351 new laws take effect in Utah
A total of 351 newly minted Utah laws are set to take effect Tuesday at the stroke of midnight, from requiring tougher immigration enforcement to giving grades to schools, teaching that America is a republic (not a democracy) and allowing more spectacular legal fireworks.
Matt Burbank, a University of Utah political science professor, says the range of bills show the Legislature attempted to moderate stands on some issues, such as immigration. But in other areas, it sent strong messages about just how conservative lawmakers are.
"Often when legislators get pressure, even from the LDS Church, they don't respond to it. In this case [on immigration] they did, and passed a package of bills that sort of sent a message that they were trying to come up with a different approach, and not be as punitive as they could be," he said.
"But I'm not sure that was a consistent theme," Burbank added, "In other areas, they had message bills that showed just how conservative they are, take it or leave it."
New laws with a strong conservative bent include: erasing the 1,000-foot, gun-free barrier around schools; forming a committee to fight the federal government anytime it intrudes into Utah's sovereignty; ensuring doctors who object to abortion are not forced to perform one; and requiring teaching that America is a compound constitutional republic (not a democracy).
Immigration bills that take effect Tuesday include HB497, the Utah Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem. It was originally modeled after Arizona's enforcement-only bill.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center and others have sued Utah seeking to temporarily block enforcement of that law while federal courts consider whether to overturn it. They say it is unconstitutional, will create an atmosphere of racial profiling, and will submit people to unlawful interrogations and search and seizures.
The law requires police to check the immigration status of people suspected or arrested for class A misdemeanors and felonies. But Sandstrom changed the law from "shall require" to "may require" local police to check legal status of those suspected of lesser misdemeanors.
The also-controversial, but kinder-to-immigrants HB116 to create a guest worker program also technically takes effect Tuesday. But its language delays the start of that program until July 1, 2013, or 120 days after the state obtains a federal waiver to allow it whichever comes first.
Conservatives persuaded Republican conventions in Salt Lake and Utah counties to pass resolutions calling for its repeal. Also, U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman LaMar Smith, R-Texas, has urged the U.S. Justice Department to sue Utah to overturn that law.
In other matters, SB59requires giving schools grades of A, B, C, D and F based on students performance in language arts, math, science and writing and, in high schools, their graduation rates and measures of college and career readiness.
The legislation directs the state Office of Education to model how the grading would work and then suggest changes before the next legislative session. Schools could then start receiving grades in 2012.
Another new law, HB25, will use money from a state oil and gas conversation account to pay for school curriculum to further "mineral and petroleum literacy" in schools.
Thanks to HB199, some Utah school buses soon may carry more than just children. It now allows ads on school buses as a way to help school districts to raise money for school transportation costs.
Also in education, SB73 prohibits Utah schools from laying off teachers based on seniority. Supporters say it is aimed at improving public education, but teachers say it will target them or their union.
Also taking effect on Tuesday is HB22, which allows selling fireworks "cakes," multishot devices that fire off aerial shells or mortars from a stable base. Its sponsor, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said it will help stop Utahns from bringing back illegal, dangerous fireworks from Wyoming by letting them buy safer but still-spectacular ones here.
Among other laws taking effect on Tuesday: outlawing leaving children in cars alone in hot or cold weather; ensuring that minor traffic violations occurring in another state won't bring points toward losing a driver license in Utah; and requiring the Utah Department of Transportation to receive scrutiny by the governor or Legislature before agreeing to large settlements (after quietly approving one for $13 million last year).
Other new laws taking effect will ban the controversial police and fire fee that Salt Lake County has charged (after next year), and allowing centralized "voting centers" on Election Day when a resident from anywhere in a county could vote instead of just in hir or her own district.
Get the full list online
O See the full list of bills set to take effect Tuesday.