Category: Press Release

State leaders announce year-end budget surplus

SALT LAKE CITY (Oct. 17, 2018) – State leaders announced Wednesday that the State of Utah will close out the prior fiscal year (FY 2018) with a budget surplus. This announcement comes as the Division of Finance wraps up its yearly analysis. Under the division’s current calculation, it will deposit $107 million into state reserve accounts and the Industrial Assistance Fund. After accounting for these transfers, the division estimates there will be nearly $158 million in additional, one-time revenue available from FY 2018. This budget surplus includes $8 million in the General Fund and $150 million in the Education Fund.

“Balancing the budget and operating according to prudent fiscal policies are top priorities here in Utah,” said Gov. Gary R. Herbert. “This one-time surplus revenue will help our legislature lend short-term support to our education system for one-time expenses such as buildings. But we still need a long-term solution to fund excellence in our classrooms.”

“A responsible budget should always spend less money than it takes in and set aside savings for a rainy day,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “These surplus calculations are encouraging and reflect our growing economy, but we must continue to be conservative when planning the entire state budget to ensure we find the correct fiscal balance.”

“These revenue surplus numbers are the result of Utah’s robust economy and I’m encouraged by them,” said Speaker Greg Hughes. “However, we must remain vigilant as we plan for our future to continue investing in critical areas such as education, transportation, public safety and our rainy day fund.”

As mentioned above, Utah made significant deposits into rainy day reserve accounts during FY 2018. An additional $6 million went into the general rainy day fund, $65 million into the education rainy day fund, $30 million into Medicaid rainy day fund, and $6 million into various other funds.

These numbers may slightly change as the Division of Finance finalizes its calculations.

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ATTACHMENTS:

FY 2018 Preliminary Fund Balances

FY 2018 State of Utah Financial Highlights

State Revenue Snapshot

CONTACTS:

Aundrea Peterson
Utah House of Representatives
aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Anna Lehnardt
Gov. Gary R. Herbert
alehnardt@utah.gov

Bryan Smith
Utah State Senate
bsmith@le.utah.gov

Utah Legislative Auditor General John M. Schaff Announces Retirement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 4, 2018

CONTACTS
Bryan Smith
Deputy Chief of Staff
Utah State Senate
bsmith@le.utah.gov

Aundrea Peterson
Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives
aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Utah Legislative Auditor General John M. Schaff Announces Retirement

Salt Lake City – After 42 years of service to Utah’s taxpayers, Legislative Auditor General John M. Schaff is retiring. In a letter announcing his plans to retire, Schaff, who has led the 28-person staff of the Office of the Legislative Auditor General since 2004, described his career with the Legislature as “a grand experience.” He praised the legislative body’s respect for the independence of his office saying, “…in all my years on the hill they have never attempted to censor or control the audit process. Rather, the Legislature has allowed the audit function freedom to discover and report the truth.”

Legislative Leaders Offer their Praise for a Dedicated Public Servant

“Utah is a better place thanks to the devoted public service of John Schaff,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “Good policy is predicated on good information. Under John’s leadership, the Office of the Legislative Auditor General has effectively provided information, analyses, and recommendations helping the Legislature make the best policy decisions for our state. John’s impartiality, integrity, and expertise have been above reproach. On behalf of the Utah Senate and the citizens we represent, we thank John for his many years of exceptional public service.”

President Niederhauser’s sentiments were echoed by Speaker of the House of Representatives Speaker Greg Hughes: “The Utah Legislature has been well served under the leadership of John Schaff,” said Speaker Hughes. “John has always exemplified professionalism, and I entrusted his ability to do his job in an exceptional manner. Our state is better because of his dedication to his position. I want to thank him for all the work he has done on behalf of legislators and the citizens of Utah. I want to congratulate John on his retirement, and I wish him well as he begins this new chapter in his life.”

Praise for Schaff and the Office of the Legislative Auditor General came from both sides of the aisle: “John has distinguished himself as an outstanding public servant,” said Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis. “He and his office has set the standard for balanced, in-depth audits. His legacy is a more efficient and accountable state.” House Minority Leader Brian King added, “Because John lead his office professionally and without partisan slant his work has been integral to making our government more competent, efficient, and responsive to Utahns. Even when his assignments were potentially politically-charged, he worked honestly and with transparency to keep our state agencies accountable. I’ve appreciated his diligence and integrity very much.”

Search Underway for Replacement

John Schaff’s retirement will be effective November 30, 2018. Meanwhile, the process has begun for hiring his replacement. The Legislative Audit Subcommittee, which is co-chaired by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, is currently seeking applicants for the position. Applicants must be a Licensed Certified Public Accountant or Certified Internal Auditor, have at least five years of experience in performance auditing in the private or public accounting profession or the equivalent prior to appointment and must hold a master’s degree in a related business field. Interested applicants should send a cover letter, resume and references to hr@le.utah.govno later than September 16, 2018, by 5:00 p.m.

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The Office of the Legislative Auditor General is charged with examining and evaluating taxpayer-funded programs, operations, and entities. Their mission to serve the citizens of Utah by providing objective information, in-depth analyses, and useful recommendations that help legislators and other decision makers improve programs, reduce costs, and promote accountability.

 

 

Rep. Schultz and Sen. Harper ask UTA to hold on rebranding UTA

For Immediate Release
May 16, 2018

Contacts:
Aundrea Peterson
Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives
aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Bryan Smith
Deputy Chief of Staff
Utah State Senate
bsmith@le.utah.gov

 Sen. Harper and Rep. Schultz ask UTA to hold on rebranding UTA

Salt Lake City – Due to confusion and misinformation surrounding SB 136, Transportation Governance Amendments, bill sponsors Senator Wayne Harper and Representative Mike Schultz request Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to not proceed with the request for proposal (RFP) and rebranding. The Legislature will continue to study this issue and work with the new UTA board once it is in place, to decide the best path forward.

“We want all to focus on the new day of multimodal transportations, better utilization of resources, improved land use and planning and adequate funding,” said Sen. Wayne Harper. “A plan for the next 40 years.”

“The name change was a minimal aspect of the bill. No money was appropriated to rebrand UTA,” said Rep. Mike Schultz. “The purpose of this legislation is to revamp the transit agency by increasing transparency, improving checks and balances and providing local governments with the necessary tools to assist with the growing demand for multimodal transportation. It is now time for stakeholders to come together to further enhance Utah’s transportation system and set clear directives that will lead to better efficiencies and oversight and ultimately benefit all Utahns.”

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Watch the press conference from May 16, 2018, here.

Read highlights of SB 136 here.

 

 

 

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.

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Watch the press conference here.

Contacts:
Aundrea Peterson
Utah House of Representatives
aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Bryan Smith
Utah State Senate
bsmith@le.utah.gov

Cindy Reinhard
Utah Attorney General’s Office
creinhard@agutah.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legislature reaches an agreement with Our Schools Now on education funding

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2018

Contacts:
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

MEDIA ADVISORY
March 8, 2018

Contacts
Aundrea Peterson
Utah House of Representatives
aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

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

What:
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.

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

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

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

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HONORING FRED HAYES’

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 6, 2018

 

HONORING FRED HAYES’
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

Contact:
Aundrea Peterson
Utah House of Representatives
aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

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

 What:
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.

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

 When:
Thursday, March 1, 9:45 a.m.

Who:
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

 

Contact:
Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives
 aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

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.

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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.

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Contacts:
Aundrea Peterson
Utah House of Representatives
801-791-3365 | aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Jon Hennington
Utah Senate
jhennington@le.utah.gov