SB 70: Punitive, Ineffective and a Civil Rights Nightmare

Mr. Chairman, of the 177 lines of substantive text in HB 70, 89 lines are identical to the provisions in Arizona’s SB 1070. That’s 50 percent! Half of HB 70 is Arizona’s SB 1070. Another seven percent of HB 70 even dares to go beyond SB 1070. In other words, as bad as SB 1070 is, even its motivated author didn’t have the nerve to do things this bill does.

Within HB 70, the restrictive word “shall” appears 15 times. The encouraging word “may” appears four times. In other words, 19 times in this bill, state and local law enforcement are told that they shall or may do something they otherwise would not even think about doing.

Representative [Stephen] Sandstrom’s amendments do nothing to reduce his bill’s punitive nature and ineffective approach. This bill remains a huge civil rights nightmare. Despite the attempt to clarify “reasonable suspicion,” in practice that term still only applies to brown-skinned people without a driver’s license.

HB 70 replaces a culture of accountability with a culture of fear. Any links in this bill to actual crimes are secondary to its real objective. It uses the illusion of effective law enforcement to simply hunt down a particular group of people we imagine are ruining our society.

Mr. Chairman, if the goal of this committee is to further protect our public safety in Utah, there are much better ways to go about that task than to pass HB 70. This bill would create a “false positive” in the minds of citizens. It would create the image of doing something when little is actually going to be done. It would be a big waste of money and an even bigger waste of law enforcement’s precious time.

I understand the politics involved. I understand the inclination of this committee to permit all of your House colleagues to be on record.

Acknowledging those politics, I would be remiss if I didn’t express that the path HB 70 would take us down will prove to become an embarrassing example of what effective law enforcement isn’t supposed to be. We won’t be seen as smart or courageous – we’ll be seen as vastly naïve and undiscerning. HB 70 isn’t a model for other states, and it doesn’t comport with the wisdom of the Utah Compact.

I promise you that an effective, comprehensive alternative to HB 70 is on the way. Please set this bill aside and wait for that alternative.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.