Tiffany Frandsen | Deputy Managing Editor | @tiffany_mf
Prohibition on Electronic Data Collection | HB 150
Rep. Marc K. Roberts (R-Santaquin) has proposed a bill that forbids any state government official, employee or contractor from cooperating with a federal agency in electronic data collection. The bill specifically calls out federal surveillance agencies that collect bulk records. If this bill passes and the NSA requests bulk records from any state government official, that official can’t legally hand over the records or help with the collection.
Tobacco Age | HB 130
For the second year in a row, the Utah Legislature is debating raising the tobacco age from 19 to 21. This year, Rep. Kraig Powell (R-Wasatch/Summit counties) sponsored the bill that would prevent anyone under age 21 from buying tobacco, cigarettes or e-cigarettes. Powell (also a UVU adjunct professor of political science at the Wasatch campus) co-sponsored similar legislation that failed in a close vote in the Senate last year.
Religious Freedom | HB 66/HJR 5
The marriage modification bill, sponsored by Rep. Jacob L. Anderegg (R-Lehi), would acknowledge the right to refuse to perform a marriage ceremony (based on religious beliefs) from priests, rabbis, ministers, etc. of religious organizations and extend it to all government officials that can legally solemnize marriages. The ACLU has said they will not tolerate the legislation, saying that it would allow public officials to “refuse to serve members of the public based on a sincerely held religious belief.”
In separate legislation, Anderegg has also proposed an amendment to the Utah constitution that explicitly states that a religious organization not be required to recognize, perform or execute ceremonies or services that are not consistent with their religious beliefs. Priests, ministers, rabbis and other religious officials who can legally perform marriages are already given constitutional protection from performing ceremonies (including marriages) that are against their religious beliefs.
Anderegg is in the process of re-writing the legislation and has declined to speak publicly.
Distracted Driver | HB 63
Anderegg has also proposed changes to the distracted driving law (which, last year, was updated to tighten cell phone restrictions). Among other changes, he has proposed adding the word “purposeful” to the definition, to say that a driver is guilty of careless driving if they commit a moving traffic violation “while being purposefully distracted…”
The bill would also loosen the previous restrictions so that using devices to dial or listen to music is not prohibited – only texting, accessing the internet and “manually [entering] data” are prohibited. If the proposed legislation passes, using speakerphone and checking voicemails is fine. Currently, if a UHP officer sees someone manipulating a cell phone (excluding the phone being held to the user’s ear, as drivers can talk but not dial), they can pull the driver over.
Law enforcement officers’ use would also be limited; under the current law, they are exempt from the cell phone law while they are working, but this bill would limit said exemption to “exigent circumstances.”
To find the contact information for specific representatives and senators, or to find which representatives and senators represent you, enter your address into le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp.
Tiffany is the Deputy Managing Editor for Spring 2015. Follow her on twitter @tiffany_mf