It’s a Celebration

Governor Huntsman signed SB 73, Unincorporated Areas Amendments (The Township Bill), and SB 15, Workers’ Compensation Premium Assessment and Related Funding, in ceremonial fashion surrounded by many contributors who helped make the ideas become law.  (April 8, 2009)

 Senator Mayne Speaks
Governor Huntsman and Senator Mayne

  Signing SB 73
Governor Huntsman signs SB 73

 SB 73 Attendees
Representative Poulson, Lucille Workman (Senator Jones’ mother), Senator Patricia Jones, Frank Pignanelli, Mayor Peter Corroon, Nichole Dunn and Paul Rogers

  Signing SB 15
Governor Huntsman signs SB 15

Senator Mayne and Friends
Royce Moser, MD; Don Marano, President, IHI Enviromental; Kurt Hegman, MD., Director, Rocky Mountain Occupational and Health Center and Senator Mayne

 

 

What Makes an Effective Legislator?

by Senator Patricia Jones
Senate Minority Leader

Senator Pat JonesWhat makes an effective legislator?  According to the Deseret News (“GOP Powered Utah’s 2009 Session” 3/23/09), success is measured by the number of bills passed during the legislative session.  But is that the best yardstick?

Judging the effectiveness of a lawmaker by the number of bills he or she passes is like measuring the competence of a parent by the number of children they bring into the world.  Besides, I have never had anyone call and beg for more laws.  To the contrary, I receive many calls pleading with me to help derail harmful legislation.

This is not sour grapes.  I served six years in the Utah House and just completed my third year in the Utah Senate.  During my tenure, I have passed numerous bills dealing with critical issues related to health, senior citizens, public education, financial literacy, and renewable energy.  So have my Democratic colleagues.

Utah’s Democrats play a critical role in our legislature, often without fanfare or credit.  Utah’s Democrats contribute new ideas.  Case in point: the much-heralded liquor reform legislation was possible in part by Sen. Scott McCoy’s idea to eliminate “liquor stickers,” saving the state $1 million a year.  Sen. McCoy graciously offered his idea to the Republican sponsors of the legislation in order to assist the passage of the reform package.

The merit of legislative bills varies widely.  A legislator may sponsor and get credit for a bill that simply changes the word, “a” to “an.”  Or, the lawmaker may sponsor a bill to sunset outdated provisions in Utah law.  Simple.  Many of the simple bills are handed off to newly-elected Republicans, knowing the legislation will sail through.  Regardless of political party, lumping simple bills with bills that are thoroughly vetted over a series of months is misleading.

Utah’s Democrats on Capitol Hill are the voice of reason for mainstream Utahns.  The fiscally-responsible 2009 Democratic budget called for an increase in the tobacco tax, strongly supported by the public, but rejected by the majority.  Utah Democrats have pushed for genuine ethics reform over the years.  Utah Democrats have rallied for senior citizens, for environmental issues, advocated for people with disabilities and others who are vulnerable, carried the flag for public and higher education year after year….and have offered up substantial and important pieces of legislation.  Now that is a more accurate yardstick.

Perfect Timing

by Senator Gene Davis
Senate District 3

Senator Gene DavisHalf way through Utah’s 2009 general legislative session, the United States Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), providing a much-needed influx of cash into Utah’s 2009 and 2010 state budgets.  Commonly known as President Obama’s economic stimulus package, it significantly softened the impact of Utah’s declining state revenue.  Both Senate Democrats and House Democrats favored accepting and using the federal stimulus money and urged their colleagues to support the assistance from the Obama White House.  Budgets of virtually every department in state government were bolstered by stimulus money.   Click here for details from the Legislative Fiscal Analyst.

This year and through 2011, Utah will receive $1.7 billion from ARRA, which will be distributed to targeted departments for specific purposes.  For example:

Federal money reduced the cuts in public education for 2010 from 17% to only 5.2%; higher education from 17.5% to 9%.

The Department of Workforce Services received $19 million for child care funding, $78 million in food stamp funding, and $9 million for temporary assistance for needy families.

The Department of Transportation received $149 million and will use the funds for about 30 highway projects throughout the state.

The Department of Health received $68 million in 2009 and $94 million in 2010 for a temporary increase in the match rate for Medicaid services.

