Utah Senate Democrats Anticipate 2015 State of State Address from Governor Herbert

On Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City tonight Utah Senate Democrats are anticipating Governor Gary Herbert’s State of the State Address in hopes that Governor Herbert will address key issues important to the citizens of Utah, not only during the 2015 legislative session, but the long-term future as well.

The Democrat Senators have identified 4 areas of critical importance for the 2015 legislative session:


“Education is the greatest public infrastructure the state can provide, Utah needs to reinvest in our education system.” – Gene Davis

“I look forward to good legislation this session that will include additional funding to enhance teaching and auxiliary staff that work together to support the whole student. The students of Utah need us to pay attention to this.” – Senator Karen Mayne

Affordable and accessible health care:

Senator Gene Davis

“I want full Medicaid expansion and have sponsored a bill in support of that. Full Medicaid expansion allows for better access to quality healthcare. Full expansion will provide more coverage to more people who need it. I believe this bill has merit and should be state law. It is a better way to provide healthcare access to the citizens of Utah.”

SB 83 – Medicaid Expansion Proposal – Amend UT Health Code to expand Medicaid eligibility

Environment / Air Quality:

Senator Gene Davis

SB 87 – Environmental Protection Amendments – Repeals current laws so Utah is allowed to establish stronger rules than the federal Clean Air Standard.

Senator Luz Escamilla

(not numbered) – Air Quality Rules and Penalties

Increases air regulations and increases penalties for unlawful incineration.

Senator Jim Dabakis

SB 105 – Public Lands Act Amendments – Requires attorney general to file petition by 6/30/15 demanding determination of ownership of public lands

Senator Jani Iwamoto

SB 49 – Bear Lake Sovereign Lands Amendments – amends provisions for launching and retrieving a vessel on Bear Lake and transporting individuals or equipment near Bear Lake

Economic development with a strong commitment to families and a living wage:

Senator Karen Mayne

“We need to focus on GOOD JOBS, COMPETITIVE WAGES and a SKILLED WORKFORCE. It is our mandate to protect, enhance, serve and sustain the citizens of Utah.”

SB 44 – Construction Trades Licensing Amendments – Amends UT Construction Trades Licensing Act to prohibit unincorp entity that is subject to the act from assessing a management fee; addresses penalty for assessing management fee in violation of bill

SB 50 – Railroad Revisions – Enacts provisions prohibiting railroad from operating freight train unless it has crew of at least 2 people; specifies certification requirements

Senator Luz Escamilla

SB 10 – Compact for Interstate Sharing of Putative Father Registry Information – Creates the Compact registry for sharing putative (biological) father information

Senator Jim Dabakis

SB99 – Public Accommodation Fairness Act – Prohibits discrimination in a place of public accommodation on basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression



Senate Democrats Elect Caucus Leadership for 2015

Utah Senate Democrats met on November 11, 2014 to organize their caucus and elect leadership for 2015. Senator Davis, along with Senators Mayne, Robles and Dabakis, welcomed Senator-elect Jani Iwamoto. “She comes to the Senate with great public policy experience and a strong commitment and dedication to serving her constituents,” remarked Senator Davis.

The new leadership team is as follows:

  • Senator Gene Davis, Senate Minority Leader
  • Senator Karen Mayne, Senate Minority Whip
  • Senator Luz Robles, Assistant Senate Minority Whip
  • Senator Jim Dabakis, Senate Minority Caucus Manager

Senator Davis remarked, “I appreciate the support of the caucus Democrats in re-electing me as leader. I look forward to working with Senate President Niederhauser and the leadership on the other side of the aisle. Utah legislators as a whole will be faced with many tough issues this coming legislative session, and our caucus looks forward to collaborating with our counterparts on resolving these issues for the betterment of the state of Utah.”


2015 Utah Senate Democrat Legislative Leadership


Senators Dabakis, Davis, Mayne, Iwamoto and Escamilla


Leadership Selfie

Having some fun with a leadership selfie!


