Legislative Update

Dear Friends:

We have now completed our second week of the 2016 General Session. For those of you who are getting this update for the first time, my prior messages can be found here.

My Legislation – HB 52:  Office of Outdoor Recreation Amendments

Last week I presented my bill, HB 52: Office of Outdoor Recreation Amendments, which would help the state improve its outdoor infrastructure in both rural and urban settings. This bill provides matching funds to communities and nonprofit associations to develop a variety of projects. It is based on a very successful 2015 pilot project, which funded 19 projects in 13 counties. These projects included trails, boat ramps, beaches, restrooms and playgrounds.

HB52 is supported by a wide variety of organizations that recognize the increased demand for outdoor recreation for Utahns, as well as its importance for economic development in our state. Brad Peterson, who was the first director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, has worked with me on this bill. You can find more information about the legislation on his website: http://www.utahrecreationfund.org/. This bill has been heard in two House committees and if it passes both the full House and Senate, will compete with all of the other appropriations requests for our limited tax dollars.

Hot Topic on The Hill – Medical Marijuana

Last week two bills proposing to make Utah the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana both passed Senate committees. They were both studied during 2015, by the Health and Human Services Interim Committee. There has been much controversy around these two different pieces of legislation.

Both bills would legalize medical marijuana, by prescription, for those patients in need. In simple terms, the difference between them is that Senator Mark Madsen’s bill, SB73, would include the whole use of the plant, whereas Senator Evan Vickers’ bill, SB89, would only allow use of the plant where the hallucinogenic chemical component, THC, is withheld. If you have an interest in the outcome of these bills, you can go to the links above and listen to committee debates, and track their progress on our legislative website. If the bills pass the Senate, they will next go to the House

Clean Air Caucus Press Conference

When I founded the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus a few years ago, there were only a few legislators who actively joined the cause. At last week’s press conference, the caucus unveiled 14 bills and five appropriations requests. Over one quarter of the legislature joined me at the press conference – and that was with two competing events. Many community leaders also attended. These legislators and leaders are working to help improve our air quality. There are no easy solutions and it will take a lot of work to make progress.

If you want a current list of the pending clean air legislation, please email me directly. The status of these bills changes every day and I send out frequent updates.  

Utah Students for Clean Air

Last Thursday I was honored to speak to the packed Clean Air Rally which was organized by the Madeleine Choir School. A number of students from other schools also attended. The students’ speeches were great! I also enjoyed meeting with some of the students after the rally. It is wonderful to see kids getting involved in issues that they care about at such a young age, especially with an issue that I care about as much as clean air.

Legislative Update

Dear Friends:

We have now completed our first week of the 2016 General Session. For those of you who are getting this update for the first time, my prior messages can be found here.

Thank you to all of you who have visited the Capitol or contacted me. When sending an email message, it is always helpful to know the bill number of specific legislation you are concerned about. And, as always, keep in mind that you can access committee meetings, track bills and find other very useful information on the legislative website:http://le.utah.gov/. Also, just a quick reminder – please include your home address on all correspondence and let me know if you need a response or if the email is for information only. I personally read every email, but do not have time to respond to every message.

Dealing with Drug Overdose Deaths

A bipartisan group of legislators led by Representative Carol Spackman Moss held a press conference on Friday to present a number of bills addressing the growing problem of drug overdoses in Utah that could be prevented by the use of Naloxone, a drug that can safely reverse the fatal effects of an opioid overdose. These proposals include HCR 4 – “Concurrent Resolution Declaring Drug Overdose Deaths To Be A Public Health Emergency,” which declares drug overdose deaths a public health emergency and strongly urges Utah’s Departments of Health, Human Services and Public Safety to immediately direct resources to address this crisis. The goal of this legislation, proposed by Rep. Moss, is to save lives by making Naloxone more available to the public. Her companion bill, HB 238, would expand the accessibility to this life-saving drug. It authorizes any individual, including family members, law enforcement officers and substance abuse counselors, to give out Naloxone as long as they receive instruction on how to use the kits and pass on those instructions to others.

I am co-sponsoring both of these proposals. Drug overdose death in Utah is an epidemic that exceeds deaths associated with both car crashes and firearms. Utah’s rate of drug overdose deaths is one of the highest in the nation. A tragic, growing trend like this is heartbreaking. I am grateful the legislature is continuing to address this issue. 

