What we learned….

Chatting about Trains
Justin Jones, Manager of Government Relations at UTA and Representative Jay Seegmiller, Amtrak conductor, talking trains.

The Utah Senate and House Democrats traveled by UTA (Utah Transit Authority) bus visiting various businesses and organizations in the Salt Lake County area in an effort to understand more fully the issues confronting Utah’s businesses and industries.   This is the first bus tour of 2009, and after the legislative session, the Democrats will continue their visits in other locales in Utah.

The bus tour began with a trip north to Farmington where we boarded the FrontRunner commuter train and returned to Salt Lake Central Station where Trax and FrontRunner converge for passengers transferring to and from one mode of public transportation to another.

Accompanying the senators and representatives were John Inglish, General Manager of UTA, Justin Jones, Manager of Government Relations, and Ralph Jackson, Deputy Chief of Major Program Development.  UTA serves 6 counties, reaches approximately 2 million people, spans 130 miles by 20 miles, employs 2,000 people, and carries 38 million passengers per year.  Along with UTA’s many successful transportation projects already in operation, there are numerous additional light rail and commuter rail projects in the works.

Electronic Fare Collection was introduced at the first of this month by UTA.  Just tap your electronic card to a reader located at any door of a bus or on a train platform.  Tap on. Tap off.  Tap your annual pass or contactless credit/debit card on the reader when you board and tap it again when you get off.

The train ride was S-M-O-O-O-T-H and comfortable.  If you’ve been a FrontRunner passenger, you’ll know what we’re talking about!  How about boarding FrontRunner, riding north, dining at a restaurant close to the station, and then returning home—a great idea for an enjoyable weekend experience.

FrontRunner Arrives at Station
FrontRunner arrives at the Station

Riding FrontRunner
John Inglish, General Manager of UTA, at right

Seating on FrontRunner
Senator McCoy, Bill Barnes, Government Relations Director, Primary Children’s
Medical Center, Senator Romero and Senator Robles

FrontRunner
Ralph Jackson, Deputy Chief of Major Program Development, UTA, with
Senator Mayne, Senator Morgan, Representative Poulson and Representative Beck

Next stop on the tour was the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.  Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Chamber (and former state senator and senate president), and his staff gave us an overview of the exciting City Creek Center, a walkable urban community of residences, offices, and retail stores on approximately 20 acres across three blocks in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City.  The project completion date is 2012.

It’s difficult to adequately describe this magnificent project, so check out the details of the City Creek Center at www.downtownrising.com.  Take the virtual tour, and don’t miss the retractable roof, which will shelter the crowd from precipitation.

Lane Beattie at Chamber
Lane Beattie, President and CEO of the Chamber, Speaks to the Legislators

We thank the Chamber for sharing this information.  And we thank the LDS Church for developing and building this splendid project in our capital city.  Every Utahn should be proud!

Then tour guides from the Chamber took us to a number of locations under development in Salt Lake City.   According to our Chamber tour guide, top priorities for the Chamber for moving forward as a thriving metropolis include (1) liquor laws conducive to economic development, (2) development of a super-size hotel (1,000 rooms) near the Salt Palace so the city can compete for convention business, and (3) a cultural district.

Last stop on the tour was a visit to the new Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.  The new CEO of Intermountain Healthcare, Dr. Charles Sorenson, made a presentation to the legislators in the Jon and Karen Huntsman Cancer Center.

Presentation at Medical Center
Dr. Charles Sorenson Addressing the Group

Dr. Charles Sorenson, CEO of Intermountain Healthcare
Dr. Charles Sorenson and Senator Luz Robles

Intermountain Healthcare is committed to three guiding principles:

1.    Implementing clinical Best Practices (which reduce medical costs).
2.    Providing high quality health care at the lowest possible cost.
3.     Providing the best care possible regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.

Intermountain Healthcare’s innovative electronic medical records system provides system-wide integration of patient histories and facilitates its ability to provide high quality health care.  Its records system is respected in Utah and outside of Utah.

Interestingly, Dr. Sorenson recommended that the Legislature not cut Medicaid (due to the loss of the federal $3 match and the resultant cost shift to businesses) and recommended keeping deductibles at reasonable levels (higher deductibles encourage people to neglect preventive care and to postpone needed care until it advances to more serious problems that are more expensive to treat).  For years Democrats have questioned the wisdom in cutting Medicaid.

