Category: Press Release

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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Speaker Hughes Announces Changes to House Majority Leadership

Press Release
For Immediate Release
December 7, 2017

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

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.

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Rep. Dean Sanpei to resign from Utah House

Press Release
For Immediate Release
December 1, 2017

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

Rep. Dean Sanpei to resign from Utah House

Salt Lake City – Representative Dean Sanpei, current House chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee and vice president of strategy for Intermountain Healthcare, will resign from the Utah House of Representatives on December 8, 2017. Sanpei has accepted a position with Centura Health as senior vice president and chief strategy officer, which will require him to relocate to Colorado.

“On behalf of the Utah House of Representatives, we want to thank Rep. Sanpei for his years of service and leadership,” said Speaker Greg Hughes. “He will be hard to replace. Utah’s national recognition for being a well-managed state, and economically strong, are in large part due to his efforts. While we will greatly miss his friendship and leadership, we wish him and his family the very best as they venture out on this new journey.”

During his time in the Legislature, Rep. Sanpei has proven to be an expert on very complex issues including budgets, taxes and healthcare. Rep. Sanpei currently serves as House chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee and is a member of the Government Operations Committee and Health Reform Task Force.

“It has been an honor to serve in the Utah House during such a significant period of economic recovery and growth,” said Rep. Sanpei. “I am proud to have worked with remarkable colleagues, and I’m grateful to the constituents who entrusted me to represent them.”

Rep. Sanpei was appointed to the Utah House of Representatives in June 2010 to fill the remaining term of Rep. Stephen Clark and was elected by his district that November. Since then he has served on the Executive Appropriations Committee, Health and Human Services Interim Committee, Health Reform Task Force, Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, House Health and Human Services Committee, House Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Committee, Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee, Education Interim Committee, House Education Committee, House Rules Committee, House Transportation Committee, Legislative Policy Summit, Government Operations Interim Committee, House Government Operations Committee, Legislative Site Visit, Transportation Interim Committee, Point of the Mountain Development Commission, and Economic Development Legislative Liaison Committee.

The Utah County Republican Party will now establish a process for choosing a replacement to be submitted to Governor Herbert for appointment.

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Speaker Hughes Educating Counties about Options to Confront Big Pharma

Press Release
For Immediate Release
November 16, 2017

Contact:
Aundrea Peterson
House Majority Communications Director
Utah House of Representatives
801-791-3365| aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Speaker Hughes Educating Counties about Options to Confront Big Pharma
Uniting to combat the opioid crisis

ST. GEORGE, UT– Speaker Greg Hughes and DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Utah Brian Besser are attending the Utah Association of Counties annual conference in St. George to discuss the opioid epidemic impacting every county in our state.

Speaker Hughes will be focused on informing county leaders and stakeholders about their options to pursue litigation against big drug manufacturers. He will encourage them to follow the lead of Salt Lake County and Utah County leaders who just this week announced they would be initiating litigation to hold accountable those responsible for this crisis.

The opioid crisis that is sweeping this country is affecting every community across our state. The facts are staggering, in Utah 4 out of 5 people addicted to heroin started through prescribed opioid pain medication.

“We must take this fight to those who have profited by making blatantly false claims that have adversely affected Utahns lives,” said Speaker Hughes. “Utah has an important and unique story that needs to be shared. Now is the time to act.”

Drug manufactures knowingly made deceptive claims while marketing their products to physicians and the public, such as, “Opioids are rarely addictive if taken long term.” Resulting in the United States consuming 99 percent of opioid products even though our country only makes up 5 percent of the world population.

Every county in this state needs to join together to fight this public health epidemic.

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Press Release: Feds approve Utah’s Medicaid waiver

Press Release
For Immediate Release
Nov. 1, 2017

Feds approve Utah’s Medicaid waiver

SALT LAKE CITY (Nov. 1, 2017) – The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced its approval of a 2016 request from the state of Utah to expand Medicaid services to 4,000 – 6,000 Utah adults without dependent children. The approval also includes authority to use federal funds to provide residential substance abuse treatment services to Medicaid recipients.

