Thank You

After a long 45 days, another legislative session comes to a close.  This year’s end is bittersweet for me – as I move on to new adventures, I think back over the past 8 years with gratitude for the many wonderful experiences I have had while serving in the Utah Legislature.

I must first extend a heart felt thank you to my family for their support.  I also must thank the many individuals here at the legislature who spend countless hours researching legislation, writing bills, preparing the budget, and making sure everything goes smoothly.  I am especially grateful to Janeen Halverson, our Minority Executive Assistant, and Emily Hollingshead, our Caucus Communications Director, who go above and beyond  the call of duty to make sure that our caucus is well taken care of.

Every year we are given the opportunity to work with incredibly bright interns who put their heart and soul into the work we do.  I want to especially thank the Senate Democratic Interns:  Nicholas Dunn, Candace Gibson, Samantha West, Marissa Moon, Joey Pitt, Adam Sachs, and Hannah Hansen.  Their energy and commitment is contagious.

I am proud to have served with legendary Democrats like Karen Morgan, Pat Jones, Ben McAdams, Karen Mayne, Luz Robles, and Gene Davis.  Your commitment to your constituents, Democratic values, and all Utah families inspires me and makes me proud to be a Utah Democrat.

I’d also like to thank our Republican colleagues for the collaborative way that the Utah Senate works.  I respect and appreciate President Waddoups and his leadership team for always making sure that the process was fair and inclusive.  I’d also like to wish President Waddoups well as he moves into retirement.  He has served Utah for more than 25 years.   I am honored to have known him, and thank him for his dedication, commitment, and service to the people in his district.

Finally, I would like to thank all of you – the many people who become engaged in government.   Your desire to make Utah an even better place is why we serve.   Thank you for your emails, letters, and visits to the Capitol.  Your civic involvement is by far the most important part of the process.

And so, the session comes to a close.  As I complete my final term in the Utah Senate, I am proud to have been a part of this work.   I hope we will all continue to do our part.  By participating in caucus meetings, volunteering for a political campaign, contacting your legislators or by joining us for interim days on the hill, your voice will be heard.  Though I am leaving the Utah Senate, my years of service are not over.  No matter what happens in the months ahead, I will always find a way to be involved in the work.

Thank you, again, for your support.

Yours in service,


Senator Ross Romero
Democratic Leader in the Utah Senate

Bill establishing diversity training for new lawmakers goes to committee

For Immediate Release

For more information, contact:
Emily Bingham Hollingshead
Communications Director, Utah Senate Democrats

Bill establishing diversity training for new lawmakers goes to committee

Salt Lake City – A bill that establishes diversity and sensitivity training for newly elected lawmakers will be heard in a committee meeting today.

S.J.R. 24 Joint Rules on Legislator Orientation would require that training for new senators and representatives include instruction on demographics of Utah. The training would include statistical data on age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, and socio-economic standing. It would also discuss respect and sensitivity for diverse groups in our state.

“As Utah continues to grow and become more diverse it is important to know who we represent as a state,” said bill sponsor Sen. Ross Romero (D-Salt Lake City). “Understanding our community’s potential, found in its diversity, will help us grow and prosper.”

The Senate Democratic Leader added that “it is important as we discuss our state’s diversity that we are inclusive and tolerant in our words and actions as representatives of our State.”

The bill will be heard by the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Standing Committee.

Who:  Senator Ross Romero, presenting SJR 24
What:  Senate Government Operations & Political Subdivisions Committee
When: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Where: 415 State Capitol, Utah State Capitol Complex

For more information or interview requests, please contact Emily Hollingshead at 435-590-9961.


Bill could mean donations to elementary schools

From the Salt Lake Tribune
by Lisa Schenker

Utahns might soon be able to give money to elementary schools when they file their income tax returns, if a bill that gained initial Senate approval Tuesday becomes law.

SB59 would allow Utahns the option, when filing their income tax returns, of designating elementary schools to receive contributions in the amounts of their choosing. The school principal would then, in consultation with the school community council or charter school board, decide how to spend the money.

Bill sponsor Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said the change would allow people to put more money in their local schools, or any elementary school.

Click here to read the rest of the story

Senate Approves Miltary Property Tax Exemption

by Whittney Evans

(KCPW News) The Utah Senate approved a bill this morning to exempt military personnel from paying state property taxes. Senate Bill 116, sponsored by Democratic Senator Luz Robles, would apply to a service member who has been called to active duty. Robles said men and women serving probably weren’t expecting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to go on so long, and they’re suffering.

