Utah Solar Tour 2010

by Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

Senator Ross RomeroEnergy is the topic of the day, and clean, renewable energy is being promoted at the local, state, and national levels.  Many Americans want new sources of energy that positively affect our atmosphere, our independence, and our pocketbooks.  During the past few years, numerous Utah legislators have sponsored and debated bills designed to shift the focus from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.

I would like to invite you and your family, friends, and neighbors to attend this year’s Utah Solar Tour.  Sponsored by the Utah Solar Energy Association (the local nonprofit chapter of the American Solar Energy Society), the 2010 Utah Solar Tour is scheduled for Saturday, September 25, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  This is a FREE public event.

During this event, you will learn about the latest solar technologies and applications.  Professionals will teach you how to install solar equipment at your home or business and what financial incentives are available for doing so.

You will be able to visit homes and businesses using renewable energy from Payson to Logan.  Map out your tour of sites near you for Saturday, September 25, by visiting http://utsolar.org/index.php/solar_tour/overview/.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn everything you ever wanted to know about renewable solar energy.  Join the Utah Solar Energy Association for a solar-powered weekend.

Another Successful Utah-based Nonprofit: High Road for Human Rights

by Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

Senator Ross RomeroRecently, I had the chance to visit with former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and discuss with him his organization High Road for Human Rights.

High Road for Human Rights organizes, supports, and mobilizes an extensive network of people to prevent and eliminate human rights abuses by (1) elevating awareness about human rights abuses and available solutions, and (2) taking unified actions to achieve changes that will enhance the protection of human rights.

Rocky elaborated on his organization’s five areas of focus, which include:

1.    Genocide
2.    Slavery
3.    Climate Crisis
4.    Death Penalty
5.    Torture & Rule of Law

I was surprised a few days later to read an article published in the Deseret News Sunday, August 15, 2010, entitled “A Story of Modern Slavery in Utah.”  The article written by Lee Davidson relates the story of several Thai workers who were recruited by a Los Angeles-based company for farm work in the United States.  These workers were placed at two locations in Utah.  In the article, they relate their harrowing stories of poor living and working conditions, misrepresented and violated compensation agreements, and prison-like confinement.

If you think such human rights atrocities occur elsewhere, you are wrong.  I commend Rocky for his humanitarian work and believe we should all be active participants in these important human rights discussions.  Perhaps you will consider supporting High Road for Human Rights, an organization centered here in Salt Lake City addressing local, national, and international acts of inhumanity.

#1 Again – NCSL Back to School Program

Slated to “kick off” the third week of every September and run through the school year, America’s Legislators Back to School Program gives elected officials in all 50 states the opportunity 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.

Once again, UTAH is #1 in the country with 91% of legislators visiting schools in their districts during the 2009-2010 school year.  For complete results, click here.  Utah also ranked #1 in 2008-09, 2005-06 and 2002-03.  Utah ranked #2 in 2007-08, 2006-07 and 2003-04; and #3 in 2004-05.

Top Three Legislatures
Utah – 91%
Hawaii – 67%
Virginia – 66%

Top Three House
Utah – 92%
Hawaii – 67%
Virginia – 60%

Top Five Senate
Massachusetts – 100%
Utah – 90%
Virginia – 80%

CONGRATULATIONS to our 104 legislators and to Shelley Day in the Office of Legislative Research and General Council who oversees the program for the Utah Legislature.

America’s Back to School Program was founded in 1999 as part of the Trust for Representative Democracy at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Salute to Teachers and Tribute to Ms. Barbara Whaley

by Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

Ms WhaleyAs the school year winds down, I want to take this opportunity to thank Utah’s teachers and educators for making a difference in the lives of their students.  I am amazed and impressed with the dedicated educators who have undertaken the critical assignment of preparing the next generation of Utah’s and America’s leaders.

