By Representative Christine Watkins, District 67
What a busy week at the legislature. We finished up our appropriation committee meetings and submitted to the Executive Appropriations Committee all of the committee priorities. There were a lot of sad organizations who were hoping for financial help from the state, but sadly, the money just was not available.
One of my bills, HB 229 Public Safety Answering Points, was held in committee. This request came from many small cities in rural areas that were struggling to pay their share of the Dispatch Center cost. Several of our local mayors and I met with the Department of Safety Director, and he explained to us how complicated this issue was.
My bill carved out counties of the third though sixth class and requested that the state pay for this program. The fiscal note was big, over $2 million, and the other dispatch centers in the state wanted their costs paid for too. I requested it be put on the interim study list for this summer.
I passed HB194 1st Sub, Child Placement Amendments, out of committee and it was put on the Consent Calendar, which means it was put to the head of the line. The bill is simple, but can change a family’s life. It adds second cousins to the list of family members who can be foster parents or who can adopt a child. It will pass this week and head to a Senate Committee.
My San Rafael State Energy Lab bill will have one more substitution that will be done on the House Floor. It will be heard this week and voted on by the House. Hopefully all goes well and it heads to the Senate.
HB 30 Road Rage defines road rage so that data can be collected. It also increases penalties and fines for road rage behavior. It will also fund an education campaign to help people think through what they will do before it happens to them. I supported this bill. I have seen the first TV commercial and it is really thought provoking.
We heard HB 272 in my Judicial Committee. If passed, it will elevate the Priority of District Court in family issues to the child’s safety above all. It will limit expert testimony in family court to qualified and credentialed professionals. It will implement guidance and limits on family court use of reunification treatment. This is where I totally bought into this bill.
There are so many “so called” experts who want to use the term “parental alienation.” This term was coined back in the 1980s and was totally debunked as nonsense and yet professionals and attorneys keep using it to the detriment of one parent or another. This so-called practice harms children more than anyone else and has no place in court proceedings. The bill also calls for increased training for family court personnel.
I could write a book on the good and bad bills that passed committee and the House this week.
The big thing that hit the news was the social media post by Utah State School Board member Natalie Kline. A high school flier was posted with two high school girl athletes, and she questioned the gender of one of those girls. She did take down the post, but the damage was done. The young girl started getting death threats, the school was receiving threats and people were outraged.
This State School Board member has been an elected member of the board for three years and has been highly controversial with her public posts and statements. The School Board cannot take a vote to remove her. The only body that can impeach her is the State Legislature. We started the process to discipline her, which could include impeachment.
Board member Kline put a student in serious harm’s way by her actions and she was elected to watch over the educational process in Utah and to promote programs that protect students. This is a serious process, and I can only hope she listens to the leaders and her constituents who are calling for her resignation.
My intern was ill all week, so if I missed something from you, please reach out again. Thank you again for your emails, texts and calls.
Phone: (435) 650-1969