The Department of Human Services received funds for various agencies in the department.

The Department of Economic Development and Revenue received $39 million for weatherization of homes for adding insulation, sealing leaks, and modernizing heating and air conditioning equipment; a Community Service Block Grant of $5 million; Homeless Prevention monies of $5.6 million; and $33 million for USTAR to recruit science and technology researchers.

The Legislature passed Senate Bill 260 (second substitute) to create the Housing Relief Restricted Special Revenue Fund using ARRA funds to provide a $6,000 grant for any person who purchases a newly constructed, never-occupied residence in Utah.

From the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, Utah will receive $16.2 million for a variety of efforts such as hiring and support for law enforcement officers; drug and gang task forces; crime prevention, courts, corrections, treatment; and justice information sharing initiatives.

AND THE LIST GOES ON AND ON…..

Monies from the stimulus package will preserve jobs and create many new jobs in Utah as the federal government focuses on building and re-building infrastructure.  There are numerous transportation, water, and sewer projects, all of which require manpower.

Accountability is paramount.  President Obama expects the state to be a responsible steward of the federal stimulus funds.  Visit www.recovery.utah.gov for information about Utah’s stimulus money.

Legislative Wrap-up with Senator Robles

Senator Luz Robles

The office of Senator Luz Robles

Invites you to

A Legislative Wrap-up

A hands-on community forum for understanding
the issues facing the 2009 state legislature!

Sorenson Unity Center
1383 South 900 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84104
Monday, March 23, 2009
6:30 pm-9:00 pm

In a continuing effort to keep citizens of the State of Utah informed about their government, we are planning a Legislative Wrap-up to discuss the current legislative session.  All are welcome to attend this event for free.

Democratic Leadership from both the House and the Senate have been invited, so please come with questions.  This is a unique opportunity to meet with all of the Democratic leadership in one place.  Come learn what the issues are, ask your questions, and enjoy some free food.  Bring friends, family, and anyone in your community who wants to learn more about their government.

Thanks to The Magnificent Seven

THANKS FROM THE SENATE DEMOCRATS

The Magnificent Seven
Front Row:  Emily Bennett, Drew Martinez, Michelle Taylor, Matt Beckstead
Back Row:  Jessie France, Reid Luzzader, Scott Sizemore

On the final day of the 2009 Legislative Session, we want to sincerely thank our seven magnificent interns from the University of Utah who have spent the past seven weeks serving the Senate Democrats in the Utah State Senate.  We appreciate the outstanding work of our interns.  It would be impossible to accomplish our legislative tasks without them!

Michelle Taylor is Senator Jones’ intern.
Scott Sizemore is Senator Romero’s intern.
Jessie France is Senator Mayne’s intern.
Drew Martinez is Senator Robles’ intern.
Reid Luzzader is Senator Davis’ intern.
Emily Bennett is Senator Morgan and Senator Goodfellow’s intern.
Matt Beckstead is Senator McCoy’s intern.

Senate Ruler

This legislative session, President Waddoups gave rulers to each Senator displaying the words “Utah State Senate” to hand out to those who have gone beyond the ordinary and have “measured up.”  Well, in President Waddoups’ estimation, our interns have “measured up,” and he gave a signed ruler to each one at noon today.

Measuring Up
President Waddoups with our Interns

SB 73 – “The Best Bill in the Universe”

Senator Karen Mayneby Jessie France
Senator Karen Mayne’s Intern

Electricity was in the air at 10:00 AM today as representatives from Utah’s numerous cities, counties and townships as well as the Utah League of Cities and Towns, The Association of Community Councils Together, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Utah Association of Special Districts, Rio Tinto, and members of the general public all converged on the Senate floor and gallery.  They came to show their support for Senator Karen Mayne’s S.B. 73 – Unincorporated Areas Amendments.  The bill gives citizens of townships a higher degree of self-determination, allowing them to either join a city, or resist being annexed into a city, depending on the will of the people.  Senator Mayne worked to formulate a compromise amongst individuals from the cities, counties, and townships for months, until finally reaching an agreement with everyone this week.

