Thirty-one lawmakers received bad grades from the Utah Kids Coalition on Wednesday for casting votes during the 1998 Legislature that it says hurt the state's children.
The coalition, made up of 36 organizations that advocate for children and families, issues a report card every year titled "Who's For Kids and Who's Just Kidding." While some good legislation was created in the session, such as a traffic safety task force and the new Children's Health Insurance Program, other bills put children in jeopardy, said Tracy Halverson, an in-home day-care provider and member of the coalition."We are a state that pretends to be pro-family," Halverson said. "Utah needs to stop putting children on the back burner."
Reps. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, Evan Olsen, R-Young Ward, and Katherine Bryson, R-Orem, received the worst scores for casting votes the coalition deemed anti-children. Thirteen representatives and four senators received perfect "outstanding" grades from the coalition for casting votes in favor of children's issues.
The coalition based its findings on absentees and votes cast on nine bills that went through both the Utah House and Senate. Those included the Children's Health Insurance Program, amendments to the child-abuse database, the reduction of classroom size in middle schools, child-care licensing regulations and a bill that implemented foster care citizen review boards across the state.
Dennis Nielson, an emergency room doctor representing the Utah Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, also criticized lawmakers Wednesday for not doing more to protect children from firearms. Every year, about 50 Utah children are killed by gunfire.
"The epidemic is firearm violence and it is a public health emergency," Nielson said. "It is an emergency whose cure lies mired in the bickering of special interest groups with wildly conflicting views."
The Legislature did not take action on a bill sponsored by Sen. Robert Steiner, D-Salt Lake, which would have held gunowners accountable for negligently storing their weapons.
"Responsible gun owners already do what this bill defines as safe storage. If you own a gun and you are not in direct control of it, lock it up and store the ammunition in a separate place," Nielson said.
Those with the best grades, according to the coalition, were: Sens. Dave Buhler, R-Salt Lake; Scott Howell, D-Salt Lake; David Steele, R-Kaysville; Michael Waddoups, R-Salt Lake; and Reps. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake; Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake; Duane Boudreaux, D-Salt Lake; Perry Bucker, D-West Jordan; Gary Cox, D-Kearns; Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake; Brent Goodfellow D-West Valley; Bryan Holladay, R-West Jordan; David Jones, D-Salt Lake; Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City; Richard Siddoway, R-Bountiful; Daniel Tuttle, D-Magna; and Lamont Tyler, R-Salt Lake.