House votes down bill to fine principal for violating equal access law

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would have fined public school principals for failing to provide equal access to all teacher unions failed in the Utah House after prolonged debate Monday.

Sponsors of SB82 say they’ve received reports of schools not complying with a 2007 law to treat all education associations the same. Some are being blocked from participating on committees or getting enough tables at a school function, said Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper.

The bill proposed to fine principals $1,000 and school districts $10,000 for violating the law.

Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake found the fine exorbitant. “I’m wondering if Howard Hughes or Mitt Romney has ever been a principal in Utah,” he said.

After more than an hour debate, House members voted it down 51-18.

“This bill is draconian. It is punitive. It is mean-spirited,” said Rep. Craig Powell, R-Heber City.

Rep. Christen Watkins, D-Price, said the Legislature shouldn’t make policy based on unsubstantiated reports of violations.

“These allegations are just that,” she said.

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