My second grade teacher Barbara Whaley passed away June 1 at the age of 61 in Salt Lake City.  She was one of those teachers of whom I speak.  She was a teacher at Indian Hills Elementary School for 39 years, impacting the lives of thousands of first and second graders just like me.  My classmates and I adored her, and to this day, I feel a kinship with her and carry the memories of a wonderful school year as a young boy.  I attended her funeral recently and learned of her love for the 4th of July, buying tee shirts for family members to celebrate the occasion, her fondness of chocolate kisses, and her commitment to family.  I only knew her as a great teacher and appreciated hearing about her love in action.  She will be missed.

Many teachers perform their work in a system deficient in textbooks, supplies, professional development time, and appropriate classroom size.  Teachers spend many additional hours and dollars of their own to provide an education for our children.  Despite these challenges, teachers continue to be dedicated to their students.  The work they do in the classroom is deserving of the highest praise.  They serve as mothers, fathers, counselors, friends, nurses, disciplinarians, and finally as teachers.

Teachers, and especially at this time, Ms. Whaley, thank you for all you do for our community and our future.

Thanks for the Invitation, Camp Kostopulos

Senator Ross Romeroby Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip

On Saturday, June 5, I attended an open house at Camp Kostopulos in Emigration Canyon.  Camp Kostopulos is sponsored by the Kostopulos Dream Foundation, an agency dedicated to improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities.  Camp Kostopulos is a week-long residential summer camp where kids, teens, and adults with disabilities are able to socialize and enjoy numerous recreational activities.  It’s fun for the participants and, at the same time,  provides a reprieve for their full-time care givers.

At the camp, participants engage in various recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, camping, singing, arts and crafts, horseback riding, ropes course, etc.  They make new friends and renew their friendships from previous summers.  Participants stay on site for a full week in the capable hands of full-time staff members who provide 24-hour supervision.  I have included some photos I took of this wonderful facility in my Senate District.

I would like to thank Cheryl Smith, Development Director of the Kostopulos Dream Foundation, who escorted my family and me at the Camp Kostopulos open house.

In addition to summer camp, the Kostopulos Dream Foundation also offers year-round recreational programs for kids, teens, and adults.  For further information about Kostopulos, visit their website at www.campk.org and as always, donations are appreciated.

Finally, on July 10, 2010, the Kostopulos Dream Foundation is hosting the Wasatch Wheelchair Rally, a fundraising event which will showcase runners and walkers pushing empty wheelchairs in a race around Liberty Park.  For more information, visit www.campk.org/wasatch-wheelchair-rally.

Camp Sign

Ropes Course
Ropes Course

Barn & Horses
Horseback Riding

 Senator Romero & Cheryl Smith
Senator Romero with his son and Cheryl Smith



Senator Davis greets Saudia Arabian Visitors

A group of seven international visitors from Saudi Arabia visited Utah under the auspices of the U. S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, administered locally by the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy, to examine “Religious and Public Education.”  Participants were:

 Mr. Khalid Ateatallah ALAMRI
 Islamic Education Supervisor, Ministry of Education, Madinah

 Mr. Fahd Alean ALDLWE
 Islamic Education Supervisor, Ministry of Education, Al-Ula

 Mr. Fahad Abdulrahman ALHAMAD
 Islamic Education Supervisor, Ministry of Education, Hail

 Mr. Mohammed Nughaymish ALHARBI
 Islamic Education Teacher, Al-Mahd Directorate of Education, Ministry of Education

 Mr. Hussain Salman ALMALKI
 Islamic Education Supervisor, Ministry of Education, Jizan

 Mr. Abdullah Ali ALSAWEED
 Islamic Education Supervisor, Ministry of Education, Qassim

 Mr. Abdulaziz Rashid ALTUWAIRISH
 Islamic Education Supervisor, Ministry of Education, Dammam

 Mr. Hassan Abdullah SAWADI
 Islamic Education Supervisor, Ministry of Education, Abha

 The international visitors met with Senator Gene Davis on Monday, May 24, to discuss religion in Utah and its intersection with public education in infuencing education policy.  Senator Davis also took the group on a brief tour of our newly renovated Capitol.  They visited the House and Senate Chambers, the Rotunda, and peered through the windows at the base isolators in the basement of the Capitol.

