Prepare for next year’s legislative session with the ACLU of Utah’s chief lobbyist.
With only 45 days to make laws, Utah’s lawmakers and lobbyists rely on months of prep time to focus priorities and hone talking points. To find out what to expect when the next legislative session begins on January 28, 2020, we sat down with Marina Lowe, the ACLU of Utah’s Legislative & Policy Counsel and long-time lobbyist.
Q: Can you tell us about a new issue we’ll see debated in the next session?
Marina Lowe: I think we will see legislation to create new restrictions on how law enforcement can use facial recognition software. These limits are a direct response to recent headlines on how police have been secretly using facial recognition to aid criminal investigations. Now both advocates and lawmakers want to create guardrails to regulate use of this surveillance technology.
Q: Who are the ACLU of Utah’s main partners in promoting privacy legislation?
ML: The answer might surprise you. During a legislative hearing last month on limiting facial recognition scans, some lawmakers were shocked to see the ACLU working with groups from the opposite side of the political spectrum, including the Libertas Institute and Eagle Forum. These groups share our concerns about the erosion of privacy, and we will stand with them on this issue. Our ability to look beyond political divides is one reason why we are successful at influencing legislation.
Q: Last year the ACLU of Utah opposed several bills limiting the right of women in Utah to access abortion healthcare. Will there be more in 2020?
ML: Unfortunately, yes. Even though the state is already fighting the lawsuit we filed alongside Planned Parenthood against the legislature’s 18-week abortion ban, they won’t sit still. We are hearing rumors about additional anti-abortion legislation next year. If the legislature passes more unconstitutional laws, we will see them in court—again.
Q: How long have you been lobbying for the ACLU of Utah?
ML: I’ve been working at the ACLU of Utah since 2007, so 2020 will be my 12th legislative session.
Q: What bill are you most excited about working on next year?
ML: Criminal justice bills are always exciting because of the opportunities to collaborate with diverse partners, as well as the potential to change people’s lives for the better. I am also keen to work on several bills focused on gender equality. These bills will ensure that women who are incarcerated have access to vital medications, create paid family leave policies, and promote a Constitutional amendment that elevates the rights of women in our state to an equal footing.
Q: Why does the ACLU lobby the legislature?
ML: From an efficiency standpoint, it makes more sense to improve a bill as it moves through the legislative process rather than wait until it becomes law and challenge it in court. Plus, the courts are not the best place to promote positive legislation—like the limits on facial recognition we will seek next session.
Q: How is the second session of a two-year term different from the first one?
ML: On one hand, lawmakers are more likely to propose legislation during this second session because they know the system better and have closer relationships with their colleagues. But on the flip side, 2020 is an election year--—with all the perils that brings.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow the 2020 session?
ML: The Utah legislature is known for being accessible and easy to follow, starting with the award-winning website (www.le.utah.gov) that makes it easy to track legislation and hearings. But our part-time legislators are also approachable, and most are very happy to hear from their constituents. Right now, before the session begins in January, is an excellent time to contact your representatives and tell them what’s on your mind.
…from the Fall 2019 Liberty Reporter