S.B. 73 passed the Senate unanimously with 19 co-sponsors.  The other senators spoke about how this would help benefit their own constituents, and complimented Senator Mayne on bringing everyone together.  As Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones exclaimed, “This has been a very arduous process.  I have to tell you this is a huge issue in the Millcreek area that I represent…I really appreciate what Senator Mayne has done on this.  She has worked tirelessly.”

S.B. 73 not only received praise from Democrats, but also reached across party lines.  Senator Niederhauser stated, “I also applaud those who have worked on this.  In my senate district, I probably have more county islands than any other senate district in the Salt Lake Valley – one of which is near and dear to me, the Granite area.  So I appreciate what Senator Mayne has done and all of those that have worked on this.”

Senator Mayne also complimented all of those who came together: “I would just like to thank all of the people that are involved with this. It has taken skill, it has taken patience, and it has taken love to make this happen.  All of these people from all over the valley have come together for this common purpose.”

After the senators voted on the bill, Senate President Michael Waddoups stated, “First substitute Senate bill 73 having received twenty-six yea votes, zero nay votes, and three being absent passes this body under suspension of the rules and is the best bill in the Universe.”  S.B. 73 will now move to the House where Representative Greg Hughes will be the floor sponsor.

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Senate/House Democrat 2010 Budget Proposal

At noon today, the Senate and House Democrats in the Utah State Senate held a press conference to outline their 2010 budget proposal.  Priorities are:

1.  Protect vital services in priority areas–Public Education, Higher Education, Health and Human Services, and Public Safety.

2.  Make equitable cuts where necessary and possible.

3.  Find new revenue sources.

4.  Utilize federal stimulus dollars.

Senate Minority Leader Patricia Jones and House Minority Leader David Litvack led the discussion outlining their proposal.  Their comments and the entire budget proposal are available on the House Democrats’ website.  Click here to read their remarks and view the budget proposal.

Press Conference 3-5-09
Senate Minority Leader Jones and House Minority Leader Litvack (center)
surrounded by Democrat Senators and Representatives

Gang Legislation

Senator Luz Roblesby Senator Luz Robles
Minority Caucus Manager

One of the major issues facing not only my district but also the entire state is an increase in gang activity.  Gangs are not localized only in Salt Lake City or Ogden, but have spread all through the state and are hurting our children and our communities.  One only needs to read the newspaper or watch the news to see the effects of these gangs.

I have participated on the committees that Mayor Becker and Governor Huntsman have put together to address this issue.  I have introduced a resolution that addresses a comprehensive approach to gang-related activities.  The resolution acknowledges that we need to address prevention, intervention and suppression in solving this complicated issue.  Due to the funding shortfall, I believe this is a good start.

This legislative session had several bills that focus only on suppression, and as much as we need those, we need to focus on the other two aspects of the issue.  My bill, S.B.74–At-Risk Student Provisions, addresses early prevention through identification by educators.  Teachers spend eight hours a day with these students and often times could be the best identifiers of potential gang activity.  This bill requires a local school board or governing board of a charter school to enact certain gang prevention and intervention policies.  This will include keeping teachers up-to-date with information to help identify gang activity, give them tools to deal with gang activity, and help the schools to suspend extra-curricular activities while the student is in a known gang.  This last part of the bill has proven extremely successful on the west side of Salt Lake City already with the S.A.L.T. Program, run by Kaisa Kinikini.  I believe this will also be successful in our state, coupled with my second bill dealing with gang reduction, S.J.R. 21.

S.J.R. 21—Joint Resolution on Combating and Reducing Gang Activity—urges state and local governments to take a comprehensive, collaborative, and communitywide approach to combat and reduce gang activity.  I strongly believe just one or two groups will not solve the gang problem; it is going to take a collaborative effort on the part of all involved parties to make a difference.  This resolution allows for this type of collaborative effort, focusing particularly on the most effective practices.  By focusing on the practices that work, we can become more and more effective at reducing gang activity in our communities.

I encourage all of you reading this to contact your legislators and tell them you support these bills, because you are tired of the gang activity in this state.  Together we can call the right attention to the problems and fix this in a comprehensive manner.

