Rep. King Opens Net Neutrality Bill File for Utah

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: 
July 12, 2018

Contact:         
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

Rep. King Opens Net Neutrality Bill File for Utah


SALT LAKE CITY – Representative Brian King has opened a bill file that will require any internet service provider (ISP) who does business with the state of Utah or its subdivisions to adhere to net neutrality principles. 

The Trump Administration’s Federal Communications Commission officially rolled back protections for net neutrality last month.  Net neutrality requires that all data and traffic on the internet should be treated equally and prohibits ISPs from blocking, disparately pricing, or otherwise interfering with internet traffic and content.

“Utahns want basic online fairness and they support open internet principles,” said Representative King. “ISPs should not be able to sell to the highest bidder our basic freedom to access the information we choose to receive.”

Rep. King added, “Given the recent change of position by the FCC to favor powerful ISPs over individual consumers, Utah has to take the lead to support our thriving tech industries and protect access to online information.

Polling shows the overwhelming majority of Americans – including most Republicans – consistently support net neutrality. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than half the states have introduced similar legislation in response to the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality. 

# # #

House Democratic Caucus Urges Utah’s Congressional Leaders to Reunite Families, Find Fair Solutions for Undocumented Immigrants 

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: 
June 19, 2018

Contact:         
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

House Democratic Caucus Urges Utah’s Congressional Leaders to Reunite Families, 
Find Fair Solutions for Undocumented Immigrants

SALT LAKE CITY – Today the House Democratic Caucus called on Utah’s members of Congress to do everything they can to stop the Trump Administration’s cruel and unnecessary policy of breaking up immigrant families.  Democrats urge Utah’s Congressional leaders to support legislation that not only ends this terrible family separation policy, but also legislation that gives the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. a fair and reasonable pathway to citizenship.  

“We are a nation of laws, but also a nation of compassion and common sense,” said House Minority Leader, Representative Brian King, District 28. “The separation of nearly 2,000 families in the past six weeks is heartbreaking.  While it is good that all of Utah’s Congressional leaders now agree with us that this administration’s “zero tolerance” policies are wrong, we want to see action and not just words. We want to see a plan for how the administration will reunite these families. We also want to see proposals for providing a pathway for legal citizenship, as well as reasonable border security.”  

“This goes against everything we stand for as Utahns,” said Representative Angela Romero, District 26. “Keeping kids in cages is wrong.  Period.  Everyone who has a child of their own should be shocked and angered by what is going on.  The degree to which this administration is unapologetic, and shamelessly trying to justify its actions is astonishing.  There is no place for this in our country.”

“For our government to separate small children from their parents, with no plan or process for reuniting them, is not just immoral, it’s unamerican,” said Representative Karen Kwan, District 34. “We need to remember that immigrant families want what we all want. We want a safe place to live, free from violence.  We want a promising future for all of our children.  We want opportunities to work and earn a living.  Simply wanting a better life is not a crime.  We have to do better than this, or we are failing as a society.”  


# # #

Democrats Critical of Hidden and Vague Negotiations Over Inland Port

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: June 5, 2018

Contact:
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

Jon Hennington
Utah State Senate
(801) 214-4611 | jhennington@le.utah.gov

Democrats Critical of Hidden and Vague Negotiations Over Inland Port

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Democrats from the House and Senate expressed concern with the continued lack of transparency over negotiations between Speaker Greg Hughes and Senator Jim Dabakis for a proposed “compromise framework” for the Inland Port in Salt Lake City’s Northwest Quadrant.  

Representative Sandra Hollins, Representative Angela Romero, and Senator Luz Escamilla made the following statements:

Representative Hollins, District 23, said, “We were blindsided by this.  It is my constituents who will be directly impacted by the Inland Port, but they didn’t include us in any of these conversations.  The overall impact this will have on the surrounding neighborhoods, the traffic, the air quality, and our quality of life regionally will be significant.  We agree that an Inland Port is an important opportunity for our state. But sadly, this distracts from a healthy and robust public process.”

Representative Romero, District 26, said, “The elected leaders representing the Northwest Quadrant have been repeatedly shut out of the process. The process has not been transparent.  We appreciate that they are willing to come together and work on this. But why a press conference for show?  Why not work with their colleagues and with the City?  Part of compromise is bringing more than two people together.” 

Senator Escamilla, District 1, said, “I am disappointed to see a Senator from our own caucus who has consistently complained about backroom deals to now be doing the same thing.  How does he expect people to trust him?  It’s hypocritical.” 

