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Resurrected school truancy bill dies again in the Utah Senate

First Published      Last Updated Mar 07 2017 07:47 am

Utah Senators gave a decisive vote of opposition on Monday to a bill that failed the chamber last week but was kept alive through legislative maneuvering.

The Senate voted 13-16, short of the majority needed to approve SB115, which sought to end the criminal penalties for parents of truant children.

While truancy citations are rare, and typically used to compel school attendance and dialogue with administrators, bill sponsor Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, said contempt of court and other complications can lead to parents being jailed for truancy.

"The punishment does not fit the crime," he said.

Last week, the bill failed in a tied 14-14 vote of the Senate. But Anderegg changed his vote at the last minute to one of opposition to his own bill, which made the formal count 13-15 and gave Anderegg the ability to call for reconsideration.

He then circled the bill, or put it on hold, in order to negotiate changes that would earn the approval of the Senate.

But with Monday being the final day for the Senate to pass its own bills, Anderegg pushed his bill forward, saying amendments could be made in the house.

"I thought I had another 24 hours," he said.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, spoke against the bill, emphasizing that it was identical to the version senators had already opposed a week earlier.

"This is the exact same bill," Weiler said. "Not a single word has changed and now we're being asked to send this to the House."

Weiler also said he had a personal opposition to ending the truancy penalties. He said he was pulled out of his neighborhood high school as a teenager and enrolled in an alternative program.

Protections need to be in place, he said, to protect children against parents who would take advantage of them.

"I was taken out of public school, as well as my little brother, because my dad needed us to work and school started too early in the morning."


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