This limited expansion of Medicaid is a critical element of Operation Rio Grande, as many of the newly eligible recipients will be members of the homeless population. Phase two of the operation focuses on bringing additional treatment beds into the system to support individuals in recovery. The waiver approval will encourage treatment centers to begin offering services for Medicaid members. In anticipation of this waiver approval, multiple centers are planning to add roughly 180 beds within the next year.

“We are excited to announce approval of Utah’s waiver that will expand access to Substance Use Disorder treatment,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.  “I applaud Gov. Herbert for taking this critical step to address the opioid crisis and look forward to continuing to support the Utah in their efforts.”

The program will begin enrolling newly eligible members immediately.

“I’ve always said that the federal government should give states the flexibility to innovate in how they operate their Medicaid programs,” explained Gov. Gary R. Herbert. “Nobody knows how to address the unique challenges we face as a state better than we do. Today’s announcement allows us to address the specific challenge of extending health care coverage — including substance abuse and mental health services — to the homeless population. I commend the Trump administration for approving our waiver request, and look forward to providing these critical services.”

“The approval of this waiver is significant for the most vulnerable people in our communities,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “It will empower more effective solutions to help those experiencing poverty and homelessness. I appreciate the current administration for recognizing the merits of our objectives.”

In order to be eligible, individuals may not earn more than five percent of the federal poverty level and must be “chronically” homeless or involved in the justice system through probation, parole, or court-ordered substance abuse or mental health treatment.

Historically, substance abuse treatment through Medicaid was limited to facilities with 16 beds or fewer. Under the waiver, the bed capacity limit will be lifted allowing more treatment centers the ability to provide care to Medicaid members with substance use disorders.

“We appreciate the Trump administration’s effort to approve these waivers based on our requested timeline,” said Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes. “In all our conversations, they have recognized our needs and the importance of this critical step to help the neediest in our society. These waivers will help further our execution of Operation Rio Grande and the implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. I’m proud of the unprecedented partnerships we have formed through our multi-jurisdictional effort and look forward to our continued collaboration and success in changing people’s lives by giving them a hand up.”

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) submitted the waiver for CMS consideration on July 1, 2016. Elements of the request were outlined in legislation sponsored by Rep. Jim Dunnigan and passed during the 2016 legislative session.

“After working on this issue for the past several years, I’m excited for CMS to have finally signed off on our plan,” said Rep. Dunnigan. “This was a bipartisan effort, and there was broad support for the legislation that lead us here today. I look forward to continuing to work with all the parties involved to now implement this important program.”

This waiver approval does not include the proposed amendments that were submitted to CMS in August 2017 which included a work requirement and limitation on eligible months of coverage. The Utah Department of Health will continue to work with CMS to obtain authorization for these additional flexibilities in order to ensure expansion efforts are sustainable.

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Read the letter here.

Watch the press conference here.

Press Release: Assessing Utah’s Occupational Licensing Policies and Practices

Press Release
For Immediate Release
September 28, 2017

Contact:
Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives
801-791-3365 | aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Assessing Utah’s Occupational Licensing Policies and Practices

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah has been selected to participate in the National Occupational Licensing Learning Consortium. The Consortium objective is to find solutions that will enhance portability of occupational licenses and remove overly broad or restrictive existing and new licensing requirements.

In the last 60 years, jobs that require an occupational license, or government approval to practice a profession, has drastically increased from about one in 20 to more than one in four.

Utah’s participation in the Consortium will continue the state’s effort to understand issues revolving around occupational licensure; improve familiarity and discuss existing licensing policies within the state; identify current policies that create unnecessary barriers to labor market entry; and create an action plan that focuses on removing barriers to labor market entry to improve portability and reciprocity for certain occupations.

