Category: Blog Post

Daily Buzz: January 25, 2017

Overview of the Day:

Governor Gary Herbert gave his State of the State address tonight in the Utah House Chamber. He discussed the following specific issues: homelessness, education, alcohol regulations, air quality, and the economy. Governor Herbert declared “the state of our state is truly exceptional.” We look forward to continuing to work alongside the governor this session.

Annual Capitol Event: Maps on the Hill

Maps on the Hill takes place each year in the State Capitol Rotunda during our Utah Legislative Session. The Utah Geographic Information Council (UGIC) and AGRC put on the event. Students and professional topographers teach elected officials and the general public about maps and new mapping technologies. These presentations also demonstrate how mapping technologies can be used to support lawmakers in their decisions.

Tomorrow’s Legislative Schedule

8:00 AM: Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee

8:00 AM: Business, Economic Development, and Labor Appropriations Subcommittee

8:00 AM: Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee

8:00 AM: Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee

11:00 AM: House Chamber, House Floor Time

2:00 PM: House Judiciary Committee REVISED

2:00 PM: House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee

2:00 PM: House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee

2:00 PM: House Transportation Committee REVISED

4:00 PM: Legislative Audit Subcommittee

5:00 PM: Point of the Mountain Development Commission

5:30 PM: Executive Appropriations Committee REVISED


Daily Buzz: January 23, 2017

Overview of the Day:

As part of the opening ceremonies for the 2017 Legislative Session today, Speaker of the House Greg Hughes gave an impactful speech after being sworn in. Listen in here to learn what current legislation Speaker Hughes finds most important to improve upon and change this year.

Justice Reform Initiative Success Story: Brandon Kitchen

After being convicted of a federal crime in another state and spending 21 years in the Utah State Prison, Brandon Kitchen was released into a strange city – homeless, jobless and unsure of where to go next.

Brandon just happened to meet a woman who told him about the Road Home, and that is where he spent his first night of freedom. He still recalls the palpable feelings of despair that permeated the facility and its inhabitants.

At one point, Brandon recalls, he faced losing his bed at the shelter as a consequence of having a job; he was told there was no way for him to have both because leaving to work a job kept him from standing in line all day for a bed. Eventually, through the efforts of the Pioneer Park Coalition, a workers’ bed program was instituted to help those like Brandon, who were trying to become self-reliant.

The morning after he arrived at the shelter, Brandon met Salt Lake City Police Deputy Chief Fred Ross, who told him about the department’s Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST) program. This program allowed him to secure a job and within three weeks, Brandon worked his way out of the shelter and into transitional housing. Soon after, he moved into his own apartment and is now living with his partner, Heather, and their twin boys, born June 9th.

Despite his past, Brandon understands that self-reliance is the path his future will follow. As he will tell you, Fred Ross, Scott Howell, HOST, the Pioneer Park Coalition and others, they showed me the way. They gave me hope. Not a handout, but a hand-up. That’s the key.

Legislative Schedule for Jan. 24, 2016

8:00 AM: Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee REVISED

8:00 AM: Business, Economic Development, and Labor Appropriations Subcommittee

8:00 AM: Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee

8:00 AM: Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee

11:00 AM: House Chamber, House Floor Time

2:00 PM: House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee REVISED

2:00 PM: House Government Operations Committee REVISED

2:00 PM: House Political Subdivisions Committee

2:00 PM: House Revenue and Taxation Committee

Martin Luther King, Jr. Message

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who faced vitriol, anger and persecution throughout his life stood up to declare truth, and in so doing changed the course of history.

We are again living in a time of increasing division and unrest. The solutions are simple, but elusive. And if we fail to find and embrace them, we risk leaving our children with a world far more bleak than that which we’ve inhabited. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Be the light. Show your love. Change the world.

Happy New Year 2017

As 2016 comes to an end, with all its experiences, challenges and celebrations now just memories, we look forward to the opportunities of another year. New friendships, new encounters, new answers and hopefully new and greater accomplishments await each of us. May your 2017 be full of renewed hope, love, peace and joy.

Speaker Greg Hughes at the Bears Ears Press Conference in San Juan County

Speaker Greg Hughes at the Bears Ears Press Conference in San Juan County on Dec. 29, 2016

Nearly 70 percent of the land in Utah and 50 percent in the western United States is controlled by the federal government. The compact between the state of Utah and the federal government at the time of the formation of the state, provided for the feds to take stewardship over the land until it could be sold. This compact allowed them to keep 95 percent of the revenue from the sale but required they give 5 percent back to the state for use in education.

