Category: House News

Oath of Allegiance

The U.S. gained 127 more citizens today during a naturalization ceremony held at the Utah Capitol building. The ceremony, hosted by Representative Norm Thurston and in partnership with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, welcomed applicants from 50 countries, ranging from Peru to South Africa.

Bassam Salem, who was born in Egypt, lived in France and England as a child then came to the U.S. to pursue his education, shared his experience of becoming a U.S. citizen.

“Dreamed about one country where backgrounds wouldn’t limit us, one country where a good plan and hard work will be rewarded. That one country was and still is truly unique – the United States of America,” said Salem.

Salem founded the company, Mindshare Ventures, in 2016 and resides in Park City with his wife and two sons.

Laura McNeer, field office director for USCIS, administered the Oath of Allegiance. Cytel Schultz performed the U.S. National Anthem. The new citizens also heard a welcome message from President Donald Trump.

When the ceremony concluded, new citizens were encouraged to fill out a voter registration form so they could immediately start participating in local, state and national elections.

See more pictures here.

Aiming to decrease prescription drug prices

Press Release
For Immediate Release
January 11, 2018


SALT LAKE CITY – Prescription drug prices have been on the rise, leaving some concerned how they will afford to refill their prescription. Representative Norm Thurston is sponsoring a bill, H.B. 163 Prescription Drug Importation Program, during the 2018 General Session, which aims to help alleviate some of the cost of prescription drugs for Utah residents by implementing a state-run prescription drug importation program that will create a safe, cost-effective, wholesale import for a select group of prescriptions.

On average, the price of prescription drugs in Canada is 30 percent less than in the United States. The legislation is designed to save Utahns a significant amount of money on their prescriptions, and it includes standards to ensure that the savings go directly into the pockets of Utahns.

“The United States is one of the largest, most loyal purchasers of prescription drugs, though, we are paying much more than other major purchasers,” said Thurston. “We need to take initiative to lower prescription drug costs for life-saving medicine. Utah is more than capable to administer a well-run state importation program.”

The U.S. drug market heavily relies on importation to supply the U.S. market. Currently:

  • 80 percent of raw ingredients for drugs made in the United States are imported from China and other countries;
  • 40 percent of finished drugs used in the United States are manufactured in other countries;
  • The S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had a cooperative agreement addressing drug regulatory matters with Canada for years, more than 30 Canadian drug manufacturers are FDA-registered to produce drugs for U.S. markets; and
  • About 20 percent of drugs licensed for the Canadian market are made in the United States.

“Rising pharmaceutical costs continue to be the most volatile part of the state budget in providing healthcare to its employees,” said Chet Loftis, managing director of PEHP Health & Benefits. “We deeply appreciate the opportunity to work with Rep. Thurston on H.B. 163, and policymakers in general, in lending our expertise on matters of public importance and actively exploring ways to reduce healthcare costs to the state.”

The safety and purity of the imported prescriptions is a crucial standard in the bill. The bill complies with federal regulations governing drug importation that require guarantees of drug safety and consumer savings. In addition, the legislation requires federal approval from the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The legislation will safeguard the quality and safety of imported drugs by:

  • Contracting with licensed, regulated drug wholesalers and distributors in Utah and Canada;
  • Importing only drugs licensed for sale in Canada;
  • Testing imported products for purity on a sample basis if needed; and
  • Limiting distribution of imported drugs to only Utah.

The legislation will deliver significant consumer savings by:

  • Monitoring market competition among Utah wholesalers;
  • Ensuring that consumers pay similar prices to those charged in Canada; and
  • Widely publicizing the prices of the imported products so consumers know what they can expect to pay.

Thurston assembled a working group of stakeholders, including state agencies, commercial health plans, pharmacists and community clinics in early 2017 to outline how a wholesale importation program should operate in Utah.

The bill is modeled after legislation developed by the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), a nonpartisan group that works closely with state policymakers to develop state legislative and regulatory strategies to rein in pharmaceutical costs.


Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives

Utah State Legislature Launches Redesigned Website

In anticipation of the 2018 General Session, the Utah State Legislature is excited to launch the newly redesigned version of the legislative website, The site helps Utahns connect and interact with their legislators. Utah residents can learn about proposed and past legislation and hear committees and floor debates.

