SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) - Today is Human Rights Day, and the Utah Citizens' Counsel is jumping into action by unveiling a list of recommendations to help influence policy to ensure all Utahns have equal rights.
Here is a list of the seven key needs identified by the counsel:
Equal Dignity and Respect
Health and Health Care
Social Support Systems
and Participatory Government.
The first need, is that all Utahns be treated equally under the law. This year the group focused their recommendations for this need on immigration and Utah's undocumented citizens.
"One recommendation regarding immigration is that our federal congressional delegation support comprehensive immigration reform," said Dee Rowland.
The other recommendation the group has is asking for the Utah Attorney General to withdraw from the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans lawsuit. They say the vulnerability of this group is a human rights issue in Utah and the UCC asks for continued support to help reduce human rights abuses in Utah. They say human rights form a chain which links all seven of these needs together, and their recommendations target policies that affect Utahns in many ways.
They say all Utahns have the right to live and thrive in a healthy environment that includes clean land, air and water, and proposed several recommendations to address those needs which include increasing state incentives for renewable energy sources, and to build homes and office spaces that are more energy efficient. They also recommend the state government support the Clean Power Plan to help stop the emission of heat trapping gases into the air, particularly carbon dioxide and methane.
The governor announced on Wednesday that he was allocating 70% of new money in his budget recommendation for the 2017 fiscal year, and for that the UCC praised the governor for that recommendation, as they say each and every Utahn has the right to a public education and to secure a promising future. Their recommendations reflect the recommendation put forth by the governor that funding by the legislature should be increased. They also recommend the Utah State Office of Education dedicate a portion of their Title 1 funds to help expand pre-school programs particularly for at risk children.
They say the state still lags behind in education especially in funding full-day kindergarten for at risk-children and they recommend the USOE develop a plan to help instill higher-quality education statewide.
Personal Security is another one of the seven needs the group identified noting that each and every Uthan has the right to feel safe and free from physical and physiological abuse. And for that the counsel has recommended improving the efficiency in handling and testing rape kits, and for the state to accept the cost of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
"We have four recommendations," said Nancy Haanstad, "Firearms should be systematically collected from the person constrained by a protective order for it's duration, rather than leaving court orders dealing with individual compliance."
In Utah domestic violence and rape continue to plague the state. Utah trails behind the national average of domestic violence homicides by 40%, to the nation's 30%. To protect victims they recommend that the state have adequate funding to allow the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition to be able to provide the proper facilities for the approximately 3,000 men, women and children who were turned away from crisis shelters last year.
They identified the need that all Utahns have a human right to universal health care and access to those programs, regardless of their circumstances, and recommend each Utahn have access to quality health care insurance. To establish strategic state leadership in cost containment, improve coordination of care to improve quality and reduce cost, and to improve the safety of health care.
The UCC also listed several recommendations to help combat poverty to to help children as this population is most affected by poverty. Their recommendations include focusing on inter-generational poverty and and to focus on getting as much cash and non-cash income as possible into poverty level households.
Finally, they presented several recommendations to get more citizens to participate in government by creating an independent redistricting commission and asking for the Legislature to adopt campaign contribution limits. As well as urging an independent, nonpartisan examination on campaign finance reform alternatives.
The UCC will not be sending their recommendations directly to the legislature but instead be meeting with specific legislatures who sit on committees that oversee policies in each of these seven categories. They hope they can persuade some legislators to take up their recommendations to bring about positive change.
To learn more about the Utah Citizens' Counsel just click here.
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