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'Gangster politics' alleged on boating hit-and-run bill

Published February 27, 2012 8:00 pm

Politics • Activist accuses Senate Rules chairwoman of "gangster politics."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After a swimmer was struck by a boat's propeller and drowned in Pine-view Reservoir, Rep. Richard Greenwood introduced legislation that would impose tougher penalties on boaters who leave the scene of an accident.

Greenwood's bill passed the House without a single "no" vote, but now he can't get a Senate hearing on this and his other bills, which he and others see as political payback.

Greenwood had added an amendment to a bill sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, the chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, that would prevent the release of a voter's birthday, as well as the email address, from voter registration records. Dayton's bill protects only email addresses.

Asked if he thought the dead end his HB92 hit was related to the amendment, Greenwood said, "I do."

Ron Mortensen, a tea party activist who supports Greenwood's amendment to protect birth date information, went even further, calling the stalling of Greenwood's bills "gangster politics."

"This is Washington-style politics at its worst," Mortensen said. "Senate leadership and the Lieutenant Governor's Office are holding legislation hostage that addresses issues raised by a tragic accident, and they're doing it for crass political reasons."

Dayton said that she is not doing anything to delay Greenwood's bills.

"I am so disappointed that that's even out there. I'm confused at where this is coming from," she said.

Bills are required to get only a House or Senate hearing and don't need both, she said. So Greenwood's bill could still pass in the session that ends March 8. In addition, she said he has not come and talked to her about concerns over whether his bills are being held up.

Esther Fujimoto, a lab specialist at the University of Utah, was swimming in Pineview Reservoir last year when she was struck by a boat and drowned. Weber County prosecutors have announced plans to charge three men with misdemeanor counts of obstructing justice, reckless endangerment and failure to render aid.

Greenwood's bill would make it illegal for boaters to leave the scene of an accident and imposes penalties — up to a felony — if they do.

Greenwood's bill passed the House 69-0 on Feb. 8 and has been awaiting action in the Senate ever since.

He is also sponsoring legislation that would impose enhanced penalties for adults who engage in sexual activity with a minor more than seven years younger. Currently, the enhancement applies for those 10 years older. That bill, which also passed the House unanimously, has been in the Senate since Feb. 16.

Another bill allows a law enforcement officer to receive a waiver for Police Officer Standards and Training certification if the applicant meets other criteria and isn't restricted from possessing a firearm. That bill has been in the Senate since Feb. 8.