With the growing use of smartphones and tablets, the new mobile-friendly site is more accessible to most users. Features of the site include a cleaner aesthetic design, a more engaging user experience and enhanced search and navigation functions. The new design also streamlines the site’s familiar main menu, providing a clear navigation and a responsive layout for all platforms.

“The redesign aims to simplify access to the Legislature, helping to improve communication and make information about the legislative process easily accessible to all,” said President Wayne Niederhauser. “A visually appealing and user-friendly legislative website is paramount to keeping legislators accountable to the people of Utah.”

Key components of the new site:

  • Mobile Friendly Design – offers responsive user experience that allows site visitors to navigate information easily on various platforms;
  • Find Your Legislator – helps users identify who represents them as well as who represents the area in which they are currently located – based on the current location of their device, an address look-up or a map;
  • Innovative Search Tool – integrates formerly separate search functions into a single interface, allowing users to more easily find legislation, Utah Code, budget information, audits and much more.

“The purpose was not only to update the look of the site but also to make finding information easier and more convenient,” said Speaker Greg Hughes. “In a world where communication is increasingly digitized, we want to provide a convenient path to useful information on mobile platforms for Utahns. I appreciate the hard work put in by many legislative employees to complete this project.”

The goal of this website redesign is to facilitate citizen involvement in the legislative process by enhancing the user experience. The site contains valuable easy to navigate information, allowing for greater engagement and encouraging further exploration.

We encourage all residents to go to and see the exciting changes for themselves. Please submit questions, observations and concerns in the comment box on the website. Feedback is important to us as we continue to strive to develop a website that is valuable to Utahns.


Speaker Hughes Announces Changes to House Majority Leadership

Press Release
For Immediate Release
December 7, 2017

Aundrea Peterson
House Majority Communications Director
Utah House of Representatives

Speaker Hughes Announces Changes to House Majority Leadership

Salt Lake City – With the pending resignation of Rep. Dean Sanpei, Speaker Greg Hughes has appointed Rep. Brad Last, to serve as the House chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee and Rep. Mike Schultz to serve as House vice-chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee, effective immediately.

“While we will greatly miss Rep. Sanpei, Rep. Last is ready, willing and able to lead our executive appropriations committee, and I’m excited to work closely with him in this new position,” said Speaker Hughes. “Rep. Schultz has proven to be a natural leader with a strong understanding of the legislative process and will be a great addition to our leadership team. I’m confident that both representatives will serve the House well and I look forward to working with them in their new respective roles.”

The changes to the leadership team come after Rep. Dean Sanpei announced his resignation from the Utah House of Representatives after accepting a career position out of state.


Utah Public Lands

On Monday, December 4, President Donald Trump announced modifications to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, after Secretary Ryan Zinke conducted a review of national monument designations and the history of the Antiquities Act earlier this year. The result is five unique national monument units that total more than 1.2 million acres.

Bears Ears will now encompass two monument areas – Shash Jáa, approximately 129,980 acres and Indian Creek, approximately 71,896 acres. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service will continue to co-manage the land. Bears Ears remains larger than Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park combined.

The new proclamation also provides increased public access to the land and restores allowance for traditional use for activities including motorized recreation, cattle grazing and tribal collection of wood and herbs.

Boundaries that remain protected include Bears Ears Buttes, the Lime Ridge Clovis Site, Moon House Ruin, Doll House Ruin, Indian Creek Rock Art and Newspaper Rock.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) will now consist of three monument areas – the Grand Staircase (209,993 acres), Kaiparowits (551,034 acres) and Escalante Canyons (242,836 acres). The three areas total more than a million acres and will be managed by the BLM.

To determine the necessary size to adequately protect significant objects and artifacts within the original designations, a thorough examination was conducted. Regions protected in the GSENM include areas of the highest concentration of fossil resources; important landscape features such as the Grand Staircase, Upper Paria Canyon System, Kaiparowits Plateau, Escalante Natural Bridge, Upper Escalante Canyons, East Kaibab Monocline, Grosvenor Arch, Old Paria Townsite and Dance Hall Rock; and relict plant communities such as No Mans Mesa.