“This national effort aligns well with Utah’s on-going efforts to streamline regulation of local businesses,” said Sen. Todd Weiler.

During the two-year study, the state will select four to five specific occupational licensures to review.

“It is encouraging to see occupational licensing reform receiving such increased bipartisan support nationally and in Utah,” said Rep. Brian Greene. “Wherever unnecessarily burdensome regulations exist, they should be identified and modified to accomplish government’s proper role in this arena – to address legitimate public health and safety concerns.”

The purpose of occupational licensing is to protect consumers health and safety by requiring practitioners possess a certain level of competency within a particular field. However, the extensive amount of regulations can create disparities across states that results in unreasonable barriers for individuals to enter a labor market. Additionally, it makes relocating difficult. For instance—military spouses and families, immigrants with work authorization and unemployed and dislocated workers—are especially affected by the requirements and variances of occupational licensing.

The Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel applied on behalf of the Legislature to participate in the two-year occupational licensing project. The submission process included submitting a five-part narrative, state objectives, research previously completed and letters of support from various government entities. The Legislature, Governor’s Office, Utah Department of Commerce and Department of Workforce Services will represent Utah.

Occupational Licensing: Assessing State Policy and Practice is hosted by the Council of State Governments, National Conference of State Legislatures, and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, with support from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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Press Release: Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee pass motion requesting courts hold off implementing new policy

Press Release
For Immediate Release
September 22, 2017

Contact:
Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives
801-791-3365 | aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee pass motion requesting courts hold off implementing new policy

SALT LAKE CITY – Upon review of the House Interim Rules, the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel (LRGC) has determined that a motion voted upon by the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee on Wednesday, calling upon Utah’s Courts to delay implementation of using Public Safety Assessment tools, did actually pass.

Representative Paul Ray expressed concern during the committee meeting and made a motion requesting that the courts wait to make such a major policy change until the Legislature would have time to review it. Rep. Ray’s motion passed the House by a majority vote and tied in the Senate, 2-2. Initially, the LRGC ruled that the motion had failed.

In January, the Utah Judicial Council approved use of a bail-alternative process which establishes a public-safety assessment (PSA) score based on an algorithm. Under the new rule, judges are permitted to determine to use the PSA score instead of using the probable cause statements that are filed by the arresting officer when deciding if a suspect should be released.

It is scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 13, 2017, although the Utah Legislature won’t have had a chance to review this policy change prior to the next general session in January 2018.

“Courts should come to the legislature when considering a drastic policy change,” said Rep. Ray. “The court’s authority is to ensure the law is being upheld not create new laws that could have an adverse effect on our community without public hearings and debate.”

Article VIII, Section 4 of the Utah Constitution states, “The Legislature may amend the Rules of Procedure and Evidence adopted by the Supreme Court upon a vote of two-thirds of all members of both houses of the Legislature.”

A PSA score is a computer-generated scoring system created by the Texas-based foundation of billionaire John Arnold and his wife Laura. The foundation advocates for criminal justice reform and other social issues and provides its PSA tool to any jurisdictions that request it. Nine risk factors are plugged into it, including criminal history, age, current charges and past charges. The tool then creates a score for a judge to consider.

The foundation says the algorithm generates gender-and-race-neutral “evidence-based data” on which defendants should be released before trial offering judges “reliable, predictive information about the risk that a defendant released before trial will engage in violence, commit a new crime, or fail to return to court.” Judicial systems in two states and 29 counties — including Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Phoenix — are using the Arnold Foundation PSA scoring tool.

The algorithm has generated plenty of controversy in the wake of its implementation, however, most recently in San Francisco, where opponents are blaming it for the murder of a professional film and TV scout during a petty robbery. The PSA tool recommended that one of the man’s two assailants was a candidate for pretrial release despite his being a convicted felon and a two-time parole violator, who had also been arrested for gun possession only five days prior to the killing.

