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Davis Journal

Local legislators share their goals at town hall ahead of session

Jan 18, 2024 09:01AM ● By Becky Ginos
Reps. Melissa Ballard and Paul Cutler talk to residents after a legislative town hall held last week at Bountiful City Hall. The lawmakers talked about their bills then opened it up to questions. Photo by Becky Ginos

Reps. Melissa Ballard and Paul Cutler talk to residents after a legislative town hall held last week at Bountiful City Hall. The lawmakers talked about their bills then opened it up to questions. Photo by Becky Ginos

BOUNTIFUL—The 2024 Legislative Session started on Tuesday and in advance of that, several local lawmakers shared the bills they intended to run at a public Town Hall last week. Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, Melissa Ballard, R-North Salt Lake and Rep. Paul Cutler, R-Centerville gave an overview of their bills and then took questions from the audience.

“I’m running a gun storage bill,” said Weiler. “The 2nd Amendment is under attack. I am a strong believer in the 2nd Amendment.”

The public is calling for something with all of the mass shootings, he said. “My bill would attach potential liability to the parent that is negligent and allows their child to obtain their gun and then bring it to the mall or school and start shooting.”

It will be controversial, Weiler said. “But if a child takes a gun from a parent and goes to a school and shoots it up the parent can be charged and held responsible. This is encouraging people to lock their gun up and keep it safe.”

Weiler said the bill was brought to him by a father who is a very responsible gun owner. “He had taught his children well. His son was at a neighbor’s house and the kids were playing video games and the batteries in the controller went out.”

They were about 12 years old and they started opening drawers looking for batteries, he said. “They opened one drawer and found a loaded gun. The boy who lived there grabbed it and picked it up. His (the father) son told him to put it back and call his parents right now.”

He’d been taught properly, said Weiler. “There was a tragedy in Kaysville about five years ago when a father had come home from hunting and he was tired and left his gun in the garage. His two little girls came home from church and one of the girls picked up the gun and accidentally killed her sister.”

Cutler said one of the bills he’s running is for road rage. “It’s become a problem. We need to look at people’s behavior and the expectations for our society.

He’s also running a child custody bill. “It is to provide safety and prevent child abuse.”

“I have a school employee bill to give parental leave for when they have a baby,” said Ballard. “Right now they have to take time off or pay a substitute while they’re gone.” 

Ballard has several other bills including water use in some schools, crime victim reparations, Medicaid for severely disabled children, ride share amendments that would allow drivers to ask if the rider has large or a lot of baggage and telemed insurance coverage.

“For me the most important bills, I have two of them, are in corrections for those who are incarcerated,” she said. “These two bills are really preventative for recidivism. One of them has to do with their education in prison and one of them has to do with programming. The hope is that while they’re incarcerated that they immediately start having a perspective of ‘where can I go, how can I live my life differently?’”

Ballard said the goal is that every inmate would have a job, they would get their programming, they would get their treatment and they would also be able to work on education. “That is the differentiating factor for them not to return to prison.”

Ward is working on a housing bill. “Housing is the highest it’s ever been,” he said. “Who owns a home is going to be fine, whoever doesn’t own a home is going to be in real trouble. We need to do something different so houses are more affordable.”

Take people when they retire, said Ward. “If you say ‘how much money did you have when you retired? We’re going to split you into two groups, those of you who owned a home at that time and those of you who didn’t own a home.’”

They have 25 times as much money if they were a homeowner than those who weren’t and that’s because those who can get in and get a starter home after a little while are paying themself when they build up equity, Ward said. “They’re paying into equity and that’s what we’re missing right now. It’s like the first rung of a ladder. You’ve got a ladder with the first three rungs cut out and to get on the ladder to prosperity we need some starter homes.”

Ward is also running a bill for special education and the safety of teachers and the other students in the class.

All four are geared up and ready to go for the 45-day session. 

“I’m optimistic,” said Cutler. “Our future is bright. We’re Americans, we’re free, I believe we can solve our own problems.”