A Quick Wrapup

by Senator Mike Dmitrich, Minority Leader
and Senator Gene Davis, Minority Whip

Yesterday marked the end of a two-day special session called by Governor Huntsman to make budget adjustments to remedy a $354 million revenue shortfall.  The Utah Constitution requires a balanced budget, so it seemed prudent to make adjustments early before the situation got out of hand.   In Utah, we base the budget on projections.  Sometimes they’re off.  Chalk it up to unforeseen economic events.  We worked with the Senate Republicans to accomplish the task of balancing the budget.

All agencies reduced their budgets by 4% with the following exceptions:

Human Services 3%
Health 3%
Corrections 3%
Public Education Held Harmless

For now:

Education is untouched (the governor’s prerequisite for calling the special session).
The $100M fund for education set aside during the 2008 general session remains intact.
The $434M Rainy Day Fund remains intact.
Bonding for transportation projects was unnecessary.

Like all Utahns, we are disappointed about the economic downturn and resultant budget modifications.  We are concerned that economic conditions may worsen before they improve, which would further adversely affect services provided by state government.

We question the wisdom of cutting Medicaid because every $1 reduction in state funds results in a $3 loss of federal funds.  The loss of federal dollars only adds to the downturn as those dollars are put right back into the economy as wages that boost the economy.

We are pleased that education was held harmless in the special session.  In the event that reductions in the education budget become necessary in the upcoming session, we strongly recommend reducing or eliminating the newest eduation programs, particularly those which are in the process of being implemented or which have not yet been implemented.

Goodbye and Welcome

by Senator Mike Dmitrich
Senate Minority Leader

Gay Taylor, General Counsel for the Utah Legislature, is retiring effective the end of May. Last Wednesday afternoon, a reception was held in the Gold Room in honor of Gay’s 25 years of employment with the Utah Legislature. She has always provided superior service to the Senate Democrats. We wish her the very best in her retirement and hope she will have time to pursue her many interests that have undoubtedly taken a second priority to her professional career. Goodbye and good luck!

John Fellows will succeed Gay as General Counsel. John, too, has provided exceptional service to the Senate Democrats in a nonpartisan, professional fashion. In the last year, he has attended our caucuses and offered valuable advice and information as requested by our caucus members. We look forward to working with John in his new capacity as General Counsel. Welcome and good luck!

Goodbye to an Old Friend

by Senator Mike Dmitrich
Senate Minority Leader
District 27

Last month, my old friend, former Representative Gerald Woodmansee passed away at the age of 77. Since I’ve been on the Hill for 40 years, I believe I am the only current legislator who served with Jerry. He was a fellow House Democrat from 1969-1978.

Representative Woodmansee
Representative Gerald Woodmansee
Click here for Jerry’s obituary.

Jerry was a visionary legislator, promoting futuristic ideas long before their time. So visionary were his ideas that he sometimes had a hard time passing his bills. In 1973, he sponsored HB 45 to create the office of Lieutenant Governor. In 1975, he sponsored legislation to allow Court discretion in granting visitation rights to grandparents in divorce cases.

In 1976, he sponsored and passed HB25, Utah Indoor Clean Air Act, which prohibited smoking in public places or public meetings except in designated smoking areas. When designated, existing physical barriers and ventilation systems shall be used to prevent the toxic effects of smoke in adjacent nonsmoking areas.

Several times, Jerry sponsored legislation to provide funding for the purchase of the Devereaux House, and finally in 1978, HB 1, Devereaux House Appropriation, passed. After lobbying his colleagues for several years, he had the support he needed for the purchase. (Believed to be the first mansion constructed in Utah, the Devereaux House was the venue early Utah Territorial leaders used to entertain visiting VIPs. It was built in 1857.)

While serving with Jerry, we often played handball and I could NEVER beat him. Now I know the reason why. In Jerry’s obituary, it states, “…he regularly visited the Deseret Gym where he…gained recognition as a state handball champion.”

Representative Woodmansee was a wonderful friend. I will miss him.

She’s Doing It!

Karen MayneSenator Karen Mayne was featured today in The Salt Lake Tribune in an article entitled, “Karen Mayne tries to carry on for beloved late husband as conscience of the Senate.”

Well, she’s not just “trying.” She’s doing it. Senator Mayne knows the process and cares about her constituents–just like her late husband, Senator Ed Mayne. She hardly needs coaching at all.

She has already surveyed her district and held a standing-room-only town meeting last weekend, attended by over 100 people. Senator Mayne has defined her priorities and is ably filling the shoes of her husband, Senator Ed Mayne.

Equalization of School Capital Funding

by Senator Mike Dmitrich
Senate Minority Leader

Senator Mike DmitrichIn the past general election, east side Salt Lake County voters approved the split of Jordan School District, the largest school district in the state. The district split created capital outlay inequities among school districts, some experiencing increasing enrollment and others decreasing enrollment, resulting in greater or lesser needs for school buildings. Last year, I served on the Equalization Task Force, the objective of which was to design a fair method of equalizing the statewide financial burden of constructing school buildings. Senate Bill 48 emerged from the Task Force, and we support this proposal as a viable plan.

