Lawmakers scrap effort to ban anti-gay discrimination

From the Salt Lake Tribune
by Rosemary Winters

Despite strong support in public polls and endorsements from prominent business leaders, lawmakers on Friday snuffed out a statewide effort to ban discrimination against gay and transgender Utahns.

In a 4-2 vote, a Senate committee shelved SB51 after a 90-minute public hearing with a standing-room-only crowd.

Sen. Ben McAdams, the bill’s sponsor and a Salt Lake City Democrat, said he was disappointed the bill failed but called the hearing a “valuable discussion” and a “huge milestone.” This is the fifth year that Democrats have run such a bill but the first year to get a Senate hearing.

This year, the Salt Lake Chamber and executives from Ancestry.com, 1-800-Contacts and eBay have endorsed the measure, saying it would enhance Utah’s reputation as a welcoming place to do business. Nearly three-fourths of Utahns support such a law, according to a recent poll by Dan Jones & Associates.

Already, 14 Utah cities and counties have ordinances that ban housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. McAdams said adding those categories to Utah’s existing anti-discrimination laws, which protect individuals from bias based on race, religion, disability and other characteristics, would make the law consistent statewide.

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Nondiscrimination bill gets a hearing but tabled by Senate committee

From the Deseret News
by Marjorie Cortez

SALT LAKE CITY — A legislative committee tabled a bill Friday that would prohibit discrimination in employment and housing statewide because of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or political views.

Meeting in a standing-room only committee room in the state Capitol, the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee, voted 4-2 to tableSB51.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake, said he was “disappointed” in the committee’s action but said progress was made in the respect that this was the first year the bill had received a committee hearing. McAdams had introduced nondiscrimination legislation in four previous legislative sessions.

The hearing gave committee members an opportunity to learn more about discrimination and the law and gave McAdams the chance to better understand their concerns, he said.

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Utah lawmakers give preliminary approval to underage tanning ban

From the Salt Lake Tribune
by Kristen Stewart

Swayed by evidence of the harms of indoor tanning and moving testimony from melanoma survivors, a Senate committee on Thursday endorsed a ban on underage tanning.

Sponsoring Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, initially proposed prohibiting all minors from using commercial tanning beds, but retailored the ban to apply to those age 13 and under. Youths between the ages of 14 and 18 could tan, but only when accompanied by a parent.

The measure passed the Senate Health and Human Services Comittee 4-1, despite the reservations of regulation-averse Republicans.

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Payday lenders escape new restriction

From the Salt Lake Tribune
by Lee Davidson

Payday lenders — one of the largest campaign donors to legislators — escaped a move Wednesday to limit where they can sue delinquent borrowers.

Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, introduced SB110 because he said payday lenders often file suits in courts that are distant from where borrowers live — such as filing in Provo against St. George residents — in a deliberate attempt “to deny justice to borrowers. … It’s an abusive practice that needs to be reined in.”

But the Senate Business and Labor Committee voted 4-3 to kill it after payday lenders testified they are trying to hold down costs for borrowers by filing in courts near corporate headquarters. Otherwise, it could “potentially increase costs to all borrowers across the board,” testified Wendy Gibson, a Check City regional manager representing the Utah Consumer Lending Alliance of payday lenders.

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Non-discrimination bill headed to a Senate Committee

From the Daily Herald
by Billy Hesterman

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that calls for a statewide nondiscrimination law will be debated by lawmakers for the first — and maybe only — time on Friday.

Senate Bill 51, sponsored by Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, attempts to make it illegal to discriminate against a person in housing or employment because of that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. McAdams ran similar legislation in 2011, but the bill was held up by the Senate Rules Committee.

McAdams called it progress that his bill will at least get the chance to be voted on by a committee this year.

“I’m encouraged that it is being sent to committee,” McAdams said.

However, the committee it has been sent to doesn’t appear to be one that will give the bill a favorable recommendation. Members of the Senate Government Operations Committee are some of the more conservative members in the Senate, which suggests the bill will face some tough scrutiny. If they approve it, it will be debated by the full Senate.

McAdams said he thinks it’s good that the committee will get to hear from the public on the issue and feels it will be a great step to have an open conversation about the topic. He noted that 75 percent of Utahns support the idea.

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Senator Pat Jones bill to restrict tanning bed usage passes Senate Committee

SALT LAKE CITY – A bill that would prohibit anyone under the age of 13 from using tanning bed passed out out of the Senate Health and Human Services committee today.  The bill would also require anyone from the age of 14-18 who uses a tanning bed  to have a  parent accompany to them to the tanning facility.

“This legislation is designed to reduce deaths from melanoma. Utah ranks #1 in deaths from melanoma… we have the highest in the nation for melanoma cases.  We know that 23% of Utah females, grades 10 through 12, our teenagers, are tanning at least once a year. About 5% of them are tanning more than 40 times a year,” said Senator Pat Jones–D, Holladay, the bill’s sponsor.

Senator Jones went on to explain that indoor tanning beds work by shining ultraviolet, UV radiation on to the skin.  UV radiation damages our DNA, and that is what causes skin to go darker.

“This is more dangerous than the midday sun.  It’s more intense and a larger scope and percentage of the skin is exposed to the radiation,” she said.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency Institute for Research on Cancer has classified tanning beds as human carcinogens. They have recommended that no one under the age of 18 years of age use a tanning bed.

The bill now goes to the Senate floor for debate.

Senator Morgan aims to impose smaller class sizes in K-3 classrooms

From the Daily Herald
by Billy Hesterman

“It is just common sense that fewer students in a classroom allow for more one-on-one time in a classroom,” Morgan said. “These little ones need help learning the very basics of reading and math if they are going to be successful throughout the rest of their school years.”

Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, gave a strong endorsement to the bill. While many Republicans voted in favor of the bill but noted they still are deciding on their vote for final passage, Waddoups declared that he supports the plan because it is an issue that is important to his constituents.

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Senator Luz Robles – Soldiers could have property taxes waived

From the Salt Lake Tribune
by Lee Davidson

Members of the military who deploy out-of-state would have their property taxes waived temporarily under a proposal in the Legislature.

The Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved both SJR8 and SB116 and sent them to the full Senate. SJR8 is a constitutional amendment — which must pass by two-thirds majorities in both houses and be approved by voters — to allow the change, and SB116 is a statute needed to implement it.

“This will certainly make a big difference” to the families of military members who are deployed away from home, said Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, who is sponsoring the legislation. “We felt this would be a great opportunity to say thanks to them.”

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Senator Karen Morgan’s bill to reduce Utah class sizes advances

From the Salt Lake Tribune
by Lisa Schencker

Despite some debate and disagreement, lawmakers advanced a bill Thursday to reduce class sizes in grades K-3.

The Senate approved Sen. Karen Morgan’s SB31 by 18-9 on second reading on Thursday, meaning the Senate must now pass it one more time before it moves to the House. The bill would cap class sizes at 20 students in kindergarten and at 22 students in first, second and third grades. Or, it would require teachers’ aides, known as paraprofessionals, in larger classes.

Before lawmakers approved the bill, Morgan amended it to raise the caps slightly, reducing its cost to $3.6 million. Lawmakers also amended the bill to specify that in order to continue to receive state money that’s long been distributed for class size reductions, schools would have to meet the new caps.

“Kindergarten through third grade is a critical time in a child’s education,” Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, told senators. “That is the time they need more one-on-one individualized attention.”

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