Senator Escamilla added, “This is a serious discussion that will impact our future.  We are moving forward, and we will fix this.  But that will only happen if we’re inclusive and talking to each other.”  


# # #


Utah Hispanic Legislators Discuss Immigration Reform with Congressman Stewart​​​​​​​

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: May 31, 2018

Contact:     
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Hispanic Democratic members of the House and Senate met with Congressman Chris Stewart to discuss ideas for meaningful immigration reform, as Congress may be considering immigration legislation in June. 

“We have been at a standstill for far too long,” said Rep. Angela Romero, District 26.  “We want comprehensive immigration reform.  We want Congress to address the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country who currently have no legal pathway to citizenship.  We hope that Congressman Stewart is committed to moving the needle so that we will actually see progress on this issue.”

“At this moment our moral compass is being tested,” said Senator Luz Escamilla, District 1. “What’s happening is a reaction to President Trump’s decisions to abruptly end DACA and to separate children from their families. What’s going on is completely inhumane, and I think this is now pushing Congress to take action. Congress is realizing they need to act, and it’s about time.  We are Rep. Stewart’s constituents and we are glad he is consulting us and listening to our concerns.  We are all looking for ways to make this work now.”

# # #


Utah Hispanic Legislators Condemn Trump Administration’s Hostile Anti-Immigrant Agenda, Mortensen Nomination

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: May 25, 2018

Contact:         
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

Jon Hennington
Utah State Senate
801-214-4611 | jhennington@le.utah.gov

Utah Hispanic Legislators Condemn Trump Administration’s
Hostile Anti-Immigrant Agenda, Mortensen Nomination

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Hispanic Democratic Legislators spoke out against President Trump’s worsening anti-immigrant agenda, including the nomination of Ronald Mortensen of Utah, for Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Representative Angela Romero, District 26, said, “This is another push for Trump’s extreme anti-immigration agenda. Ronald Mortensen is certainly not the best person for this position, which is supposed to make sure the United States works to protect and ease the suffering of persecuted and uprooted people around the world. Mortensen is clearly not equipped to manage this responsibility in a fair or compassionate manner.”  

“This nomination reflects poorly on Utah values,” said Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck, District 24. “Mr. Mortensen has a long history of generally vilifying undocumented immigrants and refugees through his public actions. What the overwhelming majority of Utahns want is compassion, sensitivity, and fair-minded policies towards refugees and immigrants. Utahns have regularly demonstrated this through our welcoming support for immigrants, and through policies such as the Utah Compact.”  

Representative Mark Wheatley, District 35, said, “Ronald Mortensen has regularly made dishonest and hurtful claims about immigrants – such as claiming that most undocumented immigrants commit felonies – when the facts and evidence indicate exactly the opposite. Most undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens. He even makes ridiculous claims that Utah is a “magnet and sanctuary state” for illegal immigrants. I hope that Senator Hatch and Senator Lee make the most rational decision in this case and oppose this nominee.”  

Utah Hispanic Legislators also decried the Trump administration’s recent announced policy to break up immigrant families apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Senator Luz Escamilla, District 1, said, “This appointment of Mortensen, along with their latest policy change to break up immigrant families shows how utterly inhumane this administration is. The recent stories of U.S. immigration agents now separating toddlers from their mothers and fathers, with no procedures for reunifying them – is simplify horrifying.  How would any of us feel to have our children separated from us? How is this America? What are we becoming? Such cruel practices should never be committed against human beings who simply want a better life.”

# # #

Media Advisory: Rep. Romero Statement in Support of Terry Mitchell

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: 
May 14, 2018

Contact:    
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

Media Advisory: Rep. Romero Statement in Support of Terry Mitchell

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Representative Angela Romero, House District 26, issued the following statement in support of Terry Mitchell, whose case was heard today by the Utah Supreme Court. Mitchell, who was a witness during a high-profile trial in 1981, accuses a former Federal judge, Richard Warren Roberts, of sexually assaulting her when she was 16 years old, and when Roberts was a Federal prosecutor.   

“This is an important case for so many people.  It would give survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault an avenue that allows them to heal.  So often victims who are sexually abused by people they trust are not inclined to say anything about it – sometimes for years, even decades.  This case is about holding perpetrators accountable, regardless of social status.” 

Rep. Romero added, “One in five kids are sexually assaulted before the age of 18, often by people they have trusted, and often by people in powerful positions.  85 percent of sexual abuse survivors never talk about what happened to them.  That’s why this case is so important.”   

