Our team will push forward on equality and criminal justice, while protecting rights we’ve already secured

The 2019 Utah Legislative Session is just a few months away. Led by Marina Lowe, the ACLU of Utah’s Legislative & Policy Counsel, our team will be supporting an array of sound policy proposals next year.  As in previous years, we will rely on our well-informed and committed network of ACLU community activists to amplify our message. Stay tuned for more information about our lobbyist training workshops and online trainings in the new year.

Below is what we expect on our policy docket when the Utah Legislature convenes in late January 2019. 

#1 Gender Equality

We anticipate a variety of measures to ensure that Utah employees are treated fairly in the workplace. Did you know that Utah businesses with fewer than 15 workers don’t have to comply with antidiscrimination labor laws? We will seek to apply nondiscrimination protections to Utah employers with as few as one employee. This change would provide consistent and fair protections to employees from discrimination on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion. 

The ACLU will also support efforts to expand access to the Family Medical Leave Act, so that more Utah employees have access to unpaid leave upon the arrival of a child in the family or in the event of a medical crisis. Paid family leave will also figure as an ACLU legislative priority.

#2 LGBTQ Equality

Last year, legislators debated a bill to set common standards for judges to determine when and how a birth certificate may be amended to accurately reflect a gender change. Although the bill never advanced during the 2018 session, we anticipate a new version will be introduced in the upcoming session. The ACLU will monitor the language and impact of this bill and consult with our allies to ensure that it protects and promotes the rights of Utah’s transgender community. 

#3 Criminal Justice

On this topic the ACLU’s lobbying team finds common ground with many lawmakers and allied organizations. This year, we’ll be working with these partners to advance measures aimed at reducing mass incarceration and preserving constitutional protections for those who come into contact with law enforcement. 

Together with the Refugee Justice League, we are working with a state legislator to correct a misalignment between federal immigration law and state criminal law that results in negative immigration consequences for non-citizens who are charged with misdemeanors. We are involved in drafting several other justice-related bills, including reforms to civil asset forfeiture procedures, and changes to existing protocols for officer-involved critical incidents.

#4 Fourth Amendment 

Following this summer’s positive U.S. Supreme Court decision in the cell phone tracking case, Carpenter v. United States, momentum is building to provide stronger Fourth Amendment protections in Utah law against searches of electronic communications devices. When an individual shares information with a third party, such as a cell phone provider, we want Utah code to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before they can access any information from that third-party provider. We are also working on a separate bill to reform how search warrants are executed.

#5 Curveballs

As always, the Utah Legislative Session holds many surprises. We build flexibility into our priority lists and workload to allow us to push back against any surprise bills, including attacks on women’s rights, free speech, and reproductive justice. We will also work to protect and strengthen the role of participatory democracy in Utah, such as access to the ballot and the ability to decide issues through the ballot initiative process.

This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2018 Fall Newsmagazine >>