Senator Jones is 2008 Athena Award Recipient

Senator Pat JonesSenator Patricia Jones has been named the 2008 Athena and will receive her award November 18, 2008, at the Salt Lake Chamber’s American Express Women & Business Conference. 

The Athena Award, sponsored by Wells Fargo Women’s Financial Services, is a national award presented annually to an active member of the Salt Lake Chamber who demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in business, provides valuable service by devoting time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community, and assists women in reaching their full leadership potential.

Since its inception in 1982, the Athena Award has been presented to women in 500 communities in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Senator Jones is the president and co-owner of Dan Jones & Associates, Inc., Utah’s well-known and respected market research and public opinion firm.  Senator Jones served three terms in the Utah House of Representatives and now serves in the Utah State Senate.  She is currently the Assistant Senate Minority Whip.

Congratulations to Senator Jones…and thank you to Wells Fargo Women’s Financial Services and the Salt Lake Chamber for recognizing her noteworthy professional accomplishments.

Guidance for High School Students

by Senator Patricia Jones
Assistant Senate Minority Whip

Senator Patricia JonesAs Utah’s students reach the high school graduation line, many are asking themselves questions about what school to choose, which degree to pursue and what career path to follow. Sadly, our current system has neither the time nor the tools to supply the answers or the necessary guidance to our students.

I was shocked in a recent legislative committee meeting to hear that on average, there are more than 400 students per guidance counselor in Utah. The problem is even worse in high-growth areas such as South Jordan Middle School where 649 students are assigned to one counselor.

Such impossible ratios leave overloaded counselors with only an average of 10 minutes to spend with a single student in an entire year of high school. That’s simply not enough time to create a relationship or give meaningful guidance.

At the same time, the duties of counselors have become muddied as they are overburdened by undefined tasks and test administration. The bottom line is these counselors don’t have the time to offer tailored goals and plans for students with varying interests.

That leaves counselors dishing out the same university plan for all students, largely ignoring other career paths or vocational training that is much needed in the workforce.

We need to dedicate them to their purpose, which is to help our students become the best they can be and to prepare them to fill the niches that our future marketplace demands.

I’m working on a comprehensive guidance counselor bill for the 2009 Legislative session, but the solution will take more than government action and state money. We all need to start talking to each other about how to give our students better answers and guidance. It’s an effort that will require the cooperation of teachers, parents, students, counselors, government representatives and business leaders.

The problem is these groups don’t know how to help because the structure isn’t set up. Likewise, parents want to help but they’re not sure where the shortages are, and students are just going day to day trying to get good grades. Someone needs to take leadership in this to connect all the pieces together.

Mayor Dennis Webb of Holladay is a visionary in this kind of collaboration. He has set up his own city education committee and encourages city council members and parents to get involved. Perhaps we as a state could take a queue from Mayor Webb’s efforts and create a similar statewide education advisory council to facilitate discussions between schools.

Helping our students make more informed choices also means starting the conversation much earlier than high school. Many parents wait until their children are in 11th grade to start thinking about college. At the final hour, they try to help their children the best they can, only to realize they haven’t saved enough money, their kids haven’t taken the right courses and they have no idea what the market demands are.

More informed curriculum choices as early as elementary school could help students better prepare. If engineering is predicted to be a hot job market in the coming years, a young student could load up on math courses or a customized high school curriculum to ensure he or she has the proper prerequisites for college.

Currently, parents don’t know what kind of jobs will be available for their sons and daughters when they enter the workforce. A systemic approach could get this information to parents, who can then guide their children into classes, schools and jobs that will be viable in the future.

The business community is key to this system-wide approach because they are in the best position to predict future economic needs. They know what skills are needed, which areas of the market are inundated and which ones will be searching for new talent.

As a member of the Salt Lake Chamber Board and a professional focus group moderator, I hear from business leaders all the time about students who have a degree but don’t have the kind of qualifications that companies want. They may be lacking in anything from technical skills to common workplace etiquette.

Business leaders tell me they are excited to help these students get a better grasp on what they can do now to prepare to be a viable member of Utah’s workforce.

If we work as one, we can ensure students are moving into the path that is fulfilling for them, but also meeting our state’s economic demands. Together, we can give our students the answers they need.

“What’s Utah Thinking”

by Senator Patricia Jones
Assistant Senate Minority Whip, Utah State Senate
Co-Owner/Focus Group Moderator, Dan Jones and Associates

Senator Pat Jones Uncertainty about today’s shaky economy and unsure political future has crept into our living rooms – leaving many Utah residents wary of what the future holds for the nation, as well as their families.