Clean Air Legislation

Our bipartisan Clean Air Caucus is working on a variety of bills and appropriations requests. I will try to highlight some of these each week. One important request is for $500,000 to fund ongoing research efforts. We need to better understand the causes and solutions to our air quality problems. I hear of lots of possible ways to clean our air, but it is important we focus on those that are supported by reliable data.

I was asked to create a way for the public to contribute to clean air programs. For that reason, I am sponsoring HB 237 – “Income Tax Contribution for Clean Air.” Under this bill, Utah taxpayers will be given the opportunity to contribute to clean air programs, just as you are given the option to donate to organ donation, spay and neuter programs, and other worthwhile causes on your tax return. The Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) will administer the fund and work with other donors to find matching grants to stretch the contributed funds. Senator Curt Bramble is the Senate Sponsor.

Appropriations Process

Utah is the only state where all legislators serve on an appropriations subcommittee. As a member of the House Leadership, I also serve on the Executive Appropriations Committee.

The appropriations subcommittee I serve on is Business, Economic Development and Labor. During the first week of the session this committee began reviewing “base budgets” for various departments of state government: Department of Commerce, Public Service Commission, Finance Department, Tax Commission, Financial Institutions and USTAR. 

Executive Appropriations Committee reviews the budgets of all of the appropriations subcommittees and some departments that report directly to our committee. This week we reviewed the budgets of Utah National Guard, Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, Capitol Preservation Board and Legislative staff offices. You are always welcome to join me in these meetings.

Research on the Hill

This week I had the great opportunity to meet some brilliant college students from all around the state, who presented their research projects at the State Capitol. I was fortunate enough to learn about a potential brain cancer treatment from John Peterson, one of my constituents. John is a senior in the Biology Department at the University of Utah.

I also met with Danielle Christensen, who is studying at Utah State University Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services. Her fascinating project is about the impact of military trauma on levels of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and relationship quality.

Legislative Update

Dear Friends:

This week our community and people from throughout our state and nation mourned the loss of UPD Officer Doug Barney. He was shot and killed while searching for a man who had just left the scene in a serious car accident. Officer Barney was working overtime that day to help pay the medical costs for his cancer treatments. He was an honored 18 year veteran who was well known for his devotion to his family and our community. He will be sorely missed. Plans are being made to honor the life of Officer Barney during our legislative session.

On Wednesday night I attended a beautiful candlelight Vigil in Officer Barney’s honor. In addition to a number of wonderful speakers, his colleague, Officer Jon Richey, who worked and grew up in Holladay, spoke eloquently at the Vigil. Officer Richey is also in our prayers as he recovers from injuries he received in the same incident and we are pleased that he was able to go home from the hospital earlier this week.

Gearing Up for the 61st Utah Legislative Session

I am very much looking forward to the start of the General Session, which begins January 25 and concludes on March 10. During those 45 days we review budgets, new appropriations requests, and nearly one thousand pieces of legislation. You are welcome to join us at the Capitol to attend House and Senate committee meetings and observe floor debates. All Democratic Caucus meetings are also open to the public.

There are a variety of helpful resources on our legislative website: www.le.utah.gov. This is the best place to find information on bills, committee schedules, appropriations requests, budget reports, background on legislators, and much more. You can live stream audio and video from the House and Senate floors or audio from committee meetings. There’s more than enough information to keep even the most wonkish nerd happy. And for some additional perspectives on legislation, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

My Committee Assignments this Session

This session, the main committees  I serve on include:

  • Legislative Management
  • Executive Appropriations
  • Ethics (Vice Chair)
  • Government Operations
  • Public Utilities & Technology
  • Business, Economic Development & Labor Appropriations.

I also serve as a member of the House Democratic Leadership Team and am the Co-Chair and Founder of the Clean Air Caucus. A full list of my assignments can be foundhere.

My Legislation This Session – HB119

One of the bills I will be running is HB 119: “Straight Ticket Voting Amendments.” This bill  removes the option on your ballot to simply check one box to vote for all members of a single party. There are several problems with this option. Automatic straight ticket voting causes a lot of confusion for voters. For example, voters may end up not voting at all for nonpartisan races, including judges, propositions school board candidates and constitutional amendments. This is particularly a concern when voters are using mail-in ballots.

Under HB119, voters will still be able to vote for all members of one party, but will have to vote for candidates individually. Addressing these problems by eliminating this outdated practice has become a bipartisan effort around the country. Utah is one of only nine states that still allow this outdated voting option. No other western state allows this method of voting. Michigan just eliminated the practice last month, and in Indiana legislators are pushing to eliminate it this year as well.