Exiting Intermountain Medical Center
Senator Karen Mayne and Alan Dayton, Director of Government Relations for Intermountain Healthcare, exiting the Jon and Karen Huntsman Cancer Center

We express our appreciation to our wonderful hosts on the tour, and our thanks, as well, to the Judiciary for lunch and the information they presented to us.

Then it’s back to the Capitol….and they’re still talking trains.

More Talk about Trains

Immigration

by Senator Ross Romero
District 7

Sen. Ross RomeroUtah’s economy is currently one of the most robust in the United States. Utah has been blessed with many new jobs and opportunities. Utah has a 3.2% unemployment rate, which is one of the lowest in the nation. Any willing and able-bodied person who wants to have a job should have a job in this environment.

Some in this State want to address the immigration issues facing our nation through state action or legislation. While we agree something must be done to address the immigration issues affecting our nation, we believe this is an issue best addressed at the federal level. Many laws enacted by other neighboring states have had an adverse economic effect on their states’ economies. This has not changed the state of immigration in the United States but has negatively impacted the states which have adopted this patchwork approach.

Utah was founded by early pioneers looking for a better opportunity for themselves and their families. Nothing is more American or natural than sacrificing for one’s children and family and working hard for it. We cannot overlook those who are out of compliance with our laws as we address this important issue; however, we must also recognize the human impact of our decisions.

I am pleased by our community’s religious leaders recently reminding us that our decisions affect people. Our decisions will have a direct effect on some and an indirect effect on all. I am encouraged our Presidential candidates are talking about immigration and possible solutions. Taking the time necessary to study the proposals through an interim study may be the best action. This will give us time to hear from our new administration and President.

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!

Distinguished Alumni

Patrice ArentFormer Senator Patrice Arent and current Senator Ross Romero (both Democrats) are featured in the “Alumni Spotlight” of the Hinckley Institute of Politics Newsletter (p. 18). The newsletter is published annually, and the Senator Romerorecent edition takes “A Look Back at 2006,” when Patrice Arent was still a senator and Senator Romero was still a representative. Click here to read the “Alumni Spotlight” page in the newsletter or just click here and scroll down to read the profiles of former Senator Arent and current Senator Romero. We’re PROUD of our distinguished caucus members, past and present.

DEJA VU

In last Monday’s Tribune, a pamphlet was tucked away in the folds of the newspaper entitled “The Real Salt Lake Stadium.” Here is an excerpt from page 2:

Who supported HB38?

“The new law received broad bi-partisan support from both Democrats and
Republicans, with support from Senate President John Valentine, House
Speaker Greg Curtis, Majority Leader Dave Clark, and Minority Leader
Ralph Becker.”

Noticeably absent from the list of bi-partisan supporters in the pamphlet (and on the ReAL website) is Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich.

Deja vu???

Scarfless & JerseylessAfter the passage of HB38, a pompous news conference was held outside the State Capitol, attended by key players who put the deal together (political players–not soccer players, though they were in attendance, also).

To his credit, Governor Huntsman acknowledged the bi-partisan effort and invited the State’s minority leadership to attend the news conference. Senator Dmitrich even took a turn at the dais.

ReAL owner Dave Checketts and his entourage then presented ReAL scarves and jerseys (with their names on them) to Republican legislators and left the Democrats scarfless and jerseyless.

The issue is not a scarf or a jersey. The issue is that Mr. Checketts failed to acknowledge the vital role of BOTH parties in passing HB38, which appropriated funds for the stadium.

Six Senate Democrats deserve thanks for their aye votes, which were ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for the stadium ReALity.


Grand Old Elected Official & Sports Official

Sen. Dmitrich at News ConferenceDon’t miss today’s Utah Policy Daily featuring a profile of Utah Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich. He was elected in 1968 to the Utah Legislature at the age of 31 and has served continuously since then, making him Utah’s longest-serving legislator. It is a colorful characterization written by Greg Jarrard entitled “Mike Dmitrich: Grand Old Man of the Legislature,” and also highlights his professional career and his career as a high school basketball and football referee. He and his wife Bo live in Price USA (as he affectionally calls his home) and have three children and three grandchildren.