This has never been done.

The responsibility of the federal government was to “dispose of” the land; it was never meant for them to hold it in reserve for no productive purpose and cut off the ability of states to utilize it for their own growth and funding.

Because the citizens of Utah have no access to nearly 70% of their land for their own management or development, the burden is on all of the states, through federal expenditures, to upkeep and maintain the land. The federal government hasn’t even been very successful at that, though the cost to taxpayers of maintaining western lands is significant at about $13 billion per year.

Taxpayers will also be further on the hook for the $15 billion in deferred maintenance in the nation’s western national parks, all while the locked-up mineral value of these very lands is assessed at $150 trillion. Add to this the fact that when states manage lands, they’re able to turn that responsibility into revenue of $6.29 per acre, while federally managed lands cost taxpayers $1.86 per acre.

It’s time for the federal government to honor the promises made to the current western states, just as it eventually did for the previously “western” states of Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. After Thomas Hart Benton, a Democrat U.S. senator from Missouri, pushed the federal government for many years to honor its commitments, they finally did and those states were freed from the constraints of federal land control policy.

Now is our time.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays


Speaker Hughes Season Greetings

Christmas is a time to remember that we are not alone in this world, that our actions have repercussions beyond ourselves and that each of us has a role to play in blessing the lives of others. Most people in the United States generally feel pretty happy, but according to the Center for Disease Control, 40 percent of Americans don’t feel a deep sense of purpose.

According to one recent study, Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life, while being happy and finding meaning in life overlap somewhat, there are significant differences. One that stands out is that “Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker.” The authors of the study point out that those with more meaningful lives experience higher levels of stress and worry, even while feeling a greater sense of purpose.

Through our work here in the legislature, we have seen the sacrifices of many of our fellow-citizens, from the teachers in our schools to the policemen on our streets, to the parents in their homes, raising children with love and patience.

This Christmastime, as we reflect on the past year, may we each ask ourselves what it is we’re doing to build not only a happy life but a more meaningful life – for ourselves as well as for those around us.

Utah Representatives share their favorite holiday traditions.


Utah Officials Hold Rally Opposing a National Monument Designation

Today, local leaders from San Juan County and Utah elected officials from across the state held a rally to demonstrate a strong, unified front in opposition to a potential declaration of the Bears Ears National Monument.Speaker Hughes said we have a system and elected officials that can protect the land the right way.

San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally said her constituents do not want another national monument in the County. This monument would only represent division.

It is time we do this the right way through the congressional approach said, Congressman Rob Bishop.

Congresswoman Mia Love said she trust Utahns more than she trusts bureaucrats in Washington to preserve the Bears Ears area.


This flys in the face of the constitution said, Sen. Orrin Hatch. We need the consent of the people most affected,

The best way to protect Bears Ears is through a legislative process said, Gov. Gary Herbert

The people of this state oppose a unilateral designation of a national monument. According to a Utah Policy poll, 60 percent of Utahns are opposed to 1.9 million acres being declared federal land in the Bears Ears area in southeastern Utah.

A monument declaration is absent of local support with every elected official chosen to represent the people of San Juan County and the State of Utah.

San Juan Commissioner Rebecca M. Benally explains why her people do not want this monument. Watch the video here.

“Brothers and sisters, I stand here before you as a Native American woman, the first elected woman in San Juan County. I am here today to tell you that my constituents do not want a national monument in San Juan County, because it’s just another federal overreach with empty promises.

As a Native American, we understand what broken treaties mean and broken promises; we’ve lived it for the last 200 years. So what makes you think, President Obama, that you think you’re doing the right thing? All you’re doing is breaking up families using divide and conquer among my brothers and sisters, San Juan County residents, the State of Utah.

Your legacy I hope we can soon forget because you’re not doing it for the local people. So I’m here today to tell you that Grandma Jones, Grandma Ada Benally, they shed tears because this is a place of reverent spirituality where they gather medicinal plants, wood to heat their home and cook, hunt; you’re taking that away. There is no such a thing as a special proclamation that can be done by the president. This is a Congressional authority that has to happen.

You’ve been lied to by environmental groups. Environmental groups, I’m here to tell you: stop romanticizing and stop pretending. And stop pretending that you are doing this for Native American people. I’ve seen it time and time again. It is wrong and I’m tired of you using my people, talking for them, it is wrong that you do this. Come to San Juan County where we still have over 700 miles of dirt road and high high school dropout rates, unemployment. Put your mind and money to better use instead of making people work against one another. That’s wrong.

