Category: Press Release

Combating Violence with Kindness

For Immediate Release
March 13, 2018 


Combating Violence with Kindness
Utah Legislature Passed a Resolution Designating April as #MSDkindness Month

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Legislature passed HCR 22, Concurrent Resolution Designating April as #MSDkindness Month, which aims to pay tribute to the victims who lost their lives in the senseless act of violence that was committed against students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray (R-Clinton) and Sen. Daniel Thatcher (R-West Valley), designates April as Act of Kindness month to encourage Utahns to perform random acts of humanity to honor the victims of Parkland, Florida. In honor of #MSDKindness, a feature was added to the SafeUT so users could report acts of kindness in addition to incidents of crisis. People are encouraged to report their acts of kindness during April through SafeUT, which has been designed to improve school safety and help students access critical mental health resources. These acts of kindness will highlight the good of the community while engaging students in using an app that aims to help prevent future acts of violence.

“It is my goal to makes sure that my daughter’s legacy is remembered as one not of tragedy, but of hope, service, and love,” said Ryan Petty, the father of 14-year-old Alaina who lost her life during the recent attack in Florida. “It is also my goal to make sure this time will be different because we are going to focus on school safety initiatives to prevent anyone else from going through what we have gone through these past few weeks. I am grateful to the sponsors and supporters of this initiative who are working diligently to accomplish both of these goals.”

“The purpose of this resolution is to focus on the hope that comes from the strength of families, like the Petty’s,” said Rep. Ray. “Their determination is an example to us all on how to persevere through challenging times and bring about positive change to school safety. My heart goes out to families during this time of unthinkable loss. Utah is ready to lead by taking actions to promote acts of kindness as well as developing the Davis School District mental wellness program that can serve as a model for schools around the state and nation.”

“With the noise of the world getting louder every day, simple acts of kindness are the best way to get to the root of the problem,” said Sen. Thatcher. “In fact, it may be the only way.”

“My heart also goes out to the perpetrator of this evil and senseless act,” said Petty. “And I wonder if somebody had put their arms around this young man a few months ago or a few years ago, would his life have been different? How much would the lives of the 17 families who have been impacted by the choices he made be different.”

SafeUT was launched in January 2016, following the passage of SB 175, School Safety and Crisis Line. Attorney General Sean Reyes, chair, and Rep. Steve Eliason and Sen. Thatcher are on the SafeUT Commission, which serves as a powerful tool for dealing with school safety, teen suicide and the opioid epidemic. The Pettys have publicly encouraged Florida Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi for the adoption of a version of the SafeUT in the Sunshine State.

“By designating April Kindness month, we want to encourage a little kindness to go a long way,” said Attorney General Reyes. “One small act of kindness can change the trajectory of a life. In doing this we honor the legacy of those children and families in Parkland, Florida, many of whom were dedicated to acts of kindness and service and all of whom deserved more years to accomplish them. By celebrating their lives, we hopefully remind ourselves that we are all part of one large human family. We hope our challenge to other states continues a wave of kindness that will cascade over the nation and turn such tragedy into a little bit of light. Thank you to the Petty family for being an inspiration to us. Alaina has become one of our heroes for her kindness.”

Reyes Family Foundation, The Grand America Hotel and M. Peterson Consulting hosted the Petty Family while they were in Utah.

The resolution also challenges other states to claim the remaining months in the year to carry on the legacy of kindness and service left by those who lost their lives in this tragic incident. Two cities in Washington, Camas and Washougal, have already declared March as their month of kindness to honor the victims of this singular act of violence.


Watch the press conference here.

Aundrea Peterson
Utah House of Representatives

Bryan Smith
Utah State Senate

Cindy Reinhard
Utah Attorney General’s Office















Legislature reaches an agreement with Our Schools Now on education funding

March 9, 2018

Bryan Smith
Deputy Chief of Staff
Utah State Senate

Aundrea Peterson
Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives

Austin Cox
Executive Director
Our Schools Now

Legislature reaches an agreement with Our Schools Now on education funding

Salt Lake City – The Utah Legislature and Our Schools Now have successfully worked together to find common ground in their efforts to better fund education for the schoolchildren of Utah. It has been agreed that the best path forward is to not only increase education funding now, but to also fix the significant structural issues in the tax system that have led to our current education funding imbalance.

Education in Utah will receive an additional $292 million this year. As a result of the discussions with Our Schools Now, the Legislature has committed to a make a number of tax changes and place a question on the ballot that together could lead to an additional $845 per pupil by 2023.

