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.

Second in the Country in 2008

Slated to “kick off” the third week of every September and run throughout the school year, America’s Legislators Back to School Program gives elected officials in all 50 states the opportunity to meet personally with their young constituents and to answer questions, share ideas, listen to concerns and impart a greater understanding of the legislative processes necessary for developing effective public policy and engaged citizens.

UTAH IS SECOND IN THE COUNTRY WITH 88% OF LEGISLATORS VISITING SCHOOLS IN THEIR DISTRICTS DURING THE 2007-2008 SCHOOL YEAR. Massachusetts is first with 92%, California is third with 77%, Virginia is fourth with 64%, and Nebraska is fifth with 57%.

Congratulations to our 104 legislators and to Shelley Day in the Office of Legislative Research & General Counsel who coordinates the program for the Utah Legislature.

Sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the program is designed to teach young people–the nation’s future voters and leaders–what it’s like to be a state legislator: the processes, the pressures, and the debate, negotiation and compromise that are the very fabric of representative democracy. The program is emphasized as a bipartisan event. Legislators of both political parties are urged to participate in this national event and help bring civics to life for young people.

Of Gay Marriage and Vouchers

by Senator Scott McCoy
District Two

Senator Scott McCoyAs I read Rep. Urquhart’s response to my blog post on gay marriage in California, it became clear to me that he really has not read it very closely. Rather, he tries to scare Utahns for political gain.

Here is what he asserts: “Scott and Democrats are working to force Utahns to recognize gay marriage.”

What? I, nor any elected Democrat in the state of Utah, has ever tried to “force” Utahns to accept or recognize gay marriage.

In fact, in my blog, I specifically say that I won’t try, and I caution other gay and lesbian Utahns not to try to “force” gay marriage on Utah through lawsuits. I suggested rather than ram gay marriage down Utahns’ throats, we should understand Utah law and we should lead by example and live honestly. That’s not forcing anything on anyone.

This demonstrates a big difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. Democrats don’t try and force their values on other people. Republicans with a super majority do. Rep. Urquhart raises the classic example: vouchers. He and his colleagues forced vouchers and their values on the Utah public even though Utahns overwhelmingly opposed and ultimately rejected vouchers and the anti-public education values that underlie them.

So who really is forcing things on whom?

Gay Marriages Commence in California

by Senator Scott McCoy
District Two

Senator Scott McCoyAs of 6:01 p.m. MST yesterday, same-sex couples in California began marrying, legally, for the first time. WOO! HOO!

So what does this mean for same-sex couples in Utah? Well, when we strip away all the political rhetoric and demagoguery, really not much in the short term. Yes, some couples, including my partner Mark and I, may in the next few months head off to California to be legally married. If and when we do, we will be husband and husband under the law and in the eyes of the community in California. Of course, when we return home, opponents of marriage equality here in Utah will be quick to remind us that our marriage is only worth the paper upon which our marriage license is printed. And they will be right; for now.

We won’t sue, and frankly neither should any other Utah couple. Utah courts are not likely to lead out on marriage equality for Utah. (Nor arguably should they.) Those first legal recognition battles will be fought elsewhere in more favorable venues. But that does not mean we will sit idly by here in Utah. What we will do here in Utah is live openly and honestly as spouses. Married spouses. Yes, we will lead and convince by example. Even if the law will not formally recognize our unions, they will still be unions of the same intrinsic value as all of our opposite-sex married friends and neighbors. Our marriages will not reduce the value of all of the existing marriages in Utah. Nor will straight couples who marry in Utah after we marry in California reduce the value of our marriages. After all, this isn’t a zero-sum game with only a limited supply of marriage goodness to go around. We will love each other, care for each other, and sustain each other. I will call Mark my husband because that is precisely what he will be. He will do the same for me. At our workplaces, in our communities, in social settings, at the Legislature, in church, at the PTA meetings, at soccer practice, and at the grocery store, we will all live our lives here in Utah as married spouses. Our fellow Utahns will see that we are just like them and our marriages, when it really comes down to it, are just like theirs. Familiarity will breed acceptance.

What we will do is make change, not through lawsuits, but by being ourselves and living our lives genuinely, just as we have been doing, only now as spouses. It may take time, but we’ll get to marriage equality in Utah. I have no doubt because of two things I know to be true: No. 1, Equal is right; and No. 2, Utahns are good and fair people who understand No. 1.

