September Interim Meetings and Special Session

The biggest issue that came up in my interim meetings was the use of facial recognition software by the Department of Public Safety. The Department was using their database of drivers license and ID photos in law enforcement searches without people's knowledge, and this has been going on for almost ten years. Our committee heard from an expert on facial recognition software as well as Commissioner Anderson from the Department of Public Safety. Here are two articles about this hearing: https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2019/09/18/utah-lawmakers-scrutinize/ and https://fox13now.com/2019/09/18/utah-dps-gets-a-grilling-as-lawmakers-consider-regulating-the-use-of-facial-recognition-tech/. Despite the Commissioner trying to justify the use, I am not comfortable with this practice. The committee seemed to all share that feeling, and we are working with our staff to prepare legislative options to pause or put some safeguards on this practice.

The special session had a few issues that are particularly newsworthy. We voted almost unanimously to change the Medical Cannabis law so that the State can meet their deadline next year. The State is no longer responsible for distributing the medical cannabis. Instead private dispensaries will handle that responsibility. Additionally, zoning changes were made so that growers can meet local zoning requirements in a timely manner so they can start growing and processing their product. These changes, while not perfect, were desperately needed. Anything we can do to provide greater access to medical cannabis for patients is a positive step.

The other main issue was an appropriation for a settlement to John Swallow. Initially, this was a hard issue for me, but after talking with my colleagues and our staff attorneys, I realized that I needed to vote in support of this appropriation. My support of the settlement does not mean that I support John Swallow. In fact, I strongly disapprove of what he did as an elected official and employee of the State. But the court had ruled that the State had to pay for his legal fees since he was acquitted. This settlement was the financially responsible decision because without this settlement, he was going to ask for (and likely would get following the court's ruling) a larger amount of money. As legislators, it is our job to make sure that we are prudent with how we spend taxpayer's money, and because of that, making this appropriation was the right decision.

Legislative Wrap-Up

The legislative session is now over (until we have a special session for tax reform). I learned a lot and feel like I did a lot of good things. Thank you for all the help, support, encouragement, contact, and basically anything you did to help me the past 45 days. I worked on a lot of good legislation and spoke up against any that I felt was not beneficial to my district. The highlights were voting to support Rep. Hollins' bill to outlaw slavery from the state constitution, voting for Sen. Thatcher's hate crimes bill, and voting to increase retirement for public safety employees. If you have any questions about the session, my votes, or basically anything, please feel free to reach out.


Week 4 Of The Legislative Session Recap

Below is the recap from my Week 4 Newsletter. View the email in your browser here.

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Week 4 Recap

This week certainly contained some challenges! On Tuesday I presented Lauren’s Law (HB 190), my bill that emphasizes responsible gun ownership, to the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. I was disappointed and surprised by the lack of questions and discussion, despite testimony both in favor and against the bill. As a legislature, we’re missing the opportunity to have a hard, but crucial, conversation. The bill was ultimately held by the committee, and I hope to work with my fellow legislators and stakeholders in reaching a compromise that moves the bill forward. Another difficult hurdle came on Thursday, when I presented HB 111, a bill that would work to hold repeat Domestic Violence offenders more accountable under the law, to the House of Representatives after a favorable recommendation from the House Judiciary Committee. Despite bipartisan support, the bill was voted down by the majority and will not go any further this session. I believe deeply in the importance of this legislation for providing safety and justice to survivors, and I plan on continuing to tackle this issue in my work to combat domestic violence in our communities.

On a positive note -- HB 184 Civil Air Patrol License Plate  is coming along well, as we have worked to gather the necessary funds to support the creation of the new license plate. Now it's just a matter of getting back on the committee calendar! I also spoke with Lauren McCluskey's mother, Jill McCluskey, today about her views and goals for HB 190, Lauren's Law. Lauren's friends and family have been incredible advocates in her memory, and I am grateful for the opportunity to help honor her legacy through real, concrete change. Finally, my most recent bill, HB 400 Murder Mitigation Amendments, was released today to House Rules Committee. I am also proud to co-sponsor a number of exciting bills with representatives from both parties. You can see all of my legislation here. 

While running for office I grappled with the fact that, as a Democrat in a legislature held overwhelmingly by Republicans, sometimes things would feel like an uphill battle, and issues were going to fall along partisan lines. What I believed then, and what I continue to believe, is that there are nonpartisan values and issues that need to be discussed and dealt with. The vast majority of issues we’ve faced as a legislature have been managed in a bipartisan and united fashion. I feel honored to work alongside my Republican and Democrat colleagues, and I look forward to the next three weeks.

