Bill 232 passes House without amendment

By By Jay Logan Rogers

By Jay Logan Rogers

The Utah House of Representatives voted to make it easier for active-duty military personnel to re-establish Utah residency on Tuesday.

House Bill 232 is sponsored by Rep. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork, who said he introduced the legislation in response to the plight of one of his constituents. This constituent was a young man who returned to Utah after a military deployment and planned on attending a local university until he discovered he had lost his Utah resident status.

“Upon return, the cost of tuition was so high that he ended up waiting a year before attending school, indicating to me that it would be impossible for him to afford the tuition for out-of-state non-residents,” Morley said.

The legislation allows those who had Utah residency immediately prior to military deployment to retain resident status if they return directly to Utah after a tour of duty.

No legislator expressed opposition to Morley’s goal of making it easier for military personnel to re-establish Utah residency. However, one state representative suggested a potential improvement Morley’s bill.

Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley City, said he generally supported the bill but added an amendment declaring that members of the military who change their residency from Utah to another state while deployed are not eligible for the exemption from regular residency requirements.

The amendment failed to pass the House of Representatives, but it was the subject of a lively debate.

“It’s really a very simple issue,” Bigelow said. “This amendment changes nothing in the bill for servicemen except for those who actively make a decision and affirmatively declare that they want to be a resident of another state.”

Morley objected to the amendment, stating that it would make adjusting to a new location more difficult for service personnel. He said it would prevent soldiers from voting in local elections in their places of deployment, which could include school board issues that would affect their children.

Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, spoke in favor of Bigelow’s amendment.

“If I’m a resident of Utah, and I get called into the military, and then want to declare Nevada as my domicile state to avoid paying the taxes which go to fund the education for students in Utah, then should I be benefiting from residency status when I come back? My feeling is no,” Holdaway said.

Other representatives disagreed, arguing that military members deserve a broad leeway on residency issues because of their important service to the nation.

Bigelow’s amendment ultimately failed by a margin of 31 to 38. With the amendment rejected, state representatives voted on the original version of Morley’s bill. House Bill 232 passed by an overwhelming margin of 65 to 1. Despite the reservations that led him to propose the amendment, Bigelow voted for Morley’s legislation in its original form.

Senate approval and the governor’s signature are the next steps for House Bill 232 if it is to become state law.

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