Legislative Happenings: A View from the Top
On Wednesday, January 24, 2018, Utah State House Speaker Greg Hughes and Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox were invited to speak before the Women's State Legislative Council in the Gold Room a few hours before we heard Governor Gary Herbert's state of the state address before the combined session of both houses.
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes came to the podium first, addressing the mostly women and few men present. He referred to the over 1,100 bills that were already filed for the session, whose number had grown to 1,277 by the time the Governor gave his state of the state address at 6:30 pm. It was remarked that this was a record number of bills, and since not every bill was likely to be even heard that each member of the legislature mark up to three bills of theirs as priority bills. Speaker Hughes said that the goals of the 2018 legislature involved improving transportation, infrastructure (such as water), and continuing to grow the economy together. He stated his concerns that these items were there to support each other as the population was expected to double along the Wasatch Front by 2040.
Speaker Hughes also spoke of targeting homeless resource providers by 2019, with an emphasis on creating smaller resource centers, focusing primarily on women and women with children. He stated his belief that the state has already, with the Rio Grande initiative, made vast improvements in identifying hives of human trafficking and drug trafficking. He spoke about panhandling concerns in the area and how best to work with panhandlers, noting the new law that made it illegal for people to step out into traffic at busy intersections to receive money.
Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox
Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox then took the podium, saying that the priorities of the House were more than likely the same priorities of the Senate. The Lieutenant Governor mentioned the upcoming state of the state address, in which the governor was expected to discuss Utah's place in the world. Lieutenant Governor Cox then went on to go into detail about the record number of ballot initiatives in Utah this year. Before each ballot can be placed on the ballot, it has to receive 113,000 signatures in proportional amounts throughout the state by April 15. Most years Utah does not see any ballot initiatives. The most Mr. Cox has ever seen in any year has been two. This year, there are six ballot initiatives:
- Our Schools Now: This ballot initiative is for adding $1 million to the education coffers through the expansion of sales tax.
- Medical Marijuana: If this referendum passes, it would make it legal under specific conditions to have access to the medicinal benefits of marijuana.
- State Districting: This ballot initiative calls for the creation of an independent non-partisan redistricting board to make recommendations to the state legislature when establishing representational boundaries.
- Medicaid Expansion: Signing this ballot means that you are supporting the full expansion of Medicaid in Utah as per the federal guidelines.
- Count My Vote: This initiative seeks to protect the dual-path approach that candidates can use to be on a primary ballot for a particular party, by either raising enough signatures, or by being nominated at convention.
- Keep My Voice: This ballot initiative seeks to remove the path of earning a party candidacy by signature gathering, leaving only the caucus system.
Signing any of these ballots only helps them to appear on the November, 2018 ballot. Once on the ballot, if the majority of the voters votes for a ballot, it becomes law. It is a way for the people to become the legislature. In the event that both Count My Vote and Keep My Voice receive a majority vote, the one with the highest vote count will become law.
The Lieutenant governor spoke briefly about the upcoming Senate race and how Mitt Romney is being pursued by the Republican Party, but has not yet accepted the invitation to run; and he spoke briefly about the close race that is expected to happen in Congressional District 4.
See you out there,
Sophia Hawes-Tingey is the Legislative Liaison for the Utah Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the Co-Chair of the Business and Labor Committee of the Women’s State Legislative Council of Utah, a Member of the Board of Directors for the Transgender Inclusion Project and Utah Stonewall Democrats, the Vice Chair of the Community Council of Midvale, and co-founder of People Empowered, LLC. You can visit Sophia’s webpage at http://www.sophiahawes.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.