. I supported both. HB 271 states that the legislature has preemptive authority on firearm regulations in the state. This vote was straight down party lines–Republicans for and Democrats against–which happens a lot less frequently than you might think.

If someone has received due process through the courts, and it has decided that they should not possess firearms under the law, then HB 267 helps verify that they have followed the law. It says that after becoming restricted, the individual has 10 days to sell or otherwise transfer possession of their firearms unless the court determines that there is a public safety risk and the individual should comply sooner. This bill received only three no votes–two Republicans and one Democrat. Here are two of the statistics I considered when studying this bill.

  • In 2017, 61% of domestic violence related homicides in Utah involved a firearm. 
  • Relinquishment bills in other states have resulted in a 12% drop in intimate partner homicides.

Earlier this week, I was able to visit with a couple of my constituents who came to the Capitol on NRA Day on the Hill. We had a great conversation. I don’t own guns (my kids do), and sometimes people are surprised that I strongly support the 2nd Amendment. Here are some reasons why:

  • I like to make decisions based on good data, which most gun control proposals are not.
  • Almost all gun owners are responsible, law-abiding, good people.
  • People with guns often save lives.
  • I will always vote to support Constitutional rights.

If you have made it through this entire email, you are amazing!!! Thank you for your interest and support. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions. If you make it to the Capitol in the next 9 days of the session, please come sit with me on the Floor. 

Bills Passed by the House This Week

HB 283, 1st Sub Outdoor Adventure Commission Amendments
HB 270 Interstate Compact for Economic Development
HB 312, 2nd Sub Maintenance Funding Practices Act
SB 58 Uniform Athlete Agents Act Amendments
SJR 1 Joint Resolution Supporting Coordination of Care for Older Adults Receiving Home Health Care Services
SB 90, 1st Sub Procurement Code Amendments
HR 3 House Resolution Urging the Activation of Closed Captioning in Public Venues
HB 330 Peace Officer Pay Plan Amendments
SB 66 Court Resources Reallocation Amendments
SB 70, 1st Sub Determination of Death Amendments
SJR 6, 2nd Sub Joint Rules Resolution – Conflict of Interest Disclosure
SB 17 Heber Valley Historic Railroad Authority Sunset Date Extension
SB 59 Daylight Saving Time Amendments
SB 65, 1st Sub Child Welfare Amendments
SB 13 Native American Legislative Liaison Committee Amendments
SB 64, 1st Sub Special District Communications Amendments
SB 56, 1st Sub Public Safety and Firefighter Tier II Retirement Enhancements
SB 32, 1st Sub Prisoner Offense Amendments
SB 36 Nonresident Income Amendments
SJR 11 Joint Rules Resolution – Workload Reporting
SB 80, 1st Sub Campus Safety Amendments
SB 88 Environmental Quality Revisions
SB 102, 1st Sub Bigamy Amendments
SB 97 Personal License Plate Amendments
SB 28, 3rd Sub Election Law Revisions
HB 37, 1st Sub Insurance Amendments
SB 45, 1st Sub Uniform Fiduciary Income and Principal Act Amendments
HB 322, 1st Sub Utahraptor State Park
SB 68, 3rd Sub Mental Health Counselor Licensing Amendments
HCR 9 Concurrent Resolution Authorizing State Pick up of Public Safety and Firefighter Employee Retirement Contributions
HB 278, 1st Sub Jordan River Amendments
HB 333, 1st Sub Limited Purpose Local Government Entity Amendments
HB 207, 2nd Sub Insulin Access Amendments
HB 309 World War II Memorial Commission
HB 339 Clean Air Special Group License Plate
HB 120 Towing Fee Amendments
HB 297, 1st Sub Yurt Amendments
HB 240, 1st Sub Driver License Revisions
 HB 107, 2nd Sub Effective Teachers in High Poverty Schools Incentive Program Amendments
HB 245 Dogs in Watershed Areas
HB 155, 3rd Sub Homeowner Association Provisions Amendments
HJR 14 Joint Resolution Regarding Study and Recommendations for Telegovernment
HB 259 Electric Vehicle Charging Network­­
HCR 15 Concurrent Resolution Urging a State Funeral for the Last WWII Medal of Honor Recipient
HB 293 Longevity Amendments
HB 276 Administrative Garnishment Order Amendments
HB 266 Water Conservancy District Amendments
HB 315 Local School Board Vacancies Amendments
HCR 12 Concurrent Resolution on Holocaust Education
HB 258 Intergenerational Poverty Interventions Grant Program Amendments
HB 279, 1st Sub Disability Benefit Amendments
HB 312 Heritage and Arts Foundation Amendments
HB 98, 1st Sub Offenses Against the Administration of Governments Amendments
HB 306 Planning Commission Amendments
HB 256 Student Aid Amendments
HB 280, 2nd Sub Transient Room Tax Provisions
HB 290, 1st Sub Occupational Licensing Amendments
HB 77 Education Funding Amendments
HB 101 Distracted Driver Amendments
HB 255, 2nd Sub Boat Fees Amendments
HB 319 Consumer Lending Amendments 

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