“There’s more suicide for men and women in our military services than they’ve ever seen before.” Robles says. “There’s more issues related to the economy and them trying to get back to our communities. And truly this is just a small way of saying thank you as a state.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.



Hearing on Wine Sampling Legislation


For more information, contact:

Emily Bingham Hollingshead
Communications Director, Utah Senate Democrats
Ph: 435.590.9961

A proposal to allow wine & spirits distributors to offer wine and spirits samples to restaurant owners will be heard in the Senate Business and Labor Committee on Monday, February 13, 2012.   SB119 would allow these distributors to visit a restaurant and provide the restaurant‘s owner or any other designated employee with a private tasting of any wine or spirit they are offering for sale.  This tasting would occur at the restaurant.

“Some high-end wines cost as much as $300 per bottle.  This legislation allows a restaurant to sample wines and spirits before purchasing them.  Restaurant owners not only want to ensure these wines work well with their menus, but they also want to offer the highest quality wines and spirits to their customers.” explained Senator Ross Romero, the sponsor of the bill.

Who:    Senator Ross Romero, D–Salt Lake City

What:   Presentation of SB119 to the Senate Business and Labor Committee

Where: 215 Senate Building, Utah State Capitol Complex

When:  2:10 pm


Cell phone bill moves to the Utah House of Representatives

From KSL
By Nkoyo Iyamba

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill targeting teenage drivers and cellphone use passed a second Senate reading 19 to 9 Monday.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero (D) puts restrictions on how and when cellphones can be used by teenage drivers while operating a vehicle. The bill, according to Romero, is supp osed to extend Utah’s Graduated license program, which gives teens under 18 driving privileges incrementally. It would prohibit teens from talking on any phone device while driving, unless in an emergency or they are talking to parents. New drivers are currently limited by passenger restrictions, supervision and nighttime driving rules.

“Those with the least experience driving operating a motor vehicle, should have their focus on learning how to operate a motor vehicle,” Romero said. “…If you are under 18 and you get into an automobile accident, you cause property damage or injure other people, (and) the parent is responsible for that.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.


Ban on cell phones for young drivers advances

From The Salt Lake Tribune
by Robert Gehrke

The fate of a bill to ban 16- and 17-year-old drivers from using cell phones while behind the wheel remains unclear as it moves to a final vote later this week.

Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, is proposing to prohibit the phone use, arguing that young drivers are more likely to phone while driving and more likely to endanger themselves and others on the roads.

“This bill has been very narrowly tailored and it’s addressing a problem that specifically is affecting young individuals,” Romero said. “This is a significant public safety issue.”

SB128 got preliminary approval Monday on a 19-9 vote, but several of those who voted in favor expressed concerns about the measure and may not support it when it comes up for final passage later this week. Romero said he is optimistic he will have enough votes to move the bill on to the House.

To read the rest of the story, click here.


Democrats say Gov’s anti-federal government tone was excessive

From the Salt Lake Tribune, by Robert Gehrke

Democrats praised Herbert for his emphasis on education funding and air quality, but said other parts of his remarks sounded like a campaign speech.

“That was fifty-fifty, policy speech and campaign speech,” said House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City. Portions were aimed at the broader state, but “there were parts that were speaking to a conservative constituent base.”

Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero said Democrats were proud to stand with the governor when it comes to the state’s economic record. But the governor failed to lay out specifics on how to improve education, protect the environment or meet health and human service needs. And the anti-federal tone seemed excessive, he said.

“We are in a relationship with our federal government and having a good working relationship is critical,” Romero said

Read the rest of the story here:

The Democratic Plan for Utah

Senator Ross Romero, Democratic Leader in the Utah Senate

Good evening. I’m Senator Ross Romero, Democratic Leader in the Utah State Senate. Thank you for your civic engagement, and for tuning in tonight to learn about the important issues and unique challenges that we face as a state. I want you to know that Utah Democrats are working on behalf of you and your families. We recognize the struggles so many of us have had to endure during the economic downturn of the past few years. But, there is good news and opportunity on the horizon. We are pleased that Utah’s economy is now headed in a positive direction. For the first time in several years, our state is beginning to once again see a surplus in our state budget. Utah Democrats are excited for what the future holds, and we look forward to working with you over the next 6 weeks as we propose and pass legislation that will strengthen Utah’s economy and prepare us for the future.