Quarterly economic forecasts from Zions Bank show that the list of questions and uncertainties is growing for most Americans; the confidence level across the board is dropping.

As a public opinion researcher and professional focus group moderator, I listen to people for a living. As I meet men and women around the nation and here at home, the questions are the same: How will the recession affect me? How can I afford skyrocketing health care costs? Will my children and grandchildren be able to afford a home? Will my loved ones be safe and secure?

The upcoming generation is also facing their own dilemmas: Will there be jobs for me after graduation? Should I get a degree or learn a skill? Unsure economic forecasts and understaffed school guidance counselors are only leaving our sons and daughters in more of a quandary.

And many Americans are facing literal storms as well. Wild weather across the nation has left many feeling isolated and helpless both physically and emotionally. In the Midwest, many residents are left asking themselves whether it’s more important to go inside to escape a tornado or climb a mountain to escape the flood.

Understandably, a blanket of uncertainty and fear has settled everywhere we turn, and I meet people every day looking for a leader to give them answers. People are losing faith in once trusted institutions like government and business. Unfortunately, today’s heated political environment has both sides pitted against each other in a constant struggle to undermine one another. That’s one more institution that has robbed you and me of our faith, and sadly, left many disengaged from and dissatisfied with the community.

I have dubbed these men and women “Citizens Against Virtually Everything” (C.A.V.E.). Approximately 25 percent of the population belongs to this cynical group who complain about everything rather than contributing.

Some local groups such as the United Way and the Salt Lake Chamber are offering solutions. The real solution starts with the individual. We must again be willing to contribute and invest time in each other and in the community. If you know your neighbors, you’re going to feel more secure and less alone. It’s just that simple.

The cure for our fears is within our own communities, our neighborhoods and our homes. Perhaps it’s time to renew a sense of community that has been lost with families scattered across the globe and neighbors who don’t even know each other’s names.

I have four siblings who live in Florida, Texas, Washington and Hawaii. However, that distance hasn’t deteriorated our family network, but it takes effort to maintain.

Creating a security network to help weather tough times requires us to collectively reach out to neighbors and family we don’t see often enough, and make it a priority to spend time with those physically and emotionally close to us. That’s hard in today’s world when we are all so strapped for time and resources.

When you have strong communities that take care of their children, their parents and their seniors, strong, prosperous societies follow. When those social networks break down, when people have no connection to one another, trouble starts.

More political, economic, and even literal storms will surely come. Take out your umbrella, pull together, and put more faith in us.

Financial Literacy-Skills for a Lifetime

by Senator Patricia Jones
Assistant Senate Minority Whip

Senator Pat JonesThis session, I am sponsoring legislation which, if passed, will greatly broaden Financial Literacy Education in our public schools. It’s practical and smart. It was editorialized recently in the Deseret Morning News.

More than ever before, parents and grandparents believe it is vital to educate our young people to be financially responsible. Just take a look at today’s economy and you will see dire consequences of financial irresponsibility. It is critical for the stability of our families and will give our kids the ability to compete in today’s economic world.

Currently, there is a financial literacy requirement in our high schools, a half-year course in the sophomore or junior year. But it’s too little, and often too late. In addition to the half-year course, my bill integrates practical financial lessons into the math and social studies curricula in grades K-12 in areas such as:

Credit Card Debt: How much does it really cost you to buy on credit?
Investments: How do you choose a wise stock market investment?
Home Ownership: How much can you really afford for your home?
Foreclosure: If it happens, how will it impact your family?
Budgeting: How do you wisely spend your money?
Savings: Why is it important to save for a rainy day?
Retirement: How much money will be needed and for how long?
Gambling: Is it worth the risk?
Payday Loans: Do you understand the exorbitant interest rates?
Bankruptcy: How does it impact your future?

The bill provides funding to teach teachers the concepts and to assess students’ understanding of the concepts. Also proposed is a Financial Literacy Passport, a checklist of financial literacy goals which students can complete in conjunction with their required Financial Literacy half-year course in high school.

An education in financial matters for our children is a wise investment in their future.

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.

Don’t Waste Utah

by Senator Patricia Jones
Senate Minority Caucus Manager

I plan to sponsor legislation this next session to address the problem of litter and debris on Utah’s highways (for the Department of Transportation). Here are the reasons for the legislation.

Senator Pat Jones

See if you can answer the following questions:

1) How many dispatch calls did the Highway Patrol receive last year to handle DEBRIS ON HIGHWAYS? Answer: 6,357 in SALT LAKE COUNTY ALONE!

