Thoughts about House Bill 414

After reading through the governor’s veto letter, and talking to legislative legal counsel, here a few thoughts from Rep. Jim Dunnigan about House Bill 414.

1. The veto letter claims that HB414 “demands information from anyone, at any time, on any subject, for any purpose.”
This is not an accurate characterization of what the bill does. Under current law, the Legislature’s subpoena power is already broad in order to allow the Legislature to gather the information needed to enact good law. HB414 only deals with the process for enforcing a legislative subpoena. It does not expand the Legislature’s subpoena power.

2. The veto letter claims that HB414 “criminalizes any attempt by an individual to seek relief from anyone other than the legislative body itself. . . ”
That is incorrect. The bill simply states that if someone tries to challenge a legislative subpoena in a forum other than the legislative forum provided in HB414, the person is not excused from the obligation to comply with the subpoena and is subject to criminal penalties for failure to comply with the subpoena. HB414 does not criminalize anything other than failure to comply with a legislative subpoena.

3. The governor’s veto letter expresses concerns that the “final version of HB 414 did not have a committee hearing in either the House or the Senate . . . “
While this is technically correct, the reason for this is that changes were made to the bill, after committee hearings, in response to concerns raised by interested parties, including the governor’s office. The process used in the passage of HB414 is common and resulted in changes being made to address concerns raised during the time that the bill was being considered.

4. The veto letter claims that HB414 “denies our citizens their fundamental constitutional rights of defense and due process” and “violates the open courts provision of the Utah Constitution by denying citizens the ability to seek redress in the courts.”
We respectfully disagree. Due process essentially requires that a person be given notice (of government action and hearings relating to that action) and an opportunity to have the person’s position heard. The open courts provision of the Utah Constitution has been interpreted to prohibit the government from taking away the right of a person to pursue certain matters in court. This provision is not violated if an adequate alternative method for hearing a grievance is provided. HB414 provides an alternative method by allowing a subpoena to be challenged before a bi-partisan legislative review committee. This helps protect against a subpoena being issued for political reasons. Under HB414, the due process rights of a person who challenges a subpoena are preserved because the person has an absolute right to have their objections heard before a bi-partisan committee.

Though, under HB414, a person who challenges a legislative subpoena does not have the right to appeal the decision of a legislative review committee to a court, a legislative subpoena can only be enforced in court. HB414 provides two avenues to enforce a subpoena. One is criminal in nature and one is civil.

A person is guilty of a crime under HB414 only if the person refuses to comply with a legislative subpoena after the person has an opportunity to exercise the person’s due process rights before a legislative review committee. In that event, the matter would still need to be brought before a criminal court where the defendant would be able to raise any claim that the subpoena violated the defendant’s constitutional or legal rights.

In order to enforce a legislative subpoena civilly, the Legislature would be required to file an action in court and the person who is subject to the subpoena could then challenge the subpoena as part of that court action.

Thus, under HB414, it is impossible for a legislative subpoena to be enforced without the involvement of a court.

Rep. Dunnigan is the sponsor of House Bill 414, and was the chairman of the House special investigative committee that delved into allegations against now-former attorney general John Swallow.

Lege 101: What is a Committee?

Today we’re going to walk through the different types of committees and what they do. During this session, we’ll deal mostly with appropriations committees, subcommittees, and standing committees.

Appropriations Committees oversee the expenditure of money by the State government. There are eight appropriation subcommittees that prioritize money for specific areas in state government. The number of members on each committee and the partisan makeup is dependent on the Speaker of the House.

1. Business, Economic Development, and Labor
2. Executive Offices and Criminal Justice
3. Higher Education
4. Infrastructure and General Government
5. Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality 
6. Public Education
7. Retirement and Independent Entities
8. Social Services

An  example would be the Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee will recommending to the Executive Appropriations committee priority items within the state’s university system, according to reports and testimonies heard in committee.

The Executive Appropriations committee makes the final decisions regarding the appropriation of state funds. It is made up of leadership of both parties and both houses of the Legislature.

Standing Committees are permanent legislative panels established by the Utah House of Representatives rules. They consider bills and issues and recommend policy for consideration by the House. Because the committees are permanent, they exist beyond the adjournment of each legislative session.

This session there are fifteen House standing committees:

1. Business and Labor
2. Economic Development and Workforce Services
3. Education
4. Ethics
5. Government Operations
6. Health and Human Services
7. Judiciary
8. Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice
9. Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment
10. Political Subdivisions
11. Public Utilities and Technology
12. Retirement and Independent Entities
13. Revenue and Taxation
14. Rules
15. Transportation

After the 54-day general session, the Speaker of the House appoints members to Interim Committees. Interim Committees are committees authorized by the House and Senate to study a particular subject or subjects between sessions.

Task Forces are occasionally created by the Legislature during the general session to explore a specific topic during the interim session. There are currently three task forces dealing with issues related to Economic Development, Health Care and Veterans.

Now  you know when, where, and why committees meet, but how do you participate?

The public is invited to attend and participate in committee meetings. The schedule and agendas for these meetings are available on the homepage of the Utah State Legislature website: Click on the committee meeting you’re interested in, and it will take you to a page that includes the date, time, and room number of the meeting, as well as a PDF of the agenda, and a link to the audio or video feed of the meeting.

If there’s a particular bill you are interested in and would like to speak to, after the legislator has presented his or her bill the meeting will be opened to public comment. Just indicate that you would like to speak to the bill and the committee chair will call you to the mic.

If you have any questions regarding committees, post them in the comments!




Welcome to the 60th Utah Legislative Session!

Good Afternoon!

Today marks the start of the 2013 General Legislative Session and we thought we’d walk you through today’s ceremony, in case you weren’t able to be here in person. You can watch recorded video of today’s events here.

Former Speaker Nolan Karras began by calling the House to Order. An invocation was given followed by the posting of the colors by the Utah National Guard, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem, sung by the Utah Valley University Chamber Choir.

Next, Sandy D. Tenney was appointed as the Chief Clerk of the Utah House of Representatives for the 2013 General Session

Then re-elected members of the House then took the Oath of office, followed by newly-elected members, also known as the freshmen class.

Members then raised their hand to the square to recite the following:

“I (state your name)

Having been elected to the office of Representative, I do solemnly swear that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of this State and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.”

Once all the Representatives were sworn in, both Minority Leader Rep. Jennifer Seelig, and Majority Leader Rep. Brad Dee made a motion to nominate Rep. Rebecca D. Lockhart as the Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives for the 60th Legislature.

Rep. Dee and Rep. Seelig then escorted Rep. Lockhart to the dais, where she was sworn in as Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives.

The Speaker then appointed committees to notify the Utah Senate and the Governor that the House was ready to do business and the House Rules committee was excused to meet.

When those committees returned the reading clerk introduced the bills, the interns and House employees were introduced, and the House adopted the Rules Committee report.

The House then recessed and returned in the afternoon to debate bills and hear the State of the Judiciary address given to the House by Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant.

What’s Next: Deadlines

What’s Next: Deadlines

2012 General Session has concluded. Now what? Next, these 478 passed bills, ranging from the nearly-$13 billion budget, to requests for the transfer of public lands, to alcohol changes head to the Governor for action. Here are a few deadlines the Governor has to conform to, per the Utah Constitution. (more…)