Senator wants all public school classrooms to recite pledge daily

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Aaron Osmond wants every public school classroom to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day.

The South Jordan Republican also wants a student to lead the pledge each day as assigned by the teacher on a rotating basis.

Currently, state law calls for elementary school students to say the pledge each day, while secondary students must do it once a week at the beginning of a day. SB223, which was introduced Wednesday, would require all public schools to recite the pledge daily.

— Dennis Romboy

Traffic violations could be expunged under Senate bill

SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate committee approved a bill Wednesday that would allow drivers to have minor traffic offenses expunged from their records.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, sponsor of SB201, said it makes no sense that Utah law allows courts to expunge drug convictions and other serious crimes but not moving violations. Calling it a loophole in the law, he said it could hinder people from obtaining employment.

"Should someone be denied a job because they had a traffic citation from years earlier?" Bramble said.

The bill would not provide an "absolute get-out-of-jail free card" but be limited to certain minor violations, excluding DUI or other serious offenses, he said.

SB201 moves the Senate floor.

— Dennis Romboy

Bill: No GPS tracking devices without a warrant

SALT LAKE CITY — Police would no longer be able to place GPS tracking devices in vehicles without a warrant under legislation a Senate committee approved Wednesday.

SB236 strikes a section in Utah law that allows the practice, which would bring the state in line with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Utah Attorney General's Office and the ACLU of Utah support the bill.

Eliminating the section would leave law enforcement no other option but to obtain a warrant, said bill sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.

The bill now goes to the Senate floor.

— Dennis Romboy

Bill aims to ensure appeals of justice court decisions

SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate committee passed a bill Wednesday aimed at ensuring those who appeal a justice court conviction get a new trial in district court.

Justice courts are not courts of record. Defendants who appeal a justice court ruling have a constitutional right to a de novo trial in a court of record. De novo is a Latin phrase meaning anew.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, sponsor of SB214, said there are circumstances where a new trial has not been allowed.

"I think we need to protect constitutional rights," he said. "De novo means de novo. It's a constitutional right."

The bill would grant an immediate stay to a justice court decision pending the appeal. Justice courts typically handle class B and C misdemeanors, including DUIs and domestic violence.

Although the committee passed the bill, Bramble plans to amend it on the Senate floor. He said he intends to include exceptions in cases of DUI or domestic violence where there might be a threat of personal injury or violence.

Also, he said he may include a provision that calls for prior court orders such as protective orders or no-contact orders to remain in place during the appeal.

— Dennis Romboy

Limits on environmental boards membership approved

SALT LAKE CITY — The House approved a bill Tuesday limiting membership on Utah Department of Environmental Quality boards, a vote that critics warned gives the governor too much control over public health issues.

SB21 "will erode public confidence in the decisions being made," House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, said, citing provisions in the bill allowing an appointee of the governor, the department director, to override decisions.

"The executive directors of agencies serve at the behest of the governor," Litvack said. "Perception is going to be a big problem."

But Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, asked why members of an appointed board overseeing air quality and other areas would be seen as better representatives of the public than an elected governor.

"My question is who does respond to the public more, the one who has to face them in an election," Nielson said, or members of what he called an insulated and independent board with "no accountability to voters."

The House sponsor of SB21, Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, said the new authority for the department's executive director still allows for decisions to be challenged in court.

"The buck don't stop there," Wright said. "There is always an appeals process."

Several attempts to amend the bill failed, including a proposal by Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, to ensure that the membership include a doctor with expertise in environmental and public health.

Edwards said her proposal was intended to "encourage a broader and more robust discussion in the area of public health" and "add another voice who can speak for the people of Utah."

— Lisa Riley Roche