Legislation Spotlight: Lauren's Law

Legislation Spotlight: Lauren's Law

On February 14th, America recognized the one year anniversary of the Parkland High School mass shooting. In the past year Utah has experienced its own tragic events related to gun violence, including the January 2019 shooting at Fashion Place Mall and the October 2018 murder of University of Utah student, Lauren McCluskey. In the past year we’ve seen brave young Utahns join a national movement towards ending gun violence. Utahns have called for the legislature to work toward safer schools, secure public spaces, and initiatives curbing Utah’s suicide rate, and the wealth of gun legislation up for consideration this year shows that Utahns are ready to have these conversations. 

In direct response to Lauren McCluskey's murder, I am sponsoring HB190 (Liability of Firearm Custodians) to create the opportunity for civil liability when firearm owners recklessly lend their guns to other individuals. Lauren's killer was not legally allowed to own a firearm, and had he not been able to borrow one from a friend, he may have been slowed or even stopped and Lauren could still be alive. This bill is supported by the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah as well as several other gun violence prevention organizations, as well as Lauren's family. 

I am pleased to report that HB190 was moved out of the House Rules Committee today, and should be heard by the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee next week. I believe in the value of this legislation, and I hope my fellow legislators will be willing to have the crucial conversation about ending gun violence. This issue is important to Utahns, and it’s important to me.

Note on Prop 3

I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has reached out to express concerns about legislative attempts to repeal Proposition 3. Please know that I am actively working to ensure that Medicaid Expansion is upheld and implemented. Your comments, and your votes, matter to me. Thank you for staying active in the process and advocating for issues that matter.


FOX13: Worried about the financial impact of Prop. 3, Utah lawmakers are planning to modify it

While the legislature has the right to change the law, including initiatives, they should not change more than necessary to make the law work. The people have spoken, and it is the legislature's job (me included) to figure out how to make these initiatives successful. Instead of looking to cut the number of people covered, we should be looking at how to provide complete funding to make sure that we are covering those who need it most.

Honoring Lauren McCluskey Through Action and Legislation

Today, my alma mater The University of Utah released the findings of an independent investigation into the murder of student Lauren McCluskey. I am grateful for the actions of the investigators and public servants who performed a thorough review of this tragedy, and have provided recommendations as our community moves forward.

I am proud to have opened two bill files today that I hope will play a part in the journey ahead. The first will seek to address the state public safety retirement system -- specifically the "Tier 2" structure -- which was implemented by the legislature in 2011, and has been repeatedly identified by public safety leadership as a hinderance to productive hiring and retention. I heard a great deal about this on the campaign trail, and heard about it again today in the identified areas of improvement surrounding Lauren's death. It's time that the legislature come together to support our our public servants, and strengthen the safety of our communities.

The second is the beginning of an effort to expand the potential for civil liability for firearm owners in cases like Lauren McCluskey's. Lauren was not killed by accident or in self-defense -- she was the victim of a brutal, calculated murder, by an individual who never should have been in possession of a gun. Firearm ownership is a great responsibility, and should be taken very seriously. It is my hope that passing #LaurensLaw will signal Utah's commitment to responsible firearm ownership.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding these measures and other ideas for legislation. The legislative session will be here before we know it, and I will make sure to provide updates as often as possible. Addressing the epidemic of domestic and intimate partner violence here in Utah was at the top of my list on the campaign trail, and will remain at the top of my list throughout my time as a legislator.

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Today's Vote on Proposition 2

On today’s Prop 2 vote: I stand with my fellow House Democrats on supporting the ballot initiative, and opposing the compromise. As an attorney and prosecutor, I am well aware of the problems with the proposition as written. I would have voted for and still support a bill that fixes those problems while remaining true to the vision of the strong majority of Utah citizens voted in favor of it. (For example, the bill Rebecca Chavez-Houck proposed, which was voted down along party lines.)

The lame duck legislature, including your former house district 44 legislator Bruce Cutler - who was defeated by my campaign while I ran on the issue of supporting Prop 2 - passed a major rewrite of Prop 2 that makes it work much less well for the patients who need it without really addressing the problems.

My thoughts are with the patients, families, volunteers, and voters who were let down by their representatives today. Many of you are disappointed, scared, and deeply saddened, as am I. As soon as I am sworn in, I will work to correct this undemocratic action by your former legislator and restore the will of the people.

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