The bill, now SB 48, Second Substitute, “Equalization of School Capital Outlay Funding” (Sen. Dan Eastman), increases by $28.5 million the ongoing funding to the Capital Outlay Foundation Program, which provides state funding to school districts that receive less property tax revenues per pupil due to their smaller property tax base per pupil. The bill also increases the combined capital-related property tax rates a school district must impose to receive full funding from .0024 to .0030 and allows for proportional funding if a district imposes a rate below .0030.

The Passing of President Hinckley

President Hinckley was not only a great spritual leader but was a great leader for the entire nation. His sincerity and compassion toward people are unsurpassed by any of our national leaders.

My family and I offer our sincere condolences to the family of President Hinckley and to all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Senator Mike Dmitrich
Senate Minority Leader

It’s Official

Senator Karen MayneIt’s official. Senator Jon Huntsman, Jr., has appointed Karen Mayne to fill the Senate seat of her late husband Senator Ed Mayne. Her appointment is effective January 1, 2008. President John Valentine will administer the oath January 16, 2008.

Senator Karen Mayne is already hard at work in her Senate district, communicating with constituents and helping them with their needs.

We extend a warm welcome to Karen! We know her. We acknowledge her political experience and her community service. She is the ideal person to continue the endeavors launched by Senator Ed Mayne. She’s off to a great start!

Change in Leadership

The Utah Senate Democrat caucus met today and made changes in the leadership team (necessitated by the recent passing of Senator Ed Mayne). Senator Pat Jones was made Assistant Senate Minority Whip (replacing Senator Ed Mayne) and Senator Brent Goodfellow was elected Senate Minority Caucus Manager (replacing Senator Pat Jones).

We thank Senator Jones and Senator Goodfellow for their willingness to serve on the leadership team in their new capacities, and we look forward to working with them.

End of an Era – The Passing of Senator Ed Mayne

by Senator Mike Dmitrich
Senate Minority Leader

Earlier this year
, we reported that Senator Ed Mayne, Assistant Senate Minority Whip, had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Senator Mayne passed away yesterday morning (Sunday, November 25, 2007) at the age of 62, while serving in his fourth Senate term. We express our sincere condolences to his wife Karen, his children and grandchildren, his parents, and all members of his family.

Senator Ed MayneHis passing marks the end of the Ed Mayne Era in the Utah Legislature. He fought the good fight for Utah communities his entire life, and in the past several months, he has concurrently fought his own personal battle against a formidable opponent–cancer. We are so sorry the disease has prevailed.

It has been a privilege and honor to serve with Senator Ed Mayne, advocate of working families in both his profession and his public service. He led and inspired all who knew him. Ed was passionate and compassionate, a loyal friend, and a fierce contender, right to the very end. The void created by his passing will never be filled.

“Ed was a champion,” Senator Gene Davis, Senate Minority Whip, remarked. “When Ed spoke, he spoke for and to the working men and women of Utah. He stood up for families be it a working wage, health care, education, or seniors. Senator Mayne championed the common person.”

2002 Olympic Torch Carrier Sen. Ed MayneSenator Ed Mayne’s legacy dictates that we, the Utah Senate Democrats, attempt to continue to carry Ed’s Olympic Torch on behalf of the men, women, and children who reside in the great state of Utah.

Thank you, Paul Rolly, for your endearing tribute to Senator Mayne. Click here to read the article. Click here and then click on the link “View a collection of photos here” to view an outstanding slide show/photo album of Senator Mayne assembled by his son Paul.

The Message of Referendum 1

by Senator Mike Dmitrich
Senate Minority Leader

Sen. Dmitrich at News ConferenceFor the past few days since last Tuesday’s election, I have reflected on the results of Referendum 1 and the voluminous follow-up commentary.
Even though 62 percent of voters in Utah rejected school vouchers, 38 percent of Utah voters were in favor of school vouchers, believing they offered a win-win option for parental choice and public school funding. The message of the voucher vote is clear. The high voter turnout, coupled with both the YES votes and the NO votes, indicates that Utah’s citizens are cognizant of the challenges facing public education and want something done about it.

Although I do not support using public funds to subsidize private schools, I do support using public funds to meet every child’s needs through our public education system, which is the option chosen by the overwhelming majority of Utah’s students. I believe the Utah Legislature should listen to the public and, together with teachers, parents, students, and taxpayers, fortify our public education system so it will appropriately meet the needs of all students. In my opinion, the preferred outcome of the voucher election is a superior public school system, and I hope the players in education will take advantage of this opportunity to secure the lifeline of our public schools.

At the end of the day, parents still have the choice of two education systems in Utah, public and private, and both are excellent options.