During the review, Secretary Zinke personally visited the monuments and met with local Tribal representatives, county commissioners, residents and ranchers, as well as organizations such as the Wilderness Society and Nature Conservancy. In addition, for the first time in history, Secretary Zinke opened a formal comment period of the review of monuments designated under the Antiquities Act to individuals, providing an opportunity for many voices to be heard.

The purpose of the Antiquities Act is to protect archaeological or historical sites in the smallest area necessary. It was not intended to lock up large swathes of land. Since 1996, Utah has endured two of the most significant incidents of federal overreach regarding national monument designations in recent history.

During the 2017 session, the Utah Legislature passed, HCR 11, Concurrent Resolution Urging the President to Rescind the Bears Ears National Monument Designation and HCR 12, Concurrent Resolution Urging Federal Legislation to Reduce or Modify the Boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

President Trump and his administration demonstrated that they are listening to Utahns and the desires of those who live in the area by pulling back a small portion of the federal overreach and abuse of the Antiquities Act that our state has endured. Through this process, they have shown their willingness to give greater access to public land, while still continuing to protect significant artifacts.

This is not the first time a president has reduced a monument. Reductions have occurred at least 18 times, by both Republicans and Democrats. For instance, President John F. Kennedy altered Bandelier National Monument; Presidents Taft, Wilson, and Coolidge reduced Mount Olympus National Monument; and President Eisenhower reduced the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

The recent modifications by the Trump administration restore local input on federal lands, increase economic opportunity, especially in rural communities through grazing, commercial fishing, logging and in certain cases, mineral development, and protect objects without unnecessarily preventing public access.

We want to sincerely thank President Trump and Secretary Zinke for listening and allowing those closest to the lands to have some input on how to best manage and care for them.

New Transportation Governance Model

The Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force met to review and discuss a potential new governance model for the state’s transportation system. This task force, the result of SB 174, Public Transit and Transportation (2017), was charged with making recommendations on transportation in the state.

They have been looking at statewide governance and organizational strategies to coordinate management and oversight of all types of transportation, and to evaluate and implement best practices.

A proposal was presented—the culmination of months of study and analysis—to replace the UTA board and president/CEO with a three-member panel and a nine-member advisory board. There would be some state control and oversight that would allow the agency to receive state Transportation Investment Fund dollars but because it would not be a complete takeover, the state would be protected from assuming UTA’s $2 billion debt.

The task force will hold at least one more meeting between now and the start of the Legislative session on January 22, 2018, where it is expected that a bill incorporating the new governance model, with additional details, will be reviewed. You can listen to the recent meeting here.

Point of the Mountain Development Commission Presents Scenarios

For Immediate Release

Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications

Aimee Edwards
GOED Communications Director


SALT LAKE CITY (Nov. 28, 2017) — Public input is being sought for five development scenarios outlining possibilities for future growth of the Point of the Mountain region.

During a presentation to the Utah Legislature’s Point of the Mountain Development Commission at the Utah State Capitol on Tuesday, Envision Utah unveiled showed what the region could look like in 2050 according to specific development priorities.

Each of the five scenarios include varying levels of focus on residential and commercial development; transportation infrastructure; job growth and workforce development; and air quality, open space, recreation and water use.

The Point of the Mountain Development Commission will host two workshops to gather public feedback on the five scenarios:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 29, 6 p.m. at the Ashton Gardens Visitor Center in Lehi
  • Thursday, Nov. 30, 6 p.m. at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper

Residents may also weigh in on the scenarios through a survey on until Dec. 31, 2017.

The Point of the Mountain Development Commission was created during the 2016 Legislative Session by H.B. 318. The commission is a unique entity comprised of local officials, private sector representatives, and state officials from both the legislative and executive branches. It is tasked with providing recommendations on infrastructure planning and financing tools to develop the area joining Salt Lake and Utah Counties.

For more information, visit



The Other Side Academy

It’s nice to know that amidst all the depressing news on the opioid crisis, homelessness and poverty, there are beacons of hope springing up across this country. One of those beacons can be found in downtown Salt Lake City, and it’s called The Other Side Academy.