Departing Words with Senator Pat Jones


Her first Utah Legislative Session: 2000 as a house representative; 2007 as a senator

Her last: 2014

Number of elections she won: 5

Education: Olympus High School | B.S., Journalism, University of Utah

Career: Business owner, professional focus group moderator

Family: Husband, Dan E. Jones; 2 daughters & 2 stepdaughters; 2 sons & 1 stepson; 10 grandkids

What advice do you have for people who want to run for office?

 Just do it! Get involved and run for office! When you are a legislator, you really find out who you are. It is not a spectator sport, it helps you understand your values and what is important to you.

You will learn how the legislative system works and make incredible friends. The legislative staff is incredible. You learn how dedicated the people are who work at the Utah Capitol. It is a beautiful atmosphere.

Just being in this building requires you to stand up for what you believe in, but it is also important to be someone who can work across the aisle (with the opposite party) on issues that really make a difference in people’s lives.

Bills she’s most proud of:

  • Education funding efforts
  • Strengthened financial literacy
  • Protecting seniors from abuse and fraud
  • Established the commission on aging
  • Health & disease prevention; limit minors from tanning salons

What are your plans after your term ends?

I might run for something else. I’m weighing my options. This is a year of transition.

Thank you to our interns | 2014 Legislative Session

Thank you to our Utah Senate Democrats interns for the 2014 Utah Legislative Session.

We appreciated your hardIntern Collage work. All the best in achieving your dreams.

Esther Blanco, a Salt Lake City resident, interned for Senator Gene Davis. Her favorite day is her birthday and favorite color is purple! Born in Venezuela, she is a University of Utah student studying political science and finance. She loves modeling and Beyonce.

Her goal: She wants to go to law school.

Keith Stott, a Salt Lake City resident, interned for Senator Karen Mayne. He likes most music and the color green! From Arkansas, he’s a University of Utah student studying social work. He’s married with a baby boy and loving life.

His goal: He wants to go to law school.

Patricio Panuncio, a Salt Lake City resident, interned for Senator Luz Robles. He loves caviar and the color green! Born in Argentina, he’s a University of Utah student studying political science.

His goal: He wants to go to law school.

Sylvie Batchelor, a Salt Lake City resident, interned for Senator Pat Jones. Her favorite food is mashed potatoes. A Utah native, she’s a University of Utah student studying political science and international studies. Her favorite color is aqua.

Her goal: She wants to run for office.

Zaida Hill, a Provo resident, interned for Senator Jim Dabakis. Her favorite food is Chinese. Her favorite colors are sea green and hot pink. Zaida is proud of her good grades. From Michigan, she’s a Brigham Young University student studying political science. She loves folk and indie music.

Her goal: She wants to run for office.

45 Days – By Sylvie Batchelor, 2014 Intern to Senator Pat Jones

45 days Sylvie  Collage

It is crazy that we have reached the last day of the 2014 Legislative session! In the beginning, it feels like the busy days will never end, but now that they almost have. I am sad to say goodbye.

Throughout this process, I have grown more than I could have imagined. I have learned the process inside and out and made meaningful friendships. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Senator Patricia Jones. She is an amazing mentor and has taught me valuable lessons for my future career goals.

One day I plan to run for office. I will be sitting at one of those desks and have more responsibility than ever before. But I am sure that this experience has equipped me with the knowledge I need to make a difference in this environment.

In these 45 days, I have learned that our legislators are under-appreciated and perhaps misunderstood. I have witnessed such a sense of camaraderie and impeccable work ethic. What our legislators have done in 45 days for this state is astounding. Thank you to everyone for making this the best experience for me.

When the Gavel Strikes Midnight – by Patricio Panuncio, 2014 Intern to Senator Luz Robles

When the gavel strikes at midnight on Thursday, March 13, the 2014 General Legislative Session comes to an end.  Some legislators will leave satisfied, others disappointed.  As for me, an intern for the Senate, I will leave with an unforgettable experience that has taught me discipline, procedural politics, professionalism, and most importantly, a profound respect for the work that goes on inside the Utah State Capitol.


For the last 45 days, I have had the unique opportunity to observe the work from the inside.  As an intern, I play a crucial role in ensuring that day-to-day operations run smoothly for my senator.  By no means is my job simple, but it looks like a walk in the park when compared to what legislators do daily.  They dedicate countless hours reviewing and discussing pieces of legislation.  It is their duty to enact sound policy, while satisfying thousands of constituents.  Failing to satisfy these constituents can result in social ridicule and a ruined reputation.  Even with all the constant pressure, many still decide to run for re-election year after year.

