House Republicans block ‘right to die’ bill, likely killing the legislation for 2019

Utah Capitol 17

A Democratic-sponsored, end of life bill is, for now, dead in the Utah Legislature.

The House Rules Committee, voting along partisan lines, refused Thursday to allow HB121 to be heard by a standing committee – thus killing the bill unless at a later date Rules members change their minds.

HB121, sponsored by freshman Democratic Rep. Jen Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake, would have allowed a terminally ill patient, after a 15-day waiting period, and other safeguards, to be given a drug to end their life, under a doctor’s care.

Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, a member of the Rules Committee, said similar end of life bills have failed in the Utah Legislature the past two years, and it is clear how lawmakers feel about the issue.

He said there were end of life bills in 16 state legislatures last year, and all failed.

A few states do currently have end of life, or right to die, laws.

Addressing McKell, Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake, a fellow Rules committee member, asked if letting the bill be heard in a standing committee would just be a waste of time?

No, said McKell, it is more that the Utah Legislature seems to have made up its mind about end of life legislation.

The vote was 6-2 to hold HB121, with Briscoe and Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake, the only two Democrats on Rules voting “no.”

The vote may indicate how the new House Rules Committee may act on bills that the majority Republicans don’t really want to be heard.

While Rules is supposed to be a sifting committee – deciding which bills will be heard by standing committees, and which committees will hear individual bills – in practice rarely has Rules held a bill early in a general session.

And rarely does the GOP majority on Rules hold a Republican-sponsored bill – killing one of their caucus member’s bills without even letting it get a standing committee hearing.

Unless House Democrats can get enough floor votes to lift HB121 from Rules (not likely), or unless Republicans on Rules change their minds (that could happen), end of life legislation is dead in the 2019 Legislature, before the first week is even over.