The Other Side Academy is modeled after Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, and opened its doors in Salt Lake City in 2015. These organizations provide the tools and structure for those who’ve lived lives marred by abuse, drugs and dysfunction. According to The Other Side Academy, these individuals “don’t need rehabilitation, they need habilitation.” They likely haven’t been exposed to orderly, well-functioning ways of life. “When they want to change they don’t need more motivation in the form of threats, fines and penalties, they need more ability – mentoring, training and full-contact coaching.”

In 2015, the Utah Legislature passed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, HB 348. This reform made changes to the way we treat criminals by assessing those charged with crimes and providing them with treatment where applicable, to allow for a more successful eventual transition back into the community. The last thing we want is for our prisons to simply provide a revolving door for those who could live successfully out in the community if they only had appropriate treatment and/or skills to be able to do so.

Treatment is one component of this reform, but providing opportunities for certain highly-motivated individuals to turn their lives around seems to fit perfectly into this idea that prison alone is not the only answer to every societal problem.

The Academy helps residents learn to work together, to be responsible and to follow through on commitments. It is self-sustaining through businesses run by participants, and they quickly learn that to eat requires work. There are no free rides. To be accepted into the program, all that is asked is for a participant to exhibit a sincere desire to change and a willingness to do the hard things that will allow that change to occur.

The Academy assisted with Phase Three of Operation Rio Grande, which focuses on the dignity of work. The plan establishes work activities, workshops, devotionals and other employment preparation activities to the daily routine of individuals residing in the Rio Grande area.

Read the story that started it all here.






Fireworks Restrictions – 2018


During the 2017 fireworks season, questions were raised about the types of fireworks allowed, the number of days it is legal to use fireworks, fire prevention, and liability concerns. In order to address these issues in a balanced and appropriate manner, Rep. Dunnigan and Sen. Iwamoto worked together on legislation that balances these concerns with the desire many Utahns have to be able to celebrate our most patriotic holidays with traditional displays of fireworks. This legislation is the result of numerous meetings with law enforcement, firefighters, fireworks retailers and manufacturers, citizens, and local elected officials.

A balanced approach

This legislation takes a balanced, bipartisan, and reasonable approach to addressing the many viewpoints on how and when fireworks should be allowed.

40% reduction in dates fireworks are allowed in July

  • Fireworks would be allowed July 2-5 and July 22-25, instead of July 1-7 and July 21-27.
  • Fireworks would still be allowed on New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Stronger penalties for shooting fireworks outside of permitted dates and times

  • Penalty for discharging fireworks when not permitted would be up to a $1,000 fine, an increase from $750. Violations would remain an infraction.

New penalty for igniting fireworks in restricted areas

  • Up to a $1,000 penalty and an infraction for discharging fireworks in an area where fireworks have been prohibited due to hazardous environmental conditions.

More local control

  • Provides clarity and increased flexibility to local governments and the state forester to prohibit the discharge of fireworks due to historic or current hazardous environmental conditions.

Easier to understand restrictions and penalties

  • Requires local governments and the state forester to create and provide maps showing where fireworks are prohibited due to hazardous environmental conditions.
  • Requires retailers to display maps that counties provide showing these restricted areas and display signs that indicate legal dates and times as well as criminal penalties and fines for violations.

Increased liability for causing a fire with fireworks

  • Civil liability for negligently, recklessly, or intentionally causing a fire with fireworks potentially includes any damages caused by the fire and any costs of suppressing the fire.



Business and Labor Interim Committee voted unanimously to fast-track this legislation for consideration during 2018 General Session on Wednesday, November 15, 2017.

Legal Action Against Opioid Makers

We appreciate Salt Lake County and Utah County taking strides to help bring in an end to the drug manufactures not being held responsible for making blatantly false claims. Utah is moving in the right direction. Looking forward to others taking action.

This letter was read by Utah Commissioners read during the Utah County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017.

Watch the press conference where Speaker Greg Hughes, Mayor Ben McAdams District Attorney Sim Gill and families of those affected by the opioid crisis announce Salt Lake County’s intent topursue legal action against opioid drug manufacturers here.