Category: Blog Post

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.

Welcoming the Newest U.S. Citizen

Over 100 people from more than 35 countries, represented by different flags, cultures and systems of government, became U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony at the Utah State Capitol on November 30, 2016. The event, hosted by Rep. Norm Thurston in partnership with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, was the fifth to be held at the Capitol in the last 12 months.

Though their personal journeys to this day were unique, in unison these individuals took an oath and in a single moment became Americans. 

Rep. Eric Hutchings delivered the keynote remarks.

“This is a great day for Utah and America because all of you are now U.S. citizens,” said Rep. Hutchings. “One of the many aspects that make this country exceptional is that every individual, no matter their background, is free to control their destiny as well as take part in shaping the future of this nation.”

Many came from neighboring countries – Canada and Mexico. Others came from across the globe including far away nations of Togo, New Zealand, Ukraine, Eritrea and Bhutan.

This nation isn’t bound together by a single ethnicity, race or religious faith. Instead, this country is defined by our founding principles: that all men are created equal with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“It’s truly an honor to participate in this special moment,” said Rep. Thurston. “I commend those who have chosen to exercise their legal option to become full partners in our community and for completing the hard work to officially become a member of this exceptional nation. Hosting these important ceremonies is becoming a tradition for the House that I hope continues for years to come.”

Angela K. Barrows, district director for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, administered the Oath of Allegiance.

The Rotunda echoed as four Highland High School students sang the national anthem.

Following the ceremony, on-site voter registration was available to encourage the new citizens to be actively engaged in local, state and national matters as well as voice their opinion in future elections.

Congratulations to the new citizens of this great country.

See additional pictures here.


Happy Thanksgiving

With the holiday season fast approaching, now is a great time for self-reflection and expressions of gratitude for those who make our lives better, both in small ways and large. Mother Teresa has said, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

We should not allow the political divisions in our country, so obvious in this last election season, to divide us as friends, neighbors and family. We should not be defined solely by our political ideology, but rather by the good we do for those around us. Let us choose to be grateful, choose to be thoughtful and choose to always treat others with kindness and respect.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Interim Buzz – November 2016

The holiday season is fast approaching, it is a great time to take a moment to thank the people who have and currently make a difference in our lives.

The House Majority is thankful for the privilege to serve the people of Utah and have a heartfelt desire to make our communities and our state even better. We will continue to focus on listening to Utahns and making their priorities our priorities. We will serve with diligence and dedication to improving this great state.

Committee meetings, listed below, are open to the public and can be streamed live, here.

The Interim Committee Schedule* for November 2016:

Tuesday, November 15

  • 1:00 PM: Legislative Management Committee CANCELED
  • 2:00 PM: Executive Appropriations Committee
  • 3:00 PM: State Water Development Commission
  • 4:00 PM: Legislative Audit Subcommittee

Wednesday, November 16

  • 7:30 AM: Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee
  • 8:15 AM: Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee
  • 8:30 AM: Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee
  • 8:30 AM: Judiciary Interim Committee
  • 8:30 AM: Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee
  • 8:30 AM: Transportation Interim Committee
  • 1:15 PM: Business and Labor Interim Committee
  • 1:15 PM: Education Interim Committee
  • 1:15 PM: Government Operations Interim Committee
  • 1:15 PM: Health and Human Services Interim Committee
  • 1:15 PM: Political Subdivisions Interim Committee
  • 1:15 PM: Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Interim Committee
  • 4:00 PM: Special Session
    • The following items will be considered in the House:
      • Funding for class B and C roads
      • Legislation related to the regulation of solid waste similar to 2016 House Bill 258

    Thursday, November 17, 2016

  • 9:00 AM: Administrative Rules Review Committee

A list of 2016 Interim Committees can be found here.

* committee meetings are subject to change

Veterans Day

Liberty comes at a price, and our country was blessed with freedom because of the price paid by so many throughout the years – from those whose visionary ideals established this great nation to those who have fought to safeguard us throughout the generations since.

Freedom, today, is seen by some as a quaint idea and valued less than security by many who, having never been without it, have no understanding of its loss. Let us always remember that those who fight for freedom are our only barrier against those who fight for power and control.

Thank you, to the brave veterans of the United States of America!