I want to tell you about trust. There is no trust. We as Native Americans do not trust the federal government. And so President Obama, why should you be any different? I’m here to tell you to look in the eye of Grandma Ada Benally and to the eye of Grandma Betty Jones, and you tell them that you’re doing this in their best interest. You’re not. You’re limiting access and you’re lying to them.

So today I want to thank everyone for being here, stewards of San Juan County and the Jones family, the Morris family and San Juan County residents, the State of Utah, the governor, lieutenant governor, commissioners and Utah delegation, state and congressional level, titleholders, I want to let you know that at a personal level it’s disheartening, it makes you want to cry. It hurts. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, it has split families as I said. It has split San Juan County members. So this national monument, all it’s going to represent is a division. It’s not going to be a one mind, one voice, one heart movement. So today I’m going to tell you in this press conference, ‘no national monument.’ Thank you.”

Who attend the rally:

  • Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes
  • Utah State Representative Mike Noel
  • Senator Mike Lee
  • U.S. Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch
  • Governor Gary Herbert
  • San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams
  • Congressman Rob Bishop
  • Congressman Chris Stewart
  • Congresswoman Mia Love
  • Utah State Senator David Hinkins
  • San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman
  • Beaver County Commissioner Mark Whitney
  • Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes
  • Lt. Governor Spencer Cox
  • San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally

View more photos here.

Rep. Eliason – Naloxone

Utah ranks fourth in the nation for drug overdose deaths, with an average of 33 per month. Fortunately, there are interventions that can save lives and give a second chance to those struggling with addiction.

During the 2016 legislative session, Republican Rep. Steve Eliason sponsored a bill that would allow for the dispensing of naloxone for anyone at increased risk of opioid overdose without a prescription. Naloxone can reverse heroin and prescription opioid overdoses by blocking the drugs’ effects on the brain. The bill passed and on Dec. 8, the Utah Department of Health signed a standing order allowing for pharmacists to dispense the drug in accordance with the law.

Pharmacies may choose whether to participate in the standing order, but those that do must report annually to the Utah Department of Health the number of doses dispensed. Naloxone generally has no side effects and has no potential for abuse.

As opioid abuse becomes a bigger problem throughout the nation and in Utah, we as lawmakers are concerned for those in our communities who have found themselves struggling with the problem of substance abuse. This bill may mean the difference between life and death for those individuals, and we hope that the second chance naloxone can provide will help them step out of this destructive cycle once and for all.

Jonathan Ball Honored with Steven D. Gold Award

Utah Budgeteer Honored with Steven D. Gold Award

Washington, D.C. – The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) presented Jonathan Ball, the chief budget staffer for the Utah Legislature, with the Steven D. Gold Award at NCSL’s Capitol Forum in Washington on Thursday.

The Gold Award honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of state and local finance, especially those that erase boundaries between academics and public policy.

“Jonathan exemplifies what the Gold Award is all about,” said NCSL Executive Director William Pound. “He strives to bridge the worlds of academia and government so that citizens enjoy thoughtful, informed and practical laws and programs.”

Ball is the director of Utah’s Legislative Fiscal Analyst and leads a team of 25 economists, accountants, financial analysts and support staff who help legislators craft the state budget each year. He has contributed to several academic publications, is a frequent guest lecturer at colleges and universities in Utah and regularly presents on budget issues for national organizations, including NCSL. He served as president of the National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices and the Western States Legislative Fiscal Officers Association. He is currently staff co-chair of NCSL’s Standing Committees and a member of the NCSL Executive Committee.

“Legislative staffers typically prefer to toil away in anonymity,” said Ball, “but this recognition is welcome and especially meaningful because it reflects what my team and I strive for on a daily basis – objective, accurate and relevant budget advice. I’m humbled and honored to receive it on behalf of my family, friends and colleagues without whom it would not have happened.”

The award was established in 1997 in the memory of Steven D. Gold, an accomplished economist, academic and public finance expert. Gold was an active member of NCSL, the National Tax Association and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. It is given each year by one of these organizations on a three-year rotation.

Since its inception, Ball is the second Utahn to receive the Gold Award. The National Tax Association presented it to Brigham Young University professor Gary Corina in 2006. It is the second national award Utah has been given for good fiscal management in recent months. Governing Magazine named Kristen Cox, budget director for Governor Gary Herbert, Public Servant of the Year in November.


75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. On that day, nearly 2,500 American sailors lost their lives, over 1,000 were injured and the U.S. was pulled into World War II. We remember and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice as they fought for our freedom. And we thank all of our current veterans and active military members for their dedication and sacrifice in defending this great nation.