by Shane Trejo
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (March 30, 2016) – Utah State House and Senate leadership maintained the status quo and enabled unconstitutional federal overreach during the 2016 legislative session, killing five bills that would have blocked the enforcement of unconstitutional policies. Several of the bills never even received a vote.
A rundown of key legislation that failed in Utah this year is as follows:
Rep. Fred Cox (R-West Valley City) and Sen. Scott Jenkins (R-Plain City) introduced House Bill 429 (HB429) on Feb. 24 to build upon previous measures to transition back into sound money. It would have encouraged the state to invest in gold and silver and sanctioned a “commercial specie repository” to allow people to deposit and trade in gold and silver bullion rather than Federal Reserve paper notes.
Although the bill passed in the House Business and Labor Committee by a narrow 6-5 margin, House leadership killed the bill from there. Speaker of the House Greg Hughes (R-Draper) and Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan (R-Taylorsville) refused to schedule the bill for a vote in the full House.
Rep. Lavar Christensen (R-Draper) introduced House Bill 393 (HB393) on Feb. 18 declaring that the “state of Utah holds and reserves the sovereign right to decide all matters constituting and relating to its domestic relations laws and public policies.” It would have effectively nullified Supreme Court decisions regarding marriage. However, the bill was not considered in the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Christensen is the chairman of this committee, and was ultimately responsible for killing his own bill by not putting it up for consideration.
Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs) introduced Senate Bill 73 (SB73) on Jan. 25 to legalize medical marijuana for qualifying patients as well as establish a licensing program for medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. The legislation had some initial success. It passed the Senate on Feb. 25 with a 17-12 vote. However, the legislation was eventually killed in the House Health and Human Services Committee. It was ultimately voted down by Rep. Stewart Barlow (R-Fruit Heights), Rep. Melvin Brown (R-Coalfield), Rep. Michael Kennedy (R-Alpine), Rep. Paul Ray (R-Clearfield), Rep. Edward Redd (R-Logan), Rep. Robert Spendlove (R-Sandy), Rep. Norman Thurston (R-Provo), and Committee Chairman Kay McIff (R-Richfield).
CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE
Rep. Brian Greene (R-Pleasant Grove) introduced House Bill 22 (HB22) on Jan. 25. The bill would have required criminal prosecution and conviction of the property owner before finalizing asset forfeiture. It would have also tightened the criteria for legal forfeiture, stipulating that only assets used to directly facilitate the commission of a federal or state offense and any direct proceeds of criminal activity may be forfeited under the chapter.
The bill had some initial success. It passed the House on Feb. 8 with a 56-17 vote. However, the tide changed quickly. In the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee, the legislation was tabled. Under the leadership of Chairman Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs), HB22 was never removed from the table even after the Senate Rules Committee offered a substitute for the bill. Due to Rep. Madsen’s unfortunate decision, the legislation was killed without ever receiving a Senate vote.
Rep. Marc Roberts (R-Santaquin) introduced House Bill 144 (HB144) on Jan. 25. The legislation would have exempted small farmers from regulations if the food products were created in the state of Utah and sold directly to an informed individual for consumption. Small farmers would have needed to obtain a temporary or official license and been required to label the products appropriately to lawfully sell their foodstuffs under HB144. In the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee, Chairman Lee Perry (R-Perry) refused to schedule the bill for a vote, which ultimately killed any chance for food freedom to be restored in Utah during the year.
Although the state of Utah let many chances to push back against federal overreach slip through its grasp this year, it doesn’t end the fight. The legislators who refused to uphold their oath to the Constitution and killed these bills are now more vulnerable than ever. Remember to alert your community about who is jeopardizing your rights, Utahns. From that point, the legislature can be remade with individuals with the backbone to protect your freedoms through nullification.
The process can be a long, hard and ugly one, but it can pay off. Many of the states that are currently passing several nullification bills each year were in Utah’s situation not too long ago. However, activists in those states steadfastly refused to give up and successfully pushed their legislators to do the right thing. That is the future that Utah can achieve, but it is going to take some determination to get there. Will you join us and help make it happen?
William Greene is the author of the original Constitutional Tender Act, a bill template that can be introduced in every State legislature in the nation, returning each of them to adherence to the United States Constitution’s actual legal tender provisions. He is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at South Texas College.