# # #


Utah House Democrats Open Multiple Bill Files Addressing Gun Violence

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: 
May 8, 2018

Contact:         
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
o: (801) 326-1568 | c: (385) 228-5483
rosschambless@le.utah.gov

Utah House Democrats Open Multiple Bill Files Addressing Gun Violence 

SALT LAKE CITY – House Democrats are serious about protecting Utahns from gun violence. 

Today, on the first day that bill files can be opened for the 2019 General Session, House Democrats have begun taking actions to address growing concerns about gun violence.

House Minority Leader Representative Brian King, House District 28, opened a bill file today to require background checks for all firearm sales in the state.  The bill seeks to close “loopholes” such as transactions at gun shows and private online purchases where unlicensed dealers can sell a gun to people without a background check.     

“This is common sense legislation,” said Representative King. “Polling regularly shows that 90 percent of Utahns support requiring background checks for all gun sales, and this support is consistent across the country as well.” 

Representative Joel Briscoe, House District 25, opened a bill file today to prohibit openly carrying firearms around K-12 schools.

“There are regular reports in the Utah media about school lockdowns ordered because someone informs law enforcement that they have seen someone openly carrying a weapon,” said Representative Briscoe. “Our children’s education shouldn’t have to routinely be disrupted because someone wants to brandish a weapon outside a school.” 

Representative Patrice Arent, House District 36, opened three bill files dealing with firearms.  One bill would ban the sale of bump stocks, which are devices that make semi-automatic rifles shoot like rapid fire machine guns. The bill would ban the devices in Utah unless the Federal government outlaws them first. 

Another bill file opened by Representative Arent is a resolution urging Congress to repeal the 1996 Federal “Dickey Amendment” that has prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from researching the effects of gun violence on public health.

A third issue that Representative Arent is reviewing is possible legislation to allow Utahns options for safe disposal of firearms. “I am trying to find a solution for people, like one of my constituents, who wanted to dispose of his gun and did not know what to do with it,” said Representative Arent. “He did not want to sell it to anyone else. Currently, we do not have an answer to this question, so we are looking into the issue.”

Representative Elizabeth Weight, House District 31, opened a bill file to require that all firearms be stored in a safe or with a locking device in place when the firearms are not in use. “Most responsible gun owners already keep their guns safely secured when not using them,” said Representative Weight. “Having some reasonable safety measures isn’t too much to ask.  We want to encourage a safe and thoughtful culture around guns and gun ownership.”

Representative Weight added, “Democrats are interested in preserving Second Amendment rights, but we also see some urgent and critical areas in our laws where we need to improve safety when it comes to firearms.”

# # #

House Democrats Mourn the Passing of Former Representative Carl Duckworth

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: 
May 1, 2018

Contact:     
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

House Democrats Mourn the Passing of Former Representative Carl Duckworth

SALT LAKE CITY - Today Utah House Democrats offered their condolences to RepresentativeSusan Duckworth and her family upon hearing news of the passing of her husband and former Democratic Representative Carl Duckworth.

Representative Carol Spackman Moss said, “Carl was always kind and friendly, and never appeared to be in a bad mood. He had a quiet demeanor, but as a legislator he was always engaged and followed everything closely.  If ever I had a question during a floor debate I could always ask Carl and he knew the answer.” 

Representative Patrice Arent said, “Carl was truly someone who cared about his community.  He was a wonderful friend and he cared about his colleagues. I truly enjoyed serving with him.”

Representative Mark Wheatley said, “Besides being a nice guy, Carl was a strong advocate for unions. He worked to ensure people received equal pay for equal work. He wanted people to have a livable wage with health benefits. In that sense, he was true Democrat who fought for hardworking Utahns.” 

Rhoda Struhs, who was Administrative Assistant for the House Democrats while Rep. Carl Duckworth served, said, “Carl was a quiet champion. He very seldom spoke up, but instead chose to work behind the scenes. He wasn’t one to pontificate.  But when he did, the whole floor would get quiet. Carl would stand and speak very articulately and calmly about a bill, and everyone would stop and listen. That almost never happens at the legislature, and I thought it was so powerful.  Everyone heard the words he was saying when he spoke.”

Former Representative Carl Duckworth served the state of Utah as a legislator for 10 years, from January 1, 1999 until December 31, 2008.  