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Press Release: Utah research facility leading the way in groundbreaking technology

Press Release
For Immediate Release
July 31, 2017

Utah research facility leading the way in groundbreaking technology
Transportation Interim Committee hear from experts on autonomous control vehicles

SALT LAKE CITY – Members of the Transportation Interim Committee recently visited Utah State University and areas around Cache Valley to see technology being devolved and implemented in cars, trucks and other vehicles around the world.

Self-driving-autonomous vehicles are close to becoming a reality. Committee members saw demonstrations of the significant advancements made in autonomous technology. Leading experts and researchers from Utah State University informed legislators that the progress could lead to more efficient transportation, provide mobility to more Americans and potentially achieve substantial improvements in safety.

“This revolutionary technology is changing the world,” said Rep. Robert Spendlove. “Regulations for autonomous vehicles is being and will continue to be addressed by federal and local governments. I want to make certain Utah regulations enhance the development of this technology not hinder it.”

Autonomous features are already being integrated into vehicles to help drivers avoid or mitigate crashes. Such features include lane and brake assist, forward-collision warning and adaptive cruise control, which automatically maintains a safe following distance.

“Utah has experts leading this groundbreaking research,” said Rep. Mike Schultz, co-chair of the Transportation Interim Committee. “I appreciate Rep. Spendlove taking the time to lead this effort so committee members can see this technology first-hand and better prepare for the future.”

Additionally, USU has the only Electric Vehicle and Roadway facility in the country. Similar research facilities are in development or operation in Sweden, France and South Korea. During the visit, committee members witnessed USU’s fully electric 20-passenger bus – referred to as the ‘Aggie Bus’ – drive around the 1⁄4-mile test track at about 30 MPH.

The Aggie Bus is equipped with an autonomous control kit from Autonomous Solutions Inc., a spin-off of USU, and in-motion inductive wireless battery charging, developed at USU. This technology allows wireless power transfer from multiple concrete embedded primary pads/coils in the roadway to vehicle-mounted coils and battery systems to charge the vehicle while driving.

Researchers are aiming for fully electric vehicles, enabled with autonomous control and charged through electric roads. With these technologies vehicles can charge while in-motion and drive without human control. Drivers also have the ability to take over at any time and operate on standard roads. Autonomous control is a key enabler and is required to identify inductive power transfer coils embedded in the roadway and to align automatically under various road and weather conditions.

Further technological development at USU is aiming to advance energy storage in electric vehicles by increasing battery lifetime 30 to 45 percent. The improvements can reduce the cost and weight of vehicle battery systems and improve residual value for second life applications. The technologies are being evaluated by major automotive original equipment manufacturers for future electric vehicles.

 

Contact:
Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives
801-791-3365 | aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

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Press Release: Utah Legislative Committee Recommends John Cannon for Director of Legislative Research Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 26, 2017

 UTAH LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS JOHN CANNON AS DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH OFFICE
Veteran legislative staffer, community leader, and public affairs director to return to OLRGC

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Utah House Minority Leader Brian King announced that the hiring subcommittee of the Utah Legislature unanimously recommends that John Q. Cannon assume leadership of the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel (OLRGC). 

John Cannon served the Utah State Legislature for over two decades, first as an analyst, then rising to the leadership position of Managing Policy Analyst for OLRGC. Cannon was recognized for his vast knowledge of the legislative process, leadership ability, willingness to innovate, and for encouraging greater citizen participation in government. Cannon left OLRGC in 2012 to work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where he currently serves as the Director of Community and Government Affairs.

House Minority Leader, and co-chair of the hiring committee Brian King said, “I look forward to John’s leadership at OLRGC. He brings to the job excellent experience from prior service in that office as well as government relations work in the private sector.  His integrity and commitment to quality will allow the office to move forward on the foundation built by Mike Christensen.” 

Senate co-chair, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser said, “John is an innovator and a diplomat, with expert knowledge of legislative processes here in Utah and around the nation. He has the experience and leadership ability to get the work done. The choice was not easy.  We had a very strong group of applicants, but he rose to the top. If you were to craft an ideal skill set for this position, John Cannon has it.”

