We are just about to the halfway point of the 2017 Legislative Session. It has been a pleasure hearing from you over the last week. I encourage you to continue to reach out to me. On issues not within the jurisdiction of the state legislature, it is also important for you to contact your city, county or federal officials.
1st Sub HB 204 - Presidential Primary Amendments
On March 22, 2016, many of us tried to vote in Utah's Presidential Caucus, which was run by the political parties. I attended the caucus at Olympus High School. Like many of you, I spent the entire evening standing in lines and doing my best to help alleviate some of the issues voters and volunteers were facing.
Most people assumed from the length of the lines that voter turnout was considerably higher than in the past. Unfortunately, that was not the case. In fact, 53% fewer people voted in the 2016 Utah Presidential Caucus than in 2008, when we held a state-run Presidential Primary. The 2016 complications arose from the fact that the state did not fund or run this election as they had in the past. Instead the election was run by volunteers recruited by political parties. As those who participated that evening would likely agree, political parties should be in the business of trying to win elections, not run them.
The Legislature was asked by Governor Herbert, the Democratic Party and even Governor Mitt Romney to fund a 2016 presidential primary. The Legislature refused to appropriate the funds. I am working to make sure this does not happen again. This year I am sponsoring HB 204 - Presidential Primary Amendments that requires the state to fund and operate a presidential primary in 2020 and in all following presidential election years. If the state and our county clerks run the presidential primary, we will have a professionally run election, with early voting, absentee ballots, a full day to vote, adequate parking and accommodations for disabled voters.
It was quite the moment when I presented the bill in the House Government Operations Committee last week when the chairmen of both the Utah Republican and Democratic Parties testified together in favor of my bill. In fact, James Evans and Peter Corroon even shared a hug! I believe that democracy is most effective when all voices are heard. A state-run presidential primary would increase voter turnout, making it easier for senior citizens, the disabled, students, parents, people who work evenings and others to vote. The bill passed the House Government Operations Committee with strong support and will next be debated by the full House. If you support this legislation, you and your friends may want to let other House members know.
HB 159 - Amendments to Voter Registration
If more voices are heard in the political process, our democracy is stronger and our government is more effective. A bill I am planning to cosponsor that makes voting easier is HB 159 - Amendments to Voter Registration by Rep. Steve Handy. This bill creates a process that automatically registers an eligible individual to vote when they apply for or renew their driver's license unless the applicant "opts-out" of voter registration. Making the voter registration process easier and more accessible for Utahns would almost certainly increase the number of participants in our political process. County clerks also think this bill will increase efficiency by providing more current mailing addresses as well as reducing costs. Privacy protections under the current law will remain unchanged.
I heard the first presentation of this bill in the House Government Operations Committee last week. It will be debated again on Monday morning. You are welcome to join us in room 30 of the House Building or listen to the debate online: www.le.utah.gov.
Air Quality Legislation
There over a dozen air quality bills and appropriations requests working their way through the legislative process. I have highlighted a few of them in the past weeks and will mention a few more in the future. Most recently, HCR 18, my legislation concerning smog ratings on motor vehicles, passed the House Transportation Committee unanimously on Friday.
If you would like a list of all the clean air bills and appropriations requests, and their current status, please let me know and I will send it to you. Please remember that by the time you open my email message, the status of the bills may have changed.
Town Hall Meeting Report
It was great to see so many of you last week at the Town Hall Meeting that I hosted with Sen. Iwamoto, Sen. Shiozawa, Rep. Moss and Rep. Poulson. Though we had some competition with another town meeting that evening, we still had a full house, packed with constituents who care about our community. The issues we discussed included efforts to improve air quality, education, reforms to address opioid abuse and the need to protect our national monuments.
We were all thrilled with the strong showing of support and interest. Turning out and letting your voice be heard is vital. Many thanks to KSL's Doug Wright for moderating the evening and to Holladay City for hosting our meeting.
Visitors at the Capitol
In the News
There are many reporters covering the Legislative Session who do a great job of keeping the public informed. Below are a few of the news articles I was mentioned in last week:
Thank you for staying in touch with me. I hope that these messages continue to inform you about some of the happenings at the Capitol. As we enter the home stretch of the Legislative Session, I encourage you stay involved in state politics. It is only with your help that your elected representatives can effectively serve you. Also, remember you can always find out what is going on at the Legislature through our award-winning website: www.le.utah.gov .