How to Reach Me During the Session

The best way to reach me is by email. My email address is:  parent@le.utah.gov.  You can also call my cell number, but please understand that it’s hard for me to pick up during hearings or debates. My number is 801-889-7849. You are also welcome to meet me at the Capitol. If possible, please contact me in advance so I will be available when you arrive.

As I mentioned in a prior message, during the legislative session I will be assisted by my new Hinckley Intern, Kathryn Macdonald, a senior at the University of Utah. She will be helping me with a variety of matters, including scheduling requests. You can reach Kathryn at: kmacdonald@le.utah.gov.

It is truly an honor for me to serve as the representative of House District 36. I look forward to hearing from you.

Legislative Town Hall Meeting Cancelled

Dear Friends:

Unfortunately, the Legislative Town Hall Meeting scheduled for Wednesday, January 20th at Holladay City Hall has been cancelled.

In its place will be a candlelight vigil to honor the life and service of Officer Doug Barney, who gave his life protecting our citizens. Instead of politics, I believe it should be a night to show our respect to a beloved fallen officer, as well as to honor the injured officer, Jon Richey, who valiantly tried to save his fellow officer.

The candlelight vigil, sponsored by the Salt Lake Valley Law Enforcement Association, and hosted by the City of Holladay and the Unified Police Officers of the Holladay Precinct, will be directly behind Holladay City Hall on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. I invite the public to attend, to show their respect to Officer Barney's family, his law enforcement family, and to the countless people who benefitted from his devoted service.

Although we will not be meeting Wednesday night, I still want to hear from you about upcoming legislative issues and ask that you contact me at: parent@le.utah.gov or 801-889-7849.

Legislative Update

Dear Friends:

Welcome to my first 2016 legislative update. Through these periodic messages, I will do my best to help you keep up with what is happening at the Utah Legislature. I hope that you will let me know your thoughts on pending legislation and ways to improve our state government.  I always appreciate your input.

The 61st Legislative Session for the State of Utah begins on January 25, 2016 and concludes on March 10, 2016. Leading up to that time and during the session I strongly encourage you to keep up with the Legislature through our website: http://le.utah.gov/. This website includes lots of useful information including committee and floor schedules, legislation and amendments, fiscal analysis and other reports. You can even watch floor hearings and listen to committee debates (current and past).

Beginning last spring the legislature held Interim and Task force meetings as well as appropriations hearings to prepare for the upcoming session. Information from all of those meetings, including legislation considered and reviews of state departments, is also available on our website.

Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, January 20 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Holladay City Hall (4580 South 2300 East)

On January 20th a number of local legislators will be hosting a town meeting to discuss the upcoming legislative session and the important issues that our state will face this year. Legislators joining me are Senators Jani Iwamoto and Brian Shiozawa and Representatives Carol Spackman Moss, Lynn Hemingway and Marie Poulson. The meeting will be moderated by Doug Wright from KSL. I hope you can attend.

How to Reach Me

I always look forward to hearing from you about any state legislative issues. Email is the best way to reach me. My email address is: parent@le.utah.gov. I personally read every message I receive. Depending on what is happening at the Capitol, some days I receive hundreds of emails, so I always try to prioritize reviewing messages from residents of House District 36. For that reason, it is important for you to include your home address in your messages. In case I need to follow-up by phone, please include a number to reach you. If you do not live in House District 36, it is helpful to have a reminder of how we know each other. Sometimes my memory fades at 2:00 a.m. when I am reviewing email. Finally, when you send me an email, please let me know if it is for “information only” and does not need a response.

I truly value your comments and suggestions, but would ask for your patience when waiting for a reply. I am in committee meetings, floor sessions, and other meetings all day and often late into the night. After the meetings are over I review upcoming legislation. I will do my best to respond to your messages late at night or very early in the morning before I leave for work at 6:00. If you do not hear back from me in a few days, please resend your message. Your original one could be lost in cyberspace.

A New Session and a New Intern

Kathryn Macdonald is my new intern for this session. She is a student at the University of Utah and will graduate in May with degrees in English and Psychology, before pursuing a graduate degree in Public Policy. She is also a constituent in House District 36. I look forward to working with her and having her help me to have a successful session this year.

It is an honor to represent House District 36 in the Utah House of Representatives. I look forward to hearing from you.