Rep. Brian King, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives:
VOX Populi. The “Voice of the People.” That’s what’s written prominently in our House Chamber. It means we represent and listen to, the voice of the people. But sadly, many in the Utah legislature are not listening to the voices of the people.
My Democratic colleagues and I are listening to you. That’s because you elected us. The legislature should never be quick to overrule the will of Utah voters when ballot initiatives pass. In December the legislature moved quickly to change Proposition 2, the Medical Cannabis initiative that the majority of Utahns voted for. Democrats opposed this effort. But now, many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are trying to significantly change other ballot initiatives that most Utahns support, such as expanding Medicaid for low income Utahns, and creating an independent redistricting commission. There may be even more efforts to make it harder for Utah citizens to create ballot initiatives. It’s simply anti-democratic, not what Utahns want. It is wrong. And you can count on Democrats to continue to stand up for what is right, for your voice, and what you vote for. We will always defend the rights of all Utahns to have their voices heard when it comes to shaping our public policy.
Sen. Karen Mayne, Minority Leader of the Utah Senate:
I’m Senator Karen Mayne.
One of the most pressing issues we have to address this legislative session is how to ensure Utah’s hard-working families have access to good healthcare. This past election, the majority of Utahns voted to expand Medicaid for the most vulnerable in our communities. Attaching strings or limiting the expansion goes against the expressed will of Utah voters. This shows a lack of compassion and disrespect for the people of the state we are elected to serve.
In addition, we must continue to help those experiencing homelessness get the services they need and get back on their feet. When we care for the poorest among us, we empower them to succeed and one day give back to the community.
Housing affordability is primary to our caucus. We need to make sure that our children, and our grandchildren are going to have an affordable place to live. Now is the time to make sure we have the vision for growth. Now is the time to prepare for the future. Utah will have nearly twice our current population by 2065. Most of that growth is expected in the counties along the Wasatch front and in southwest Utah. We must do our part to lay the vision and groundwork for Utah communities. We also need to accommodate industries, the transportation system, the needed social programs and infrastructure to help Utah advance into the coming decades.
Democrats get results. Because we are elected to represent you, we are invested in solving problems you asked us to solve. You sent us here to get things done, and that’s what we intend to do.
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, Minority Whip of the Utah House of Representatives:
Hi, I’m Representative Carol Spackman Moss. As a former teacher at Olympus High School, I want to talk briefly about the importance of investing in our children and in our schools and those who provide public safety.
At this moment Utah has a tremendous opportunity to shape our future. Our state is experiencing incredible economic growth, and we are potentially looking at a one-time $1.3 billion surplus. We should use this opportunity to improve conditions for our children, public educators and our first responders.
Some propose we just cut taxes. That is not good policy during a time of economic prosperity. Certainly, there are many things we can do to improve our state tax system, to make sure the burden doesn’t fall hardest on the middle class.
All have not benefited equally from the strong economy. Those who are not at the top currently pay a higher share of their paychecks than high income earners. We need to use this economic opportunity to better fund public education to have a healthier future for all Utahns.
This session we will also address school safety and gun violence prevention. We want our children to be safe when they’re at school. We also want them to have access to mental health counselors, social workers, and school nurses. And if we are serious about preventing suicides in our state, particularly among young people, then we must address the problem of easy access to firearms. Half of all suicides in Utah are firearms-related, and of those suicide attempts, the majority are fatal. Utahns overwhelmingly support policies to promote safe and responsible gun ownership. For the sake of our children, we lawmakers need to have the political courage to take action.
Sen. Luz Escamilla, Minority Whip of the Utah Senate:
Hi, I’m Senator Luz Escamilla, the Senate Minority Whip.
This session you can expect Democrats to continue to push hard for reforms to our criminal justice system. We have made significant progress, but there’s still much we must do to make sure survivors of sexual or domestic violence are not only heard, but also that violent offenders are held accountable.
We also need to make sure our prison practices are safe and humane. And we’ll be pushing to improve public safety and protect public health for all of our communities.
Let’s talk about one of the most important public health issues, and that’s our air quality. Utahns can all agree that it’s absolutely unacceptable that our air routinely becomes poisonous to breath. There is so much more we as legislators can do to so that parents don’t have to take their children or grandchildren to the emergency room because of asthma or other respiratory issues. Our air should not force people with vulnerable health conditions to stay indoors.
We will be addressing a number of a possible solutions to clean up our air, as well as protect Utah’s precious and limited water supply, and preserve our public lands.
Remember, last year Utah experienced its worst wildfire season in memory. We need to make sure our state is prepared to manage these increasingly intense wildfires, and that we are taking steps to mitigate and prepare for climate change in the coming years.
Rep. Brian King:
The last part of our message this evening has to do with the toxic and tribal politics that have been dividing our country. Utahns know that we are better than that.
We are committed to solving our common problems from the perspective not of Republicans or Democrats or any other identity group, but as Utahns who share common values. We are elected to represent our constituents and make policy for the entire state, not just our home city, town, or county. We all care about our families and our children’s future. We all want secure employment and decent wages. We all want equal opportunity, and equal rights regardless of our gender, race, religion, or social or economic status.
You elected us. And we are listening to you. We will continue to be your voice on capitol hill. And we will keep fighting for you so that your voices are heard.