A Deserving Father of the Year

Senator Ross Romeroby Senator Ross Romero
District 7

Senators Karen and Ed MayneTonight the American Diabetes Association, through its Utah Chapter, will recognize and honor Senator Ed Mayne as a 2008 Father of the Year. While I did not know Senator Mayne as well as many (having served only 2 years with him in the Senate), I was deeply touched by his family’s openness and love which was evident during the funeral services. It was during these services I came to learn more about Senator Mayne, the husband and father. My respect and admiration for Senator Mayne, the father, grew as I heard from his children during the services as I saw how much they cared for him as a father and how well he had helped guide them to where they are. Similarly, having had the opportunity to serve with Senator Karen Mayne, I have come to see and hear in her the strength and support laid by the foundation and service of the late Senator Mayne. It is therefore truly befitting that the American Diabetes Association is recognizing Senator Mayne as a Father of the Year.

As we approach Father’s Day in a little over a week, it is my hope that we will not only honor our fathers but encourage their good health and exercise. The American Diabetes Association’s website www.diabetes.org offers a lot of important information about diabetes prevention and nutritional recommendations. Some of the recommendations include eating fish 2-3 times a week, drinking water and diet drinks, moderating portion sizes, taking the stairs and not the elevator, taking brisk walks, and reading food labels so you can measure what you are eating. Encouraging our father’s to think about their health through exercise and good health may be the best gift you can give and one that will ultimately be more appreciated than the tie that is returned because it was not the “correct size.”

Again, congratulations to the Mayne family for Ed’s recognition, and thank you for supporting him as he served to benefit all of Utah’s families. I would also like to thank the American Diabetes Association not only for its excellent award selection but for reminding us about the importance of good health.

Rosie’s $30,000 Reward

by Senator Ross Romero
District 7

Senator Ross RomeroIt began at a fund raiser for the Utah Minority Bar Association (UMBA). I purchased a billboard donated by Reagan Outdoor Advertising as a contribution for UMBA scholarships. I intended to use the billboard for something such as acknowledging my wife’s birthday (which happens to be July 24th–so the whole state already throws her a party) or perhaps our 11th wedding anniversary, but something else came up.

A few months ago, I received a call from Frank Cordova, director of the Utah Coalition of La Rasa, asking if I could help publicize a $30,000 reward being offered for information leading to the arrest of the person who killed Rosie Tapia. In 1995, Rosie was 6 years old. She was taken from her bedroom window and sexually assaulted. The next morning, her body was found in the Jordan River. Thirteen years later, the crime is still unsolved. For more information about Rosie’s disappearance and efforts to find her, click on these links:

City Weekly; ABC4 News; KSL News

Meadow Gold Dairy, the Salt Lake City Policy Department, and the FBI recently held a news conference and announced the $30,000 reward to find Rosie’s murderer. I was inspired by their generosity and called Reagan Outdoor Advertising and talked with Dewey Reagan about redeeming my billboard certificate. I also asked if Reagan would consider donating an extra month of sign time to highlight the effort of finding Rosie’s killer. Reagan agreed and also secured Vision International to donate the sign printing. You will now see the sign located at approximately 2100 South and 1200 West. It is on the right side of the SR 201 heading west. (Click here to see a copy of the billboard).

I hope this blog post will help spread the word about the reward money being offered to find Rosie’s killer so the Tapia family can finally have some closure.

Please spread the word about the reward. Call 801-799-INFO if you have any information.

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.

Thanks for Keeping Us Safe

by
Senator Ross Romero
Senator Gene Davis
Senator Fred Fife

Last Saturday, March 29, Senators Romero, Fife, and Davis enrolled in Fire Ops 101, a genuine firefighter’s training experience for elected officials sponsored by the Salt Lake City Fire Department and the International Association of Firefighters. Fire Ops 101 was an example of the training that firefighters go through to prepare themselves for their strenuous and demanding profession.

Each senator donned a firefighting uniform, complete with gear, helmet, and boots and participated in hands on emergency situations. They climbed ladders carrying hoses and put out real fires in buildings, extinguished real car fires, extricated trapped victims in cars, and entered smoke-filled rooms wearing breathing equipment.

Fire Ops 101 Senator Romero
Senator Romero using cutting tools.

 

 

fire-ops-101.jpg

fire-ops-1012.jpg

fire-ops-1013.jpg

fire-ops-1014.jpg

“It’s truly admirable to understand what firefighters have to do and the pressures they’re under and the effort they take to make sure we’re safe,” said Senator Ross Romero.

Senator Fred Fife said, “The stress from constant readiness on the job to meet the dangers of every call is a burden every firefighter must bear. That was demonstrated in the exercises. We learned that the work of firefighters requires teamwork and comradery. They displayed that for us. I learned much from Fire Ops 101, and it was a great experience for me.”

You can read reports and watch video of Fire Ops 101 at ksl.com, abc4.com, kutv.com, and The Salt Lake Tribune.

We express our sincere appreciation to our city’s firefighters for their commitment and bravery in performing the duties of their jobs.