So far, medical cannabis and workplace breastfeeding have stolen the spotlight at the Capitol this year, but that's certainly not all that's happening during the 2016 Session.
Medical Cannabis & Breasfeeding Steal the Spotlight
In the case of medical cannabis, the discussion seems to be breaking AGAINST your civil liberties. Two competing medical cannabis bills got approval last week to move ahead in the legislative process, but the more comprehensive bill – SB73, sponsored by Senator Mark Madsen – took a real blow over the weekend, when the LDS Church's official objections became public. Medical cannabis patients say that SB73 is the bill that will help the most people, and we support them in their efforts to bring whole-plant medical cannabis access to Utah.
Luckily, in the case of the rights of working women to reasonable accommodations in the workplace, things are actually going well (despite apparent legislative ignorance about breastfeeding). SB59, the first of several bills put forth by the newly-formed Utah Women’s Coalition, sailed out of its initial committee hearing. It then survived a rather silly discussion on the Senate floor, and will move on to the House.
All press and parody aside, this and other bills in support of working mothers are critically important to ensuring equal workplace opportunity for women. We have high hopes as SB59 moves ahead, and look forward to seeing the other bills – protecting women who breastfeed in public, and requiring paid parental leave – introduced soon.
We are happy to report that some other important bills, about which civil libertarians can be excited, are likewise moving forward.
Rep. Brian Greene’s bill to reform civil asset forfeiture (“policing for profit”) in Utah – HB22 – passed unanimously out of committee. It should come as no surprise that this bill is being ferociously opposed by law enforcement. In fact, a misleading letter was sent to all legislators last week, as publicized by Libertas Institute, our partner in supporting this legislation.
If you care about this critical area of reform, please consider emailing your legislator and telling her or him to vote IN FAVOR of HB22, in support of Utahns’ private property rights! HB22 may be heard on the House floor this week, and your input to your legislator will be very timely.
Rep. Dan McCay’s carefully constructed legislation on the use of policy body cameras – HB300 – was made public last week, much to the delight of reform advocates who find the other body camera bill out there (SB94, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher) to be seriously underwhelming.
The ACLU of Utah participated in the many months of negotiation and discussion that went into Rep. McCay’s legislation. We support HB300 as it is currently written. We are strongly opposed to SB94, which strikes the WRONG balance between the many rights and interests at play in the complex conversation around responsible use of police body cameras.
HB300 sets baseline standards for model policies to be adopted by law enforcement agencies that opt to use body cameras. SB94 establishes no such standards, but rather allows law enforcement agencies to write their own rules regarding body cameras.
Another small but important victory for civil liberties – in this case, the 4th Amendment rights of poor people who receive public assistance. Rep. Angela Romero’s HB172, which will reform Utah’s unnecessary and invasive practice of screening the recipients of public benefits for drug use, leapt its first hurdle last week! We will continue to support this important reform effort throughout the session – and congratulate Rep. Romero on its success so far.