# # #


Utah Democrats Welcome DACA Ruling, Urge DHS to Keep Program

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: 
April 26, 2018

Contact:           
Ross Chambless
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

Jon Hennington
Utah State Senate
801-214-4611 | jhennington@le.utah.gov

Utah Democrats Welcome DACA Ruling, Urge DHS to Keep Program

SALT LAKE CITY – Democrats in the Utah House and Senate welcomed U.S. District Judge John Bates’ decision earlier this week giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 90 days to provide the legal rationale behind the Trump Administration’s decision to cancel the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This is the third federal judge that rebukes the Administration’s attempt to end DACA but the first to order DHS to accept new applications. It is also the first judge appointed by a Republican president to issue such a ruling, which underscores the bipartisan consensus on the legality of the DACA program.

More than 10,500 young undocumented immigrants living in Utah are able to legally attend school or hold employment because of the DACA program. Across the U.S. there are more than 800,000 DACA recipients, however there may be as many as 3.6 million DREAMers – young people brought to the U.S. as children, according to Migration Policy Institute. 

“This decision shows again that this administration was clearly wrong in trying to end DACA, which is critically important for so many young people in Utah,” said Representative Angela Romero, Salt Lake City, District 26. “The DREAMers living among us are some of our best and brightest, and yet they have no legal pathway to citizenship. Our representatives in Congress need to get serious and address comprehensive immigration reform now.”

“Most Utahns, and that includes most Conservatives, support giving DACA youth a legal route to citizenship,” said Senator Luz Escamilla, District 1. “This decision may ease some anxiety for these young people, but I know they all want off this rollercoaster.  Congress and the Administration need to see this decision as a signal that the only proper action now to take is to pass immigration reform legislation.”         

Representative Romero and Senator Escamilla are both members of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), which represents the voices of more than 400 Hispanic state legislators from across the country, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, which also celebrated the court decision and warned the Administration not to terminate the program until a permanent solution is enacted by Congress and signed into law.

“They say that the third time is the charm and we hope that the Administration finally listens to both reason and the courts who are all saying that there is no legal justification for cancelling the DACA program. This decision is significant because the judge did not disagree with the Administration’s legal basis, he said that they did not even present any legal basis for their actions. We are also pleased that DACA recipients can once again start applying to renew their permits. Given the stakes of this decision and its impact on hundreds of thousands of young Americans – individuals who are indeed Americans in everything but a piece of paper – we urge the Administration not to terminate the DACA program until Congress passes the DREAM Act and ends the uncertainty facing DREAMers once and for all,” NHCSL President and Senator Carmelo Ríos (PR) said.

NHCSL recently approved an emergency resolution regarding DACA and the DREAMers, during the group’s annual Summit in Chicago, IL in February. The resolution states that: “…the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators urges Congress to take action with no further delay to stop the uncertainty with which thousands of families are living regarding DACA preferably by granting that pathway to citizenship or, at least, by extending DACA while a deal can be reached that creates that pathway…”

###


Rep. Lynn Hemingway to Not Seek Re-election for House District 40​​​​​​​

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: April 12, 2018

Contact:         
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

Rep. Lynn N. Hemingway
House District 40
801-231-2153 |  lhemingway@le.utah.gov

Rep. Lynn Hemingway to Not Seek Re-election for House District 40

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Rep. Lynn Hemingway, Salt Lake City D-40, announced he will not pursue the nomination for the District 40 seat at the Salt Lake County Democratic Convention this Saturday.   

Because of Rep. Hemingway’s wife Sherma’s continued fragile medical condition, he has decided not to pursue the nomination for the seat. Sherma suffered an unexpected health decline while visiting family in New York at the beginning of the year. Because of the immediate risk to her health, she underwent a series of major surgeries before and during the 2018 legislative session which prevented Rep. Hemingway from returning to Utah to attend the session. 

“Serving my constituents in District 40 has been an absolute privilege for these many years,” Rep. Hemingway said. “Life is always unpredictable, and sometimes we have to make difficult decisions. I appreciate all the support and understanding shown to me by my colleagues and my constituents during this challenging time.”  

Rep. Hemingway added, “I am proud of what I was able to help get accomplished for the state of Utah. Although, I do hope my Democratic colleagues will continue to fight for giving Utahns a living wage they so badly need and deserve.”    

This is the second time Rep. Hemingway has retired from the Utah House of Representatives.  Rep. Hemingway served District 40 for 4, 2-year terms from 2007 until retiring in December 2014.  He was then appointed to the same seat in November 2015 to replace former Rep. Justin Miller.  

During his tenure Rep. Hemingway was a champion for giving hard-working Utahns a fair living wage. He sponsored legislation in 5 of the past 7 years to increase Utah’s minimum wage.  