Many people are often critical of the Legislature.  I, myself, have been.  A public official’s accountability is crucial.  We often fail to understand and perceive the full story.

If there is one thing I have learned, it is to not be quick to judge.  It is important to be grateful for the responsibility these people hold and to remember that the best interest of the State of Utah is their overall objective.  For now, the legislature will continue to conduct regular business in an upbeat manner as the last-minute legislation is proposed.

On Friday, legislators will catch a break, and Utah will continue to function regularly.

2014 Lunch with the Utah Senate Democrats Contest was a huge success!

Utahns statewide entered the #UtahSenDems 2014 Lunch Contest via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  IMG_9361

We picked nine lucky residents to enjoy a free lunch on Feb. 28 with the fabulous five Utah Senate Democrats.

The winners:

  • Paul Hofman, West Valley City
  • Renate Hoffman Riggs, Midway
  • Ben Pales, West Haven
  • Ed Blake, Salt Lake City
  • Nikki Cunard, Salt Lake City
  • Pamela Portocarrero, Salt Lake City
  • Ben Eddington, Cottonwood Heights
  • Kirsten Park, Salt Lake City
  • Jandy Stelter, Midvale (She couldn’t attend.)

The luncheon started with a quick Utah Senate tour by Senator Jim Dabakis. The group then returned to eat lunch around a table with the senators in the Minority Caucus Room.

Two hot topics were: Getting more democrats elected into office and increasing the number of people voting. They also discussed the Count My Vote initiative and Medicaid expansion.

The winners, all democrats, were glad they got the chance to have an intimate, lively discussion with the senators. They later said via email:

  • “While I usually pay more attention to the national politics, I decided that I should be more involved in what’s going on in my state… I always knew there weren’t many democrats represented in the state legislature, but I wasn’t aware of how drastic it is.” – Ben Eddington
  • “I will always take advantage of the opportunity to spend some “alone time” with the Utah Democrat Senators, they are a great bunch of people who work very hard for us!” – Paul Hofman
  • “It was so nice to visit one-on-one with my senators without the time constraints of formal meetings.” – Kirsten Park

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest.  We appreciate your continuous support.  – The #UtahSenDems


Senate Honors Terry Schow

The Utah State Senate paused briefly today to honor Terry Schow, who recently retired as Director of the Utah Division of Veterans Affairs.  Director Schow served with distinction on behalf of Utah’s veterans.  The Utah Legislature presented Mr. Schow with an Official Citation recognizing his 35 years of service to the State of Utah, to all branches of the United States military, and especially to the veterans of this State.


Tribute to Senator Jones from Utah Policy

Jones 2013Today Utah Policy’s Bob Bernick paid tribute to Senator Patricia Jones, who will be retiring from legislative service at the end of 2014.  Bob Bernick is a long-time Deseret News government reporter and political editor.  He writes fondly of working for decades with Senator Jones as a pollster and lawmaker and her husband Dan Jones as a pollster and University of Utah political science professor.  Together they built the highly respected polling firm of Dan Jones & Associates.

Mr. Bernick compliments Senator Jones on her outstanding professional career and public service.  Read Bob Bernick’s Notebook:  Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes.

Congratulations, Senator Jones.


Senator Mayne and Colleagues Visit Utah High Schools

Mayne 2013At the invitation of Senator Karen Mayne, several legislators, Granite School District officials, and a UEA representative visited Granger and Kearns High Schools today.   The objective of today’s visit was to observe the learning environment in these schools, identify areas for improvement, and work on solutions.

Those in attendance today were Senator Mayne, Senator Gene Davis, Senator Howard Stephenson, Senator Aaron Osmond, Representative Greg Hughes, Granite School District Superintendent Martin Bates, Granite School District Assistant Superintendent Mike Fraser, and UEA representative Kory Holdaway.

Channel 13 and Channel 2 reported details.  Legislators, school officials, and students were interviewed.