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2015 Legislative Victories!

21 April 2015 Published in Legislative Reports

Legislative-report-2015With your help, the ACLU of Utah wrapped up an impressive session in the legislature on March 12.

We certainly had a great impact; passing an unheard of number of bills while developing strong relationships with legislators from both sides of the aisle.

The 2015 General Legislative Session by the numbers:
2: ACLU reps on the Hill; double the fun, double the successes, double trouble for foes of civil liberties!
65+: Bills tracked and actively lobbied for or against.
8: Bills we helped draft and affirmatively supported, all of which passed and were signed by the governor!
4: Anti-civil liberties bills stopped or neutralized.
22+: Times that we testified during committee hearings.
500+: Letters to the Governor asking him to veto the Firing Squad Bill.
1: Citizen Lobbyist Training conducted with allies which drew over 90 participants.

LGBTQ Equality & Religious Liberty

Passage of SB 296, “Antidiscrimination and Religious Freedom Amendments” & defeat of HB 322, “Religious Liberty Act”
After 7 long years of lobbying our legislature for employment and housing protections for the LGBT community, the Utah legislature passed SB 296, which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to Utah’s existing nondiscrimination law.  Thankfully, we were also able to defeat a harmful "religious freedom" bill, HB 322, which would have allowed for discrimination in the name of religion.

4th Amendment

SB 52, “Asset Forfeiture Amendments”
We helped bring transparency to the controversial asset forfeiture program in Utah by way of SB 52.  This bill requires law enforcement to submit an annual report of assets seized from a person suspected of involvement in crime, as well as information including whether the owner was eventually charged with wrongdoing.

SB 82, “Forcible Entry Amendments”
The ACLU of Utah built on our legislative success in previous years to reform the process by which law enforcement can engage in the highly dangerous practice of forcibly entry.  SB 82 prohibits the use of forcible entry solely for drug possession in the absence of other allegations.  The bill also requires law enforcement to be conspicuously identified when forcibly entering a residence or building.

SB 119, “Prescription Database Revisions”
The ACLU drafted and passed SB 119, which requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching records in the prescription drug database.  This bill came out of legal work undertaken by the ACLU of Utah  in defense of employees of the Unified Fire Authority whose rights were violated when law enforcement conducted a fishing expedition and searched the prescription records of 480 employees.

SB 226, “Search and Seizure Amendments”
Governor Herbert signed into law ACLU-backed legislation requiring law enforcement to get a warrant before using infrared devices to scan the exterior of homes and buildings.  These devices essentially allow officers to see through walls; this legislation affirms that the 4th Amendment applies to this new technology.

Criminal Justice

HB 348, “Criminal Justice Programs and Amendments”
This bill represents months of study and negotiations by stakeholders across Utah in order to get “smarter on crime” in our state.  Among the reforms included in the bill are a reduction of penalties for drug possession to Class A Misdemeanors, creation of higher standards for treatment programs for justice-involved people, an adjustment of sentencing guidelines for some low-level non-violent offenses and reporting requirements for Parole Board and other entities. We are hopeful that this legislation will live up to its promise to avert up to 95% of the projected prison population growth in Utah by 2033.

For more details on our Criminal Justice Reform work during the session, please see our blog posts collected here. 

Women’s Rights

HB 105, “Antidiscrimination Modifications” & HB 242, “State and Local Government Employee Policies”
The legislature advanced the rights of working moms in Utah with the passage of this pair of bills.  HB 105 amends the Utah nondiscrimination law to clarify that discrimination based on breastfeeding is prohibited.  HB 242 provides that state and public employers shall provide reasonable breaks as well as access to a room and refrigerator in which to pump breast milk.  The bill also requires these employers to adopt breastfeeding-friendly policies.

Immigrants' Rights

SB 253, “Exceptions for Privately Funded Scholarships” 
This important but relatively low profile bill allows Utah universities to disburse private scholarships to undocumented students.  With its enactment, undocumented students in Utah have greater access to higher education.

We could not have achieved these victories without all of the calls, emails, tweets, and engagement of our members and allies. Stay tuned for our final legislative report.

Thank you for your support!


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