2) How many reported accidents in Utah were caused by debris on the highway last year? Answer: About 1,000

3) Once litter has been cleaned up, how long does it take to “re-litter” and need cleanup again? Answer: About 6 weeks!

4) How much money has it cost taxpayers SO FAR THIS YEAR to clean up litter on Utah’s highways? Answer: MORE THAN
$2 MILLION! This does not include fixed equipment costs, administrative costs, facility costs, contracts or training.

5) Do you remember the “Don’t Waste Utah” anti-litter campaign? Our young people probably do not. Littering and unsecured loads destroy the beauty of our landscapes, and they cost ALL of us money.

In 2006, UDOT used 99,600 trash bags. Each bag holds 12.2 cubic feet of litter. Our “haul” in FY2006 was 45,000 cubic yards of litter. That’s enough litter to cover a football field 45 feet deep.

Congrats to Senator Jones

Senator Pat Jones

As reported in yesterday’s Tribune, Senator Patricia Jones has been selected to serve on the board of the Utah Winter Games. Executive Director Heidi Hughes says Senator Jones’ background and experience will enhance the Games, it’s WinterFit Program, and the ongoing legacy of Salt Lake City as host of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Senator Jones remarked, “The Utah Winter Games concentrates on healthy family activities. It’s a good fit for me.”

Congratulations to Senator Patricia Jones.

Newest Hall of Famer

Senator Patricia Jones
Newest Inductee
Bonneville Junior High School Hall of Fame

Sen. Jones with Principal Dunning

Last March, Senator Jones and Representative Carol Spackman Moss spoke to 250 eighth graders at Bonneville Junior High about the legislative process. Senator Jones just happens to be an alumnus of Bonneville Junior High. To her surprise, the principal, Mr. Dunning, inducted her into the school’s alumni Hall of Fame.

Congratulations Senator Jones

Senator Jones is the sixth person inducted into the Hall of Fame. She joins other noteworthy alumni including:

Frank Pignanelli, former Utah House Minority Leader, Deseret Morning News columnist, attorney and lobbyist.

Greg Skordas, attorney, former chief deputy attorney for Salt Lake County, and 2004 Democrat candidate for Utah Attorney General.

Richard Paul Evans, author of seven best sellers including The Christmas Box and Timepiece.

Principal, Sen. Jones, Rep. Moss and Student Body Officers

Public Business in Public

by Senator Patricia Jones
Senate Minority Caucus Manager

You can plan on fireworks whenever school closures and boundary changes are
under consideration. For that reason, it is important to make sure patrons are aware when school boards consider these important and volatile issues.

Because several of our communities have experienced potential and real
changes in school population shifts and housing students the past few years,
I sponsored legislation this last session that mandates:

1) Ten days’ notice when school boards consider the annual budget, school
closures, and school boundary changes (the previous policy only required 24
hours);

2) That the school board hold a public hearing for the annual budget, school
closures, and school boundary changes. (Even though hearings were often
held, they were not heretofore required to do so for school
closures/boundary changes).

This new law is intended to build trust between school patrons, taxpayers,
and our great education communities. Apparently, my legislative colleagues
agreed. Thanks to my Democratic and Republican colleagues for your
unanimous support on this bill. I also wanted to thank Bruce Parker, an
involved citizen and professional planner, for his wise input on this
legislation.

A Victory for Our Kids’ Health

by Senator Patricia Jones
Senate Minority Caucus Manager

Senator Pat JonesUtah’s kids scored a big victory this past legislative session with the passage of SB52, Health Regulations for Public Indoor Tanning Beds (P. Jones).

The new law requires IN PERSON parental consent once a year for minors in order to use commercial tanning beds. At that time, the parents will be required to read warnings about the harmful effects of UV rays from tanning beds and to sign for the maximum number of tanning sessions their child can receive that year.

The new law also provides uniformity throughout the state, resulting in more fairness for businesses. Currently, some counties have lenient standards while others are more restrictive.

SB52 gives parents more control and knowledge about how often and where their kids tan. After reading the warnings, some parents may choose not to allow their minors to tan; others will at least be better informed of the dangers.

Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is rising rapidly. Utah is among the top 5 states per capita in deaths due to melanoma. In 1940, the risk of melanoma was 1 in 1,500. By 2010, the risk is expected to be 1 in 50.

Ultraviolet rays generated from tanning beds are 2 to 3 times more intense than laying out in the sun. UV rays in tanning beds penetrate the skin deeper, affecting the skin’s collagen, elastic fibers, and blood vessels, causing premature aging of the skin.

How did your senator and representative vote? Click here for the yeas and nays.