“This compromise is a win-win for the future of Utah. Education has always been my number one priority,” Gov. Herbert said. “This major investment in per-student spending is going to make a noticeable difference for student success in Utah. This solution also allows us to invest in local road needs and make significant progress toward reducing some of the imbalances in our tax code. I appreciate Our Schools Now for bringing this issue to the forefront and the Legislature for responding to the encouragement of the public, and look forward to working to pass the November ballot question and implementing the will of the voters.”

“I appreciate Senator Adams, Our Schools Now, and all the stakeholders who have come together to address these crucial issues,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “These changes will not only result in more money going to education now but a more stable and sustainable tax structure to continue to support education and future growth in the state.”

“The Legislature has shown their commitment to education with historic levels of funding over the last three years. This year we renewed that commitment,” said House Speaker Greg Hughes. “We appreciate Our Schools Now and their efforts to generate better ideas for education reform.”

Statement from Gail Miller, Scott Anderson and Ron Jibson: “This is the year of education in Utah. The actions of this legislature can lead to an $845 increase in per-pupil spending. It’s gratifying that we can come together with the Governor and the Legislature to take such a major step to improve outcomes for our students. We look forward to reaching out to voters across the state for the benefit of our children, and our state, in support of the November ballot proposal.”

These efforts which will replace the Teacher and Student Success Act ballot initiative are detailed below:

  1. Creation of the Teacher and Student Success Account

This account will be used to directly fund schools at the local level and will include specific guidelines, management and oversight. In the first year of the program, the equivalent of 1.5 percent WPU will be deposited into the fund, which at this time is equivalent to approximately $47 million, and will pass through the local education agency (LEA). Distributions from this account will begin in 2020 directly to schools through the TSSA.

  1. Establishing a Working Group

The Legislature will work with Our Schools Now and other education stakeholders to determine the administration of the Teacher and Student Success Account. The working group will review and make recommendations to the Legislature on equal distribution, local control, transparency, performance improvement, accountability and approved areas of investment.

  1. 10-Cent Gas Tax Ballot Question

HB 491 authorizes a non-binding question to go on the ballot. HJR 20 directs the Lt. Governor to place a question on the ballot that would ask voters if the state should increase the gas tax by the equivalent of 10 cents per gallon, indexed for inflation.

Implementing a 10-cent per gallon tax would generate approximately $170 million in new revenue for the Transportation Fund in the first year. Thirty percent would be dedicated to local roads and the remaining 70 percent would be used to offset an equivalent cut in funding for transportation, that would then go toward education. Of these new education funds, 80 percent is intended for the Teacher and Student Success Account for K-12 and 20 percent for higher education performance funding.

  1. Freezing the Basic Rate and Indexing the Basic Levy

HB 293 freezes the state basic property tax rate for 5 years and uses new revenue to equalize student spending among all LEAs. It also indexes the basic levy and places new revenue into the Teacher and Student Success Account subject to periodic review.

  1. Amendments to Education Rainy Day Fund

During the interim, the Legislature will work to change the statute to allow the use of Rainy Day Funds to continue the tradition of funding student enrollment growth and inflation even in economic downturns.

  1. Local Funding of Technology

SB144 Authorizes a local school board to unlock significant new revenue sources for technology and infrastructure projects and programs in our schools.

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Press conference to discuss UTA Transportation Governance Amendments

March 8, 2018

Aundrea Peterson
Utah House of Representatives

Legislature to hold a press conference to UTA discuss Transportation Governance Amendments

President Wayne Niederhauser, Speaker Greg Hughes, Senator Wayne Harper and Representative Mike Schultz will hold a press conference to discuss the passage of S.B. 136 Transportation Governance Amendments.

President Wayne Niederhauser
Speaker Greg Hughes
Senator Wayne Harper
Representative Mike Schultz
UTA Board Members

Thursday, March 8, 2018, at 11:00 am

Utah State Capitol, Presentation Room
350 State St., Salt Lake City, UT 84111




March 6, 2018


Lifetime of service

The Utah Legislature honored the life and longtime service of director of State Parks and Recreation, Fred Hayes, with a House Resolution (HCR21) that commended him for his thirty-five-year career in State Parks and calls for the renaming of Starvation State Park to the Fred Hayes State Park.

Fred Hayes first started his career in 1982 as a Ranger Aide at the Starvation State Park. Under his leadership as director, the State Parks have seen a tremendous increase in visitors and numerous improvements in Park management.