Senator Davis and Saudi Arabian Visitors
Senator Davis and the Group from Saudi Arabia

Senator Davis & Fahad Alhamad
Senator Davis and Mr Fahad Alhamad

A Drug-free Workplace is a Safe Workplace

by Senator Karen Mayne
Assistant Senate Minority Whip
Senate District 5

With the signing of Senate Bill 13, our State projects will have a safe environment for our Utah workers.  SB 13 provides that random drug testing will be used on all our state construction projects.  The problem of drug use in our society and in the workplace poses a threat to us all.  The legislation mandates that workers in safety-sensitive areas submit to random drug testing.  All workers should have a safe place to work and be protected from harm.  The State of Utah has set the standard for responsible hiring and health of our citizens.  Many organizations came together to sponsor this bill, all with the desire to keep our sites accident-free.

I would like to thank Workers Compensation Fund of Utah, Associated General Contractors, UDOT, Operating Engineers Local No. 3, AFL-CIO, Utah Manufacturers Association, Drug-Free Workplace Committee, and the many, many contractors who supported this legislation.

Gov. Herbert Signs SB 13


Habitat for Humanity-Making Houses into Homes

by Senator Karen Mayne
Assistant Senate Minority Whip
Senate District 5

Methamphetamine houses have been an “eye sore” in our neighborhoods and a health issue for all of us.  People have “cooked” drugs in their homes and poisoned the property.  The dangerous fumes contaminate wood, carpets, walls–everything.  Usually, the house is abandoned, and because of the cost of clean-up, the house sits empty.

This is where Habitat for Humanity comes in.  Habitat has the ability to rebuild a clean and healthy home for a new family.  Senate Bill 12 gives our citizens the option for a check-off on their state tax return.  This donation is in a restricted fund for restoration of meth houses.

Habitat for Humanity is in the business of making houses into homes.

Be sure to donate on your 2010 tax return.

Senate Sponsor Mayne & House Sponsor Seelig
SB 12 Sponsor Senator Karen Mayne (left)
House Floor Sponsor Rep. Jen Seelig (right)

Gov. Herbert Signs SB 12
Governor Herbert Signs SB 12

 Southgate Ribbon Cutting
Habitiat for Humanity–Southgate Ribbon Cutting

 Southgate Ground Breaking
Habitat for Humanity–Southgate Ground Breaking


Utah’s Legislature Addresses Gang Activity

by Senator Luz Robles
Senate Minority Caucus Manager
Senate District One

In a ceremony Monday, April 19, Governor Gary Herbert signed ceremonial copies of SJR 2, Joint Resolution on Combating and Reducing Gang Activity, and SB 59, At-risk Student Provisions, which I sponsored during the 2010 Legislative Session.

Senator Luz RoblesGangs are a problem affecting all Utahns.  We can no longer ignore their presence and actions against our communities, and more importantly, their actions against our children who have become prey for many of these groups.  Our children are the future of this state and our nation, and we cannot lose them to this type of activity.

For the past two years, I have been working with various partners and stakeholders in the community to bring solutions to this problem.  Prevention and intervention, not just suppression, are my priorities.

Senate Joint Resolution 2 is a resolution that urges state and local governments to take a comprehensive, collaborative, and communitywide approach to combat and reduce gang activity.  The resolution acknowledges sports, arts, academic, targeted counseling, and employment programs as vehicles to counter gang recruitment.  It is a call to action where all can be involved and ask for collaborative efforts amongst all levels and branches of government to stop gang activity.

Senate Bill 59 requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules that require a local school board or governing board of a charter school to enact gang prevention and intervention policies.

The effort to prevent, intervene, and eliminate gang-related activity in our community is a bipartisan effort.  I want to personally thank the House sponsors of these pieces of legislation, my colleagues from the majority party Representative Ryan Wilcox for SJR 2 and Representative Paul Ray for SB 59.  Without their leadership and commitment, these bills will not be law today.

It is going to require a more comprehensive and holistic effort to reduce the crime and the involvement of our youth in these activities and more awareness from all of us.  I am looking forward to continuing our work toward the ultimate goal of having a community free of gangs.

I want to thank the members of the state Gang Task Force for their work and support.