2017 June Interim Session Update – Animal Shelters, Removal of Local Officials, and Free Expression

Political Subdivisions Interim Committee 06/21

The committee covered several topics: animal shelters, the removal of local officials, local government disposition of property, drafting legislation, and local government enforcement mechanisms.

Animal Shelters – SB56

Senator Knudson and Rep. King in the last session introduced a amendments related to the euthanasia of animals by an animal shelter. The committee had several problems with the amendments, the first being GRAMA requests. The committee felt that the requests were after information that they felt should be already available as well as the costs associated with procuring that information.

Rep. Westwood was further concerned with language, as it could be construed into including livestock, the representative was also worried that SB56 would change how farmers and other livestock owners reported and validated the care of their animals. Rep. Wilde found issue with raising livestock as well as the broadness of the language in the amendments.

The most interesting thing about this section was that Rep. Potter alluded to himself being from a rural area, to which Rep. King replied with a very quick “yes, you look like you’re from a rural area.”

Removal of Local Officials – HB364

This bill was introduced by Rep. Chavez-Houck last session and establishes a process for the removal of local officials not competent enough to continue their duties.

The process would include a voter petition, then the legislative body would see if the petition holds merit, and finally it would go to a district court for the removal of the elected official. In the last session, the legislature had problems with opening a recall in Utah, the process would be politicized, and small groups could hijack the process.

The interim committee had some of the same problems, Rep. Thatcher was worried about opening recalls and mentioned that he should just open a pitchfork store. He also showed concern about the family hiding problems and the specific process. Rep. Thatcher wanted a unanimous vote for a competency test and to add another step which would require the legislature to have a unanimous vote to remove the official (he then hinted that this should be the same process for the legislature). Rep. Winters suggested a that the filing form for candidacy be used as a competency test, but Rep. Thatcher shot that down real quick saying that they should stick with medical/judicial standards for competency tests. Rep. Sagers was very concerned about the definition of ‘incompetent’ and spent a good while trying to define it (he didn’t).

However, Rep. Briscoe pulled out some old school knowledge and hit the committee with ‘the answer to everything is 42’ and showed appreciation that this bill exists.

Local Government Disposition of Property (HB436) and Local Government Enforcement Mechanisms were quickies, as no one wanted to talk about the first and too many people were on vacation for any work to be really done on the later. After these two the committee started to tell jokes to kill time while they waited for Rep. Thurston.

Random Quote of the day: An attendee “What’s the best part about Switzerland? I don’t know, but their flag is a big plus” Ha ha ha.

Free Expression Regulation Amendments – HB298

This bill helps local government regulate free expression. Rep. Thurston went into detail about why this bill matters; a citizen was detained because the city didn’t understand the first amendment fully. The bill, Rep. Thurston explained, shows what a the regulations are in regards to free speech. There were generally no valid concerns aside from how to better educate the public on this. Rep. Briscoe was concerned about a hypothetical power plant and the generality of the wording regarding public and private land. Rep. Sagers was caught up on the meaning of specific words again and was concerned about this bill leaving the door open for lawsuits. The committee voted to adopt it as a committee bill with only one no, Rep. Sagers.

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