Senator Ipson remarked, “It was always a pleasure to work with Fred. He was always upbeat and positive. We worked together to make some of our state parks more accessible and more user-friendly, and that was always a top priority to him.  He helped to make some dramatic capital improvements to our parks as well.  He’ll be dearly missed.”

“When I first started to serve in the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee eight years ago, the state allocated $12 to $16 million to fund state parks, said Rep. Lee Perry. “Today, it’s less than $4 million that is due to the leadership of Fred Hayes. HCR 21 recognizes his dedication and service to Utah.”

Fred Hayes passed away last week at the age of 58.  Fred is survived by his wife Serena and their five children.  He will be remembered fondly for his energetic, friendly style of leadership.

The resolution sponsored by Representative Perry and Senator Don Ipson. HCR21 was heard on March 7, 2018, on the floor of the House and Senate.  The Resolution passed unanimously in both Houses. 

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Rep. Kennedy to hold a press conference to discuss Utah School Safety Commission

Media Advisory
For Immediate Release
February 27, 2018

Aundrea Peterson
Utah House of Representatives

Rep. Kennedy to hold a press conference to discuss Utah School Safety Commission
Protecting our children

Keeping children safe is a high priority for everyone. With the rise of school threats, now more than ever is the time to rally together to come up with solutions.

Rep. Mike Kennedy assembled an uncompensated commission, Utah School Safety (USS), that will review policies directed at increasing safety in our schools. Robust dialog amongst elected officials, stakeholders, doctors, professors, parents, teachers and community members will help develop Utah solutions to increase measures to protect the safety of children across the state.

During the press conference, elected officials and stakeholders will review the plan and the purpose of the USS Commission.

Capitol Building, Gold Room
350 State St., Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Thursday, March 1, 9:45 a.m.

Rep. Mike Kennedy, District 27
Members of the Utah School Safety Commission

Members of the Utah School Safety (USS) Commission:

  • Terryl Warner, board member of the Utah State Board of Education
  • Clark Aposhian, chairman of the board of the Utah Shooting Sports Council
  • Dallas Earnshaw, Psychiatry doctor at Wasatch Mental Health
  • John Hoffmann, professor at Brigham Young University
  • Keith Squires, commissioner for the Utah Department of Public Safety
  • Ron Gordon, general counsel at the Office of the Governor, Utah
  • Bryan Turner, director of Architectural Services at Davis School District
  • Heidi Matthews, president, Utah Education Association
  • Two High School Students (to be determined)

Representatives who were at the press conference though not part of the commission.

  • Rep. Mike Kennedy
  • Speaker Greg Hughes
  • Rep. Ray Ward
  • Rep. Steve Handy
  • Rep. Merrill Nelson
  • Rep. Marie Poulson
  • Rep. Carol Spackman Moss

Submit suggestions to USS here

Video of the press conference can be found here.

New House Member Sworn in

Press Release
For Immediate Release
February 14, 2018


Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives

New House Member Sworn in

Salt Lake City – Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes administered the Oath of Office to the newest member of Utah House of Representatives, Rep. Travis Seegmiller on February 14, 2018.

“We’re excited to welcome Representative Seegmiller to the House,” said Speaker Hughes. “His experience in law, finance and public policy will serve him well as he jumps into his new legislative role.”

Rep. Seegmiller was selected in a special election to replace the vacant seat in House District 62. He will be assigned to House Business and Labor Committee, House Government Operations Committee and Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to represent the good people of District 62,” said Rep. Seegmiller.

Seegmiller is an associate professor of law, economics and management at Dixie State University. He has worked on presidential political campaigns and public policy issues since 1996, including service as a strategy staffer for Mitt Romney and as a Judiciary Committee staffer to Senator Orrin Hatch. He also worked as management strategy consultant and attorney in the areas of finance, investment, law and policy. After completing his undergraduate degree with departmental distinction at Yale University, Rep. Seegmiller received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, graduating cum laude from both universities.


Trauma-Informed Legislative Workgroup

Press Release
For Immediate Release
January 18, 2018

Standing Up for Trauma Victims in a Bipartisan Manner

SALT LAKE CITY – Representative Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan) and Senator Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake) announced their proposed bipartisan legislation, H.B. 177 Trauma-Informed Justice Provisions, that would enable and assist victims of crime, during the Trauma Informed Justice Solutions panel discussion on January 16, 2018. The mission of the workgroup is to eradicate re-traumatization of victims in Utah by establishing trauma-informed systems that are sensitive to and aware of the needs of victims.

