Sutherland Newsletter – February 8, 2007

1.Bill Aimed to Stiffen Penalty for Child Murderers Passes House

A bill that would make the murder of a child younger than 14 years of age a capital felony is on its way to the Senate.  HB 228: Penalty for Homicide of Child was passed unanimously by the House on Tuesday, February 6, 2007.  Testifying in support of the bill, Sutherland Institute President Paul T. Mero said, “This bill is about punishment; not deterrents, not therapy, not plea bargains; just punishment as it should be in these cases.”  HB 228 is one of several bills in a suite of legislation that Sutherland is pursuing to address serious crimes against children.


2.Proposed Bill Ensures Equal Opportunities for All Students

By unanimously passing SB 81, Home School Students and Extracurricular Activities Amendments, on February 5, 2007, the Senate Education Committee endorsed the importance of a level-playing field for all Utah students when it comes to participating in extracurricular activities at public schools. Sutherland Institute President Paul T. Mero testified in support of this bill saying, “What this bill does is create uniformity where uniformity does not exist.” Currently, not all school districts throughout Utah allow home school students to participate in extra-curricular activities such as sports, music, drama, etc. Mero says there is no reason to exclude home school students. “[Parents of home school students] pay their taxes for other peoples’ children and then they pay for their own.” SB 81 now goes to the full Senate.


3.Putting Children’s Needs First When It Comes to Adoption

With a 7-4-2 vote in the House Judiciary Committee, proposed legislation that would give priority to placing a child in a two-parent, man/woman household will next be considered by the full House.  While testifying in support of HB 343: Foster Placement and Adoption Amendmentsbefore the committee, William C. Duncan, adjunct fellow with Sutherland, said there are three values that every state’s law employs deciding appropriate placements for children placed by adoption or foster care: permanence, stability, and child well being. “Marriage ideally promotes each of these important values,” said Duncan.


A recent series of reports marshals voluminous evidence that clearly shows children raised by a married mother and father:

  • are more likely to succeed in education
  • have a decreased risk for mental illness
  • are less likely to experience poverty
  • exhibit less behavioral problems
  • experience higher levels of family stability
  • are more likely to benefit from high levels of parental commitment and closeness
  • have a decreased risk of physical illness
  • are less likely to engage in sexual relations as teenagers and to experience an unwed pregnancy
  • experience decreased risk of suicide
  • will not be as likely to engage in criminal behavior as adults
  • have a greater average life expectancy
  • are less likely to be victims of physical and sexual abuse


Duncan concluded, “Given all that we know about the unique benefits of marriage for children, we believe this legislation reflects a commonsense recognition that, for most children, the ideal setting for thriving is in a home with a married mother and father.”


4.Sutherland-supported Bills are Gaining Ground

The 2007 legislative session is now in its third week and the Sutherland Institute continues efforts to enact key legislation consistent with its governing principles and policy priorities.  There are ten bills Sutherland is actively pursuing.  These bills are listed on Sutherland’s Legislation page with a brief description of their impact and current status.  Two of these bills are listed on the House 3rd Reading calendar and are expected to be voted upon soon.  One is part of a suite of three bills that will comprise a “Jessica’s Law” for the state of Utah.