Deseret News, February 27, 2001

(Utah, H.B. 387) Not even 2nd vote in Senate can save the spanking bill--Doubts about the measure's impact helped spell its doom

By Jennifer Dobner, Deseret News staff writer

The Senate spanked a bill that would allow parents to use corporal punishment as a reasonable means of discipline without fear of losing their children to state custody.

The measure failed Monday on a vote of 13-16. It was the second vote on HB387, which had also failed during a morning vote but was called back by Republicans because two senators were absent.

In the end, even full attendance couldn't get the bill passed. Republicans Dave Gladwell, North Ogden, and Dan Eastman, Bountiful, both switched their morning "aye" votes to "nay" by the afternoon.

"I really struggled with this bill," Gladwell said during a break in the afternoon floor session. "I felt like if I had a child I would have to put these new parameters on the wall above their bed and then I'd have to try and figure out what they mean. I felt like we had created an almost impossible task."

Hearing that Gov. Mike Leavitt didn't care for the bill also influenced Gladwell's decision. Lt. Gov. Olene Walker told Gladwell and several other senators that the governor would likely veto the bill and didn't want to be put in that position, Gladwell said.

Had the bill passed, parents who choose to spank as a "reasonable" form of discipline could still have their children removed by the state but not be added to the child abuse database maintained by the Division of Child and Family Services. The bill sought to draw a line between a parent's right to impose reasonable discipline and abuse, which was detailed as specific kinds of mental and physical harm in the proposed statute.

Bill sponsor Rep. Matt Throckmorton, R-Springville, called the Senate vote the "smoke and mirrors of the status quo" and said he didn't believe that senators understood the issues or how easily DCFS can remove children from parental custody.

Last year DCFS removed almost 1,200 children, Throckmorton said. And although about 70 percent of those were returned to their parents within a few months, most should never have been removed. The bill could have saved families months of anguish and thousands of dollars, Throckmorton said.

"In the end what the Senate is saying is that they would rather just pass the buck and let the system be," Throckmorton said. "Losing (for me) is not an issue, but losing out of ignorance is frustrating."


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