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Politics & Government

A Concealed Carry Bill Was Debated By The Natural Resources Committee, And Government Watchdogs Have Questions

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Legislative Rules Committees try to assign bills to committees that are most relevant to the subject. But sometimes, they end up in unexpected places.

Last week, Utah lawmakers assigned the state’s concealed carry permit bill to the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee.

That led some opponents of the legislation to question how a controversial gun bill gets handed to a group of state lawmakers who usually debate energy and agriculture policies.

“Either the Senate Rules Committee considers guns to be a natural resource, or it’s more likely that it was put in this committee to try and grease the wheels to make sure it passes,” said Lauren Simpson, policy director for the government accountability organization Alliance for a Better Utah.

The group opposed the concealed carry proposal, which did end up passing through the Natural Resources Committee.

But Simpson said it probably would have succeeded in a more relevant one, too, like judiciary. The bill was first heard in the House Judiciary Committee, where it flew through along party lines.

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, is the vice chair of the Senate Rules Committee — the group that decides where bills go.

Fillmore wouldn’t say how the gun bill got assigned, but he described the general process.

“We do that by reading the bill, figuring out what policy areas it touches and then analyzing which committees it might fit best in,” he said. “It's a collaborative process, and it involves input from a lot of different people.”

He said sometimes a committee might take on a bill because they don’t have as much on their to-do list as others.

“We don't want to slow a bill down by putting it to a committee that already has a heavy workload and might not get to it fast,” he said. “So then we might send it to another relevant committee where it might be able to be heard sooner.”

But Simpson said it’s important they aren’t randomly assigned, especially because the legislative session only lasts 45 days.

“Those committees cover specific topics, and that allows [them] to give better oversight, so they can ask better questions [and] can better determine if a bill should move forward or not,” she said. “Members of the House or the Senate, as a full body, really depend on these committees to do a good job, to properly vet the bills that are coming before them.”

She suggested one solution to that could be extending the length of the session.

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