As a side note, I would also like to share with you the bill tracking service on the Legislature’s webpage (http://www.le.utah.gov/asp/billtrack/track.asp). This service will allow you to track as many bills as you would like, and will even send you e-mails when the bill is on the move.  It is a valuable resource you can use to become more involved, and we all know how important that is.

Senator Robles meets with Constituents

Senator Luz Roblesby Senator Luz Robles
Minority Caucus Manager
District One

Last Tuesday night I held my first of many Town Hall meetings to come.  These meetings are set up as a hands-on community forum for understanding the issues facing the 2009 State Legislature.  In a continuing effort to keep citizens of Senate District One informed first about their government, I extended invitations to all of the elected official in the district to give a more complete analysis of the issues.  House Minority Leader David Litvack (House District 26), Representative Jennifer Seelig (House District 23), Chief of Staff for Mayor Becker, Ben McAdams, and I all came together to talk on all topics ranging from the budget, health care reform, education and the implementation of SB 81. I want to thank these leaders for attending and taking time from their very busy schedules.  The Salt Lake City Councilmen Christensen and Turner were excused due to a city council meeting at the same time.

We had a great turnout despite the weather, and the questions were tough.  The people have a hunger for information, and we are here to give it to them.

Judi Hilman, Executive Director of Utah Health Policy Project, was also on hand to teach our constituents more effective ways to talk to their legislators, and she discussed issues related to Health Care System Reform.  Several of the key points she brought up were dead on!  I want to share a few with you.

When you are contacting your legislators, keep it short and sweet if you are writing a letter, and remember a lot of times, facts and figures go in one ear and out the other.  Use a short story to make your point stick.  If you are going to address the leadership, you technically have the right to say you are a constituent of theirs (your legislator voted for them, and you voted for your legislator). This is important because legislators always take issues from their constituents more attentively than others.

The final point that I would like to share with you is a statement made by Ben McAdams last night.  He said, “Five phone calls is a revolution.” I can’t tell you how true that is! If, as legislators, we receive multiple phone calls, letters, or messages on a particular issue, it is serious.  So if there is an important issue to the community, make sure to have your neighbors call or write a letter.  This will get way more attention than with only a single individual.

The Utah Health Policy Project has put together a great resource for advocacy.  It is called the “UHPP Advocacy Tool Kit” and can be found on their website.  There is a great spread sheet there with all of the legislators, what committees they are on, and a lot of tips on how to have an effective meeting with your legislators.  This is an amazing wealth of resources that I encourage all of you to try out.  This is your government and your Capitol.  Never be afraid to contact any of your legislators.  We are here for you!

I know that a lot of people could not make it to this Town Hall meeting.  I hope that by having more in the future all around my district, I will have the chance to hear the concerns of all of my constituents.  If you would like to be added directly to our e-mail
list, please send an e-mail to my staff at Andrew.Gilbert13@gmail.com.  I look forward to continuing to serve my district and all of the State of Utah.

Elected Officials
From left:  Rep. David Litvack, Senator Luz Robles, Ben McAdams
and Rep. Jen Seelig

Attentive Listeners

 

 Questions Asked

 

At the Microphone

 

Talking with Constituents

 

More about Teacher Licensing…

Brent GoodfellowAfter a lengthy discussion on the Senate floor yesterday, S.B. 48, Teacher Licensing by Competency Amendments sponsored by Senator Chris Buttars, passed it’s second reading with a vote of 17-11. This bill will allow individuals with a bachelor’s degree to obtain a license to teach after passing competency tests and/or demonstrating skills in the areas they wish to teach.

Senator Goodfellow was concerned about how this bill would affect elementary education, especially reading. “Teaching reading is not something you just pick up,” he said.  “You need to learn the pedagogy, the teaching methods.” (Click here for The Salt Lake Tribune article in this morning’s paper or here for today’s article in the Provo Daily Herald.)

To address his concerns, Senator Goodfellow introduced an amendment today that would exclude the elementary grades from the bill.  Both the amendment and the bill passed today, and the amended bill will now move to the House for consideration.  To read the amended bill, click here or listen to the floor debate by clicking here (select Day 19).

Senator Goodfellow fully supports the current educational requirements teachers are required to take for certification.  He also believes we need to send a strong message of support to all of our teachers.  They are doing an outstanding job, and we thank them for teaching our precious children.