Interim day: license plate scanning and Common Core

Today, the Utah Legislature held its first interim committee meetings of the year. These meetings occur once each month from May through November, except in July. Legislators address a range of issues, including ideas for future bills, implementation of past bills, training, etc. You can find recordings of interim meetings here. And here’s a brief recap of two of the more interesting items discussed today:

Scanning license plates

This morning in the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee, Beaver County Sheriff Cameron Noel approached the committee asking for permission to place automatic license plate reading cameras along I-15 in Beaver and Washington Counties to help capture drug traffickers, violent criminals, and kidnappers. 

While I won’t question Sheriff Noel’s motives, the use of these cameras is cause for concern. We all want safe roads and communities, but at what cost to our privacy? These cameras capture the license plate number of every vehicle that passes them and that data is stored in a national database for two years.

One committee member expressed concern that tracking license plate numbers could eventually lead to tracking personally identifiable information. I share his concern. What’s to say this information won’t be used against law-abiding citizens?

Perhaps the most revealing piece of information to come from this hearing is that these types of cameras are already being used in law enforcement in Utah. Fortunately, the committee voted to study the broader use of these cameras before making a decision.

Common Core State Standards

The Education Interim Committee heard a presentation today from policy and legal staff on the development and adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), adopted byUtah in 2010, and the legal issues surrounding them. They addressed questions such as whether the state can change these standards after adopting them and whether it has any obligation to the federal government because it has adopted CCSS. In short, the legal staff believes Utah has no legal ties because of CCSS and, therefore, can opt out of them at any time.

In response, some committee members had questions or expressed concerns. For example, Rep. LaVar Christensen (R-Draper) requested a history and accounting of what the state has achieved with its standards and assessments for the past 10 years, asking why we’re abandoning them if we don’t even know.

Rep. Jim Nielsen (R-Bountiful) said the state should engage in a conversation about the costs of implementing CCSS and everything associated with it (i.e., standards, assessment, curriculum) compared with what we’ve done in the past.

Finally, Rep. Ken Sumsion (R-American Fork) was skeptical that Utah could defend itself if the federal government were to try to coerce the state into following its mandates. He argued that hanging our hat on the 10th Amendment likely won’t help because it hasn’t helped with other issues for the past 30 years. He saidUtahshould be careful to watch what the U.S. Department of Education does in the future.

Both of these issues are sure to reappear in future discussions. We’ll update you on these and others in months to come.