 As director, Cannon will succeed Michael Christensen, who has led the award-winning Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel since 2000.

 In 2012, John Cannon received a staff achievement award from the National Conference of State Legislators, which stated in part, “John possesses a unique array of superior technical skills combined with a first-rate political acumen and an unassuming and down-to-earth demeanor, great sense of humor, and compassion for others.”

 John Cannon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Public Administration from Brigham Young University.

 The six-member Legislative Research Subcommittee is equally balanced between both political parties and both legislative chambers. Their recommendation will now go to the Legislative Management Committee for approval, then ratification by the full Utah State Legislature.

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CONTACTS:

 Greg Hartley
House Chief of Staff
801-231-2756 

Jen Jankowski
House Minority Legislative Staff Director
801-792-2330

Jon Hennington
Senate Minority Assistant
801-214-4611

Ric Cantrell
Senate Chief of Staff
801-647-8944

 

 

Press Release: Utah House Leaders Commend Secretary Zinke’s Interim Report on the Bears Ears National Monument

Press Release
For Immediate Release
June 12, 2017

Contact:
Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives
801-791-3365 | aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Utah House Leaders Commend Secretary Zinke’s Interim Report on the Bears Ears National Monument

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, the Trump Administration and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released their interim report on the Bears Ears National Monument.

Utah House leaders commend President Trump’s leadership, in tasking Secretary Zinke with a review of national monument designations under the Antiquities Act over the past two decades.

“It is refreshing to have an Administration that desires to collaborate with local officials, tribal leaders and citizens to generate optimum methods to manage our lands,” said Speaker Greg Hughes. “Western states have often been overlooked and ignored, but that has changed drastically since January.”

The new Administration welcomes the input of Utahns to discuss empirical alternatives to preserve our lands, while providing economic opportunities for those living in the area. This was demonstrated during Secretary Zinke’s recent four-day listening tour of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature led efforts to encourage the federal government to allow more state control in the management of our lands. Speaker Hughes sponsored H.C.R. 11Concurrent Resolution Urging the President to Rescind the Bears Ears National Monument Designation, which urged the new administration to rescind the 1.35 million acre monument created by the previous administration in December 2016. Rep. Mike Noel sponsored H.C.R. 12Concurrent Resolution Urging Federal Legislation to Reduce or Modify the Boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, to allow greater use of the lands for locals and recreationists.

“Utah took a bold step in the fight to take back management control of our public lands,” said Rep. Noel. “As a result, Utahns were provided an opportunity to give their input, through public comment and meetings, on how to manage our lands in the future.”

The status of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is still under review. Public comment to the Department of the Interior is open until July 10.

The Utah State Legislature continues to work to preserve our lands through increased local management. Local control renders communities with the ability to enhance their economies in a sustainable way and adequately support residents and their families, provide a better education system, protect historic and culturally significant sites and reduce restrictions on recreational use of the land.

The Trump administration is taking steps to reduce federal overreach and bring some control back to state and local governments.

On June 8, 2017, Secretary Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3353, which aims to improve sage-grouse conservation and increase collaboration, cooperation and communication between federal and Western state governments. One-size-fits-all protection of sage grouse does not work because of the vastly different habitats in which the bird can be found. The review of the sage grouse plan provides states, and those closest to the issue, the opportunity to devise solutions that protect the ground-nesting bird without hindering local economic opportunities.

We were thrilled that Utah was able to add yet another strong official to this administration with the appointment of Greg Sheehan as the new Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Sheehan has a proven record and more than 25 years of experience in wildlife and natural resource management. He has earned respect from conservation organizations for his leadership, advocacy and dedication to preserving wildlife, and will be an effective leader in Washington.

We are excited to continue to work with Secretary Zinke and the rest of President Trump’s administration in this effort to preserve our lands, increase local management and provide economic prosperity for all citizens of Utah.

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