At this time I’d like to introduce you to my colleague, Representative David Litvack, your Democratic Leader in the Utah House of Representatives, who will discuss some of the Democratic proposals for the 2012 Legislative Session.

Representative David Litvack, Democratic Leader in the Utah Senate

Thank you Senator Romero. Tonight, I’d like to speak with you about some proposals from my Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate, proposals that we believe will lead to a brighter future – a future where Utah will again realize the promise of economic strength and prosperity.

This year Democrats will introduce legislation to help Utah’s growing veteran population through increased access to higher education. We will assist working families by protecting your consumer rights. Utah Democrats will also present measures to keep all of us healthy through better cancer screening and prevention, and we will make proposals to address the poor air quality we face in our state.

Utah’s strong economy has always depended on an educated workforce. For Utah to attract further high-paying jobs, we must double our efforts to provide a highly-educated workforce. From our neighborhood schools, to higher education and career programs, Democrats recognize this vital importance and renew our pledge to provide a better future for our children. No less than the success of our economic development depends upon our efforts now.

I will now turn the time back to Senator Ross Romero, who will talk more about our plan for Utah’s public schools.

Senator Romero

Thank you, Representative Litvack.

For many years, the state of Utah has been #1 in business, economic development, tourism, and even #1 in science, technology and research. In many ways, we’re doing very well as a state. So why is it that our schools continue to rank 42nd in the nation? This must change! Our schools should be the very best in the nation.

This year Utah Democrats are introducing legislation designed to put Utah on a path to make Utah’s schools #1. Utah Democrats believe that every Utah child deserves four things:

  • An excellent teacher
  • Individualized attention
  • World-class curriculum
  • Neighborhood and family support

If we can reduce classroom sizes in the lower grades or give teachers a little extra help in the classroom, it can do wonders to help our students succeed. Educating Utah’s children has been and will always be our top priority.

Utah Democrats understand that while our economy is recovering, family budgets are recovering, too. But let me be very clear: we do not believe it is fiscally wise to raise taxes for Utah’s working families.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that the “Best Schools Initiative” includes a funding plan which reprioritizes our resources and does NOT raise taxes. We simply need to change our focus in order to do what’s best for Utah’s kids.

During the economic downturn of the past several years, we have worked diligently to streamline our state budget. Due to Utah’s wise fiscal management, we are now seeing more funds coming into our state revenues. Utah Democrats believe in using these increased revenues for the long-term security of our future. The Best Schools Initiative is designed to wisely plan for Utah – to give our children the very best opportunities, to create new jobs and new businesses, and to secure our economic strength and prosperity.

Thank you again for being with us tonight. We look forward to working with our colleagues in both the House and Senate to meet these important goals. And, as always, we look forward to seeing you and working with you at this year’s legislative session and beyond.

Good night.

Governor Herbert, Veto this Bill

On Monday, fulfilling its redistricting responsibility, the Utah Legislature passed SB3002, 19th Substitute, a new four-district congressional map for the next decade. It was a disappointing finale to a six-month process.

Some unfortunate results of the congressional map are that four counties (Davis, Utah, Juab, Sanpete) are split two ways and Salt Lake County is split three ways, with no concern for maintaining the integrity of communities. Several cities/communities in Salt Lake and Utah Counties were split. (Salt Lake County: Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Kearns, Sandy, Draper, Bluffdale, South Jordan, Cottonwood Heights, Millcreek. Utah County: American Fork, Springville, Spanish Fork, Payson, and Santaquin.) The Daily Herald stated about the map, Opinion:  Utah Legislature Commits Crime Against Humanity.

Keeping communities of interest together should have been the guiding principle. Instead, roads form the boundaries of the four districts–nothing logical like city boundaries, school district boundaries, county boundaries, or geographical boundaries.

Contrary to the claims by some of an open and inclusive process, the process must be judged by the final results. Ultimately, the lines of the final congressional map were drawn behind closed doors at the eleventh hour.

In addition, there was no need for all four congressional districts to have an urban/rural mix since that was not an adopted redistricting standard, and looking after all the state’s differences is the job of our United States senators. By passing what we did, we failed to make our representatives experts in any particular issues and generalists in all. We failed to honor the requests of many participants who gave testimony this summer who asked that rural Utah have its own representatives and urban have its own representatives. In our haste to complete the redistricting process, while we got it done, we failed to get it right.

In the floor debate on the bill (35:15 minutes into recording), I called on Governor Herbert to veto the bill.  Apparently, the Daily Herald agrees with my call for a veto, Opinion:  Governor should veto the map.