The 2017 Legislative Session is underway! The Utah Legislature will be meeting until March 9. It has been a busy and exciting week as legislators, constituents and activists from Boulder to Bear Lake and Wendover to Vernal have come to the Capitol, all with the same intention - to help make Utah a better state. There are many different approaches to that goal. This year there are expected to be roughly 1,500 bill files opened, and although most will not make it to both the full House and Senate for a vote, it is still likely to be a record-breaking year.
Speaking of breaking records, the first day of the Legislative Session saw over 6,000 participants inside the Capitol and thousands more demonstrating outside. The Utah Women's March drew more women and men to the legislature than any other gathering I can remember in decades.
This passionate crowd of people filled the Capitol rotunda, watched from every balcony and stretched out several blocks down the street to show their support for a variety of issues. I was privileged to be among the legislators and activists asked to speak.
In my remarks, I talked about the moral core of our country - civility and respect for all people, social justice, inclusion and equal rights, protection for our environment and the arts, and love for all people. I reiterated my commitment to defending equal rights, an ideal that my parents impressed upon me. My family proudly marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and I stand with all of those facing oppression today. As a Jewish American and the descendant of immigrants, I vowed to stand up against violations of freedom, including a Muslim registry. If such a registry is enacted, I will register myself. Since the rally, I am also very concerned about recent action taken by our president to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending refugee admission.
It was heartening to hear the cheers of those gathered as we paid respect to the women who have gone before us. We all owe a great deal to trailblazers who have fought for justice and equality. It was truly inspiring to participate in such a joyful, diverse gathering. I can't think of a better way to start the Session.
Upcoming Town Hall Meeting
Along with some of my other colleagues, I will be holding a Town Hall Meeting on February 9 at Holladay City Hall from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. Rep. Moss, Rep. Poulson, Sen. Iwamoto, Sen. Shiozawa and I will be there to answer your questions. Doug Wright will be the moderator. These town meetings are always a highlight of the session for me and I would love to see you there! For those who cannot attend, you can always email me with your suggestions and concerns.
HB11 - Removing Partisan Requirements for State Boards and Commissions
Many of you have contacted me regarding your concerns with House Bill 11, sponsored by Rep. Norman Thurston. This legislation proposes doing away with the political diversity requirement for the Governor's appointments on 29 board and commissions. These boards vary and some, like the Public Service Commission, Air Quality Board and Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, give me more concern than others, such as the Livestock Marketing Board. The partisan requirements on most of these boards and commissions are vital to assuring a diversity of perspectives and opinions. I have already voted against this bill twice in committee hearings. Unless the bill is dramatically amended, I will work hard to defeat it. This legislation definitely needs more study. We need a careful analysis of all of the membership requirements of most of these boards before making any changes.
It is likely that HB 11 will be debated by the full House on the morning of Monday, January 30. If you have any concerns or input regarding specific boards and commissions that could be affected by this legislation, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts.
Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee
This year I am serving on the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. We covered a variety of topics in this week's meetings including the current education budget. We heard reports from Syd Dickson, the Superintendent of Public Instruction and Tami Pyfer, the Governor's Education Advisor. We also heard a recent national report analyzing effective education systems outside the United States and comparing them with US state education programs and funding. Just as a reminder - you can listen to all committee hearings and review the materials online at: le.utah.gov.
Improving Utah's education system is fundamental to our state's success. There are many innovative ways to improve education, but the Legislature must not lose sight of the need for more funding. Utah ranks 51st in the nation in per-pupil spending. Our children deserve better.
Honoring our Police Officers
On January 19, the City of Holladay hosted a dinner honoring the police officers who serve Holladay and Millcreek. Held one year after the tragic killing of Officer Doug Barney, this event was a wonderful chance to thank the great women and men who serve our community every day, as well as a chance to reflect on those who gave their lives to protect our community.
It was an honor to meet Erica Barney and her children at the dinner. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to thank to the police officers and their families who sacrifice so much to protect all of us.
I truly appreciate the privilege of serving in the Utah Legislature. Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts and opinions regarding any pending legislation. Knowing what issues are important to my constituents is how I can most effectively represent you. I personally read every message I receive. If you don't need a response to your message, please let me know.