Week 11 Recap, April 25
Leading up to the final deadline of the 2022 legislative session, both houses rushed to hear bills from their opposite chamber by the close of session on April 28. This meant many late nights and some questionable dealings to push bills through. We also have reached the point in the session where the Governor signs or vetoes legislation according to his own will. Bills with emergency clauses take place immediately; all others will go into effect at times determined by their enacting statutes.
The criminal justice front saw big movement in the week of April 25-28. Positive bills that advanced included HB 3205, which removes some fines and fees leveraged against juvenile offenders; HB 4369, which improves access to pardons and paroles for certain offenders; and SB 1613, which establishes a law enforcement mental wellness center. Interest in halting the spread of human trafficking also helped push HB 4210, which will have data gathered about the exact extent of the problem in our state. Further, some positive movement for those who served their time continues: HB 4352 and 4353 increase access to REAL IDs for incarcerated people, speeding their reintegration back into society, and HB 3024 makes expungements more accessible for certain nonviolent felony convictions.
In a startling move, Governor Stitt vetoed SB 1282, a bill that would have enabled the use of a risk assessment tool in juvenile sentencing. Criminal legal reform advocates argued strongly against this bill, citing concerns about the racist underpinnings of actuarial tables used in sentencing Black and brown youth to harsher penalties than their white counterparts. Stitt’s veto mentioned his desire to give judges more leeway; what that means for youthful offenders is still to be determined.
However, pushback continued as some lawmakers advanced an agenda against the expansion of medical marijuana by advancing new fines against medical marijuana patients sharing their products with others (SB 1367). Other bills, some of which are a direct reaction to recent anti-death penalty activism, advanced in the form of limiting mental health competency assessments and thereby allowing the state to execute people who may not be mentally competent to understand their sentence (SB 1738).
The public health front saw some of the worst procedural tactics of the 2022 legislative session. SB 1503, a total ban on abortion, was passed in a move that denied Democrats the ability to debate or speak against it. SB 1555, a Roe trigger ban, also passed after hours of grueling debate. HB 4327, a dangerous total abortion ban with a “bounty hunter” provision, also advanced and returns to the House, also following hours of brutal debate. All have either been signed by the governor or are expected to be signed.
In a spot of good news, two negative Senate Joint Resolutions, SJR 37 (abortion ban) and SJR 48 (voting limited to American citizens), did not advance and thus are considered dead.
Amidst the spirited debates surrounding abortion, some dangerous discriminatory and civil rights related bills have advanced to little pushback from community advocates. This year, the theme seems to be classroom censorship, as certain agendas are disguised behind spurious concerns for classroom standards. HB 3092, which limits the material available in school libraries to that approved by parents, advanced to the Governor’s desk. SB 503, a classroom censorship bill with some added provisions that target transgender youth, also advanced. SJR 43, a dangerous overreach of the legislative power, also advanced out of the House and back to the Senate. This bill would abolish the judicial nominating commission and turn over power to appoint state judges to the Senate – a move that would allow our court system to be infiltrated by hyperpartisan Senate politics. We will be watching this bill with great interest, along with the entire legal community, to ensure that the proper checks and balances system of our government is not upset.
Additional burdens on the voting system also advanced to the governor’s desk, although some of the worst offenders are now dead pursuant to the rules. HB 1711, which allows for the electronic delivery of ballots for the blind and visually impaired, was one positive advancement, but it is countered by the passage of HB 3364 and HB 3365, both of which place more barriers to voting for those who use absentee ballots and would force people to unnecessarily re-register to vote. Thankfully, the discriminatory SJR 48, which would force a vote of the people to affirm that only citizens can vote – a provision already enshrined in the constitution – is now considered dead and will not advance.