During the legislative session, things move very rapidly. To find out the latest about our legislative agenda and see which bills we are supporting or opposing visit our website www.acluutah.org/legislation, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
The 2014 General Session is shaping up to be an interesting one, with issues such as freedom of religion and LGBTQ rights taking center stage. Various proposals related to criminal justice will also be a key focus of our work up at the Capitol.
Criminal Justice/Fourth Amendment
Drones - The ACLU of Utah has been actively involved in the discussion around drone use in our state, including participating on the Governor’s Advisory Board on Unmanned Ariel Systems, to advocate for privacy protection. We are working with a legislator and other advocacy groups to advance legislation to regulate drone use in our state, particularly when used as a law enforcement tool.
No-knock warrant reform - All too often, the military-style tactics used by law enforcement result in harm to officers and their targets and family and friends. The ACLU of Utah has been working with legislators and advocacy groups to draft legislation to place greater limits on when “no-knock” warrants can be issued; thus reducing the potential for harm to those involved in warrant scenarios.
Administrative Subpoenas - The use of warrantless administrative subpoenas by Utah law enforcement has been deeply troubling for the ACLU, since state law permitted their use several years ago. This concern is shared by various legislators and other groups, who are pushing for our state law to be amended, and perhaps eventually, repealed entirely. Two bills this session add additional requirements to the use of administrative subpoenas, and will hopefully create a clearer record of how and when these subpoenas are being used.
Expansion of collection of DNA upon arrest - The ACLU has long protested the practice of taking DNA from individuals who are accused of committing, and not convicted, of a crime. Nonetheless, Utah and other states have enacted laws allowing for this practice. Current Utah law requires that DNA be collected from those accused of certain felonies. A lawmaker intends to introduce legislation to expand that class of individuals from whom DNA can be taken prior to conviction. The ACLU will continue to push back against this legislation.
In the wake of Judge Robert Shelby’s historic decision overturning the ban on LGBT marriage in Utah, we are anticipating a fierce legislative backlash in the name of religious liberty. Two such bills have already emerged; both would reaffirm that a religious clergyperson cannot be forced to perform or recognize a marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith. To the extent that these bills restate the principles embodied in the First Amendment, we would offer our support. However, should these bills extend beyond the First Amendment, and seek to allow religion to be used to discriminate, we will necessarily oppose.
We will continue to support our allies in promoting the passage of a bill requiring nondiscrimination in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Last year’s efforts were unprecedented; with the bill sponsored by a Republican Senator, it passed out of a committee for the first time ever. Hopefully, we can build on that success by passing the bill outright.
Voting Rights/Participatory Democracy
Voting rights will play a prominent role up on Capitol Hill in 2014. The ACLU of Utah worked very closely with legislators and allies to advance Election Day Registration (EDR) during the 2013 session. While the bill narrowly failed to pass, we have been hard at work during the past year, meeting with legislators and county and state officials. We are confident that this will be the year that Utah passes EDR! Unfortunately, other legislators are hard at work devising legislation to make voting more difficult. A bill has already been introduced for this session that would require proof of U.S. citizenship prior to voting. We will be working to assure that this unnecessary and harmful legislation does not advance.
Learn How To Be A Citizen Lobbyist
Are you interested in finding out more about how the Utah Legislature works? Are you interested in civil liberties issues but don’t know how to get involved? The ACLU of Utah and our allies Alliance for a Better Utah, Equality Utah, Planned Parenthood Assoc. of Utah, and the League of Women Voters of Utah, hold periodic Citizen Lobby Trainings around the state.
Attendees get updates about potential upcoming legislation related to civil liberties, government transparency, the criminal justice system, public education, LGBTQ equality and more! Our presenters will also share tips on how to contact elected officials and how citizens can ensure that their voices are heard throughout the legislative session.
Find out about an upcoming Citizen Lobby Training near you by visiting our website or Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or sign up for our email list.