“A traumatized person thinks differently than they did before,” said Jenny Livsey, crime survivor, and advocate. “The criminal justice system is a foreign place. My role as a victim is to survive, and I need someone to show me how.”

Under the current system, the workgroup says victims are often re-traumatized by their experiences with the criminal justice system. The workgroup is calling for a process that understands traumatized victims and carefully assists individuals seeking help.

“H.B. 177 is the first step in moving our state to trauma-informed practices that will help improve survivors’ experiences,” said Sen. Escamilla.

The goals of this proposed legislation include:

  • Reduced the likelihood of re-victimization, leading to less accumulative adverse childhood experiences, less behavioral risk-taking, fewer negative health impacts, and reduce state spending on healthcare
  • Increase the likelihood that victims will engage with the Criminal Justice System in the future by supporting a more positive experience, which in turn enables improved healing and coping skills by connecting victims with available resources

“I have learned from my constituents over the years that the way we treat traumatized victims matters tremendously for the effective, efficient and respectful administration of criminal justice,” said Rep. Ivory. “We can do a better job system-wide to protect the important role victims have in our criminal justice system.”

H.B. 177 will establish a Multi-Disciplinary Trauma-Informed Committee tasked with creating a trauma-informed justice program. The committee will conduct a study of current and

recommended trauma-informed policies, procedures, programs and practices in Utah’s criminal and juvenile justice system including:

  • The role of victim advocates and victim services in the criminal and juvenile justice system
  • How to implement the option of a comprehensive, seamless victim-advocate system that:
    • Is based on the best interests of victims
    • Assists victims throughout the criminal and juvenile justice system
    • Assist with the progress of recovering from trauma experienced as a result of being a victim of crime

“Victims are tasked with navigating a system for which they are simply not prepared to navigate,” said Amy Coombs, Masters in Social Work, Certified Social Work Manager. “The best way to evaluate how we operate systems of service in the criminal justice system is to ask crime victims/survivors for feedback. We should listen attentively to this feedback, and then react accordingly.”

“Many resources have been dedicated to worthy efforts such as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative and other efforts to enhance trauma-informed justice,” said Turner Bitton, Executive Director UCASA. “However, that process has often focused on offenders and not victims. This legislation is a critical first step in resolving that disparity and expanding the opportunities for victims of sexual assault. We are pleased to support this great legislation.”

Members of the workgroup include the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice (CCJJ); The Utah Office for Victims of Crime (UOVC); The Office on Domestic and Sexual Violence; the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA); Turner Bitton, executive director at UCASA; Amy Coombs, M.S.W, CSWM; Jenny Livsey, crime victim/survivor; Rhiannon Livsey, crime victim/survivor; Donna Kelly, deputy district attorney, Salt Lake City; and Gary Scheller, director of the UOVC.

Sen. Escamilla and Rep. Ivory will continue to work on this bipartisan issue to pass legislation that will meet the expressed needs of survivors of crime victims, such as Jenny Livsey and her family, during the 2018 General Session.


Aundrea Peterson
Utah House of Representatives
801-791-3365 |

Jon Hennington
Utah Senate



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.


State leaders announce forecast of FY 2019 revenue numbers  

Press Release
For Immediate Release
December 12, 2017

State leaders announce forecast of FY 2019 revenue numbers  

SALT LAKE CITY –  Consensus revenue figures indicate Utah’s prosperous and diverse economy is generating additional revenue for the state. The consensus revenue forecast shows a supplementary $101 million of one-time funds and $382 million in new ongoing appropriations for the upcoming FY 2019 budget. That’s an increase from the amounts available at this time last year, which were $1 million one-time and $283 million ongoing.

“Utah’s continued economic growth provides the revenues that will allow the State of Utah to make critical investments in our long-term future, including education,” said Governor Gary Herbert.

“A reliable state budget depends on a reasonable, conservative budget forecast,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “These consensus figures are encouraging and good news for our economy, but we must continue to be conservative when examining the entire budget to ensure we find the correct fiscal balance.”

“This revenue and economic forecast illustrates that Utah’s economy continues to thrive,” said Speaker Greg Hughes. “While these numbers are encouraging, we must continue our measured approach as we put together the state budget that addresses critical needs of this great state. We have some of the best legislative economists in the nation and I appreciate the hours they spent working on this forecast.” 

The Office of Legislative Fiscal Analyst presented the consensus forecast on Tuesday, November 12, 2017, to the Executive Appropriations Committee. The office also presented a comprehensive review of revenue volatility and a trend analysis. It recommended using $67 million ongoing and $85 million one-time from the new revenue to pay existing obligations.

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