###

House Democrats say EPA Decision to Roll Back Vehicle Emission Standards ​​​​will Hurt Utah’s Efforts to Improve Air Quality


Media Statement

For Immediate Release: April 3, 2018

Contact:     
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

House Democrats say EPA Decision to Rollback Vehicle Emission Standards
will Hurt Utah’s Efforts to Improve Air Quality

SALT LAKE CITY – If the Trump EPA gets its way, Utah’s air will not improve nearly as fast as Utah citizens are demanding.

Today House Democrats criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to begin dismantling vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards for model year 2022-2025 cars and light trucks – a regulation that is critical to improve Utah’s poor air quality. Vehicles contribute almost half of the harmful air pollution that northern Utah experiences every year.

House Democrats called on the Governor and Utah’s Congressional delegation to protect Utah’s long-term air quality interests.   

“Historically, the EPA has done much more to improve our air pollution problems than the state itself,” said Minority Leader Rep. Brian King. “Even our Republican colleagues must admit that in our free market system, immediate profit motives are more important to businesses than long-term public benefits.  Automakers have to routinely be prodded to improve, or we all suffer the consequences.  This reckless decision from Trump’s EPA could stall for decades to come the progress Utah has made on air quality.”     

“This action is a serious step back in our efforts to improve our air quality. EPA Administrator Pruitt’s decision, which is not based on scientific evidence or facts, clearly favors some automakers who are more interested in profits than the health of Americans,” said Rep. Patrice Arent, who is the Founder and Co-Chair of the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus.  She added, “This will not only hurt vulnerable Utahns, it will hurt our state’s economy.” 

While new “Tier 3” fuel standards are expected to improve vehicle emissions in coming years as people drive newer cars, additional vehicle standards are necessary to help Utah overcome our challenging air pollution problems. Utah remains in “serious” noncompliance with the EPA’s own clean air guidelines, and the state will face stringent and expensive measures if improvements are not made.  The Utah Department of Environmental Quality recently reported that the Salt Lake Valley is likely to remain out of compliance at least through 2024 – and that comment was made before this EPA decision to roll-back the previous administration’s emissions standards.

###

Utah Hispanic Legislators Condemn Citizenship Question in Census

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: March 30, 2018

Contact:    
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

Utah Hispanic Legislators Condemn Citizenship Question in Census

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Utah Hispanic legislators strongly condemned the Trump Administration’s decision to include a question regarding the U.S. Citizenship status of respondents of the 2020 Census.

Rep. Chavez-Houck, Rep. Mark Wheatley, Rep. Angela Romero, and Sen. Luz Escamilla echoed the message of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) of which they are all members.  The organization represents the voices of more than 400 Hispanic state legislators from across the country, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which also was highly critical of the inclusion of this question.

“The people of our state demand that all of us be counted in the Census, just like the Constitution explicitly states,” said Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Salt Lake City D-24. “If this decision is allowed to occur, likely 100,000 Utah residents will opt not to participate. This could have terrible consequences for Utah such as skewing our reapportionment planning, losing out on long-term federal funding, and hurting morale for Utahns overall. We will not allow political interference and racial bias to put into question the accuracy of our state’s population count.”

This year the Utah legislature passed HCR12, "Concurrent Resolution Calling upon Congress to Assure a Complete and Accurate Census," which was sponsored by Rep. Chavez-Houck.

“This is blatant political tampering with our nation’s critical population counting process,” said Rep. Angela Romero, Salt Lake City D-26, and the First Vice President of NHCSL. “I join NHCSL in calling on the Administration to reverse course, and if they ignore the pleas from experts around the country, then Congress has a duty to protect the integrity of our Census.”

As Co-Chair of the NHCSL Latino Voting Task Force, Rep. Chavez-Houck sponsored a census resolution earlier this year which states that “…according to the latest studies from the US Census Bureau, at least 132 Federal programs use Census data to distribute more than $675 billion in Federal funds annually.” The resolution further reiterates NHCSL’s collective belief that “14th Amendment to the Constitution requires that all persons, regardless of race, citizenship or legal status, be counted in the decennial census mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution.”

“We are outraged that in the 21st Century the federal government would interfere politically with the nation’s Census. Our state and local governments depend on having the most accurate data possible for the apportionment of our districts, for the formulas several federal agencies and Congress use to appropriate taxpayer resources, and to have a sound system of counting every person in this country, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The Constitution of the United States guarantees that every person shall be counted, and we intend to fight this decision to the very end so that this sacred constitutional provision is respected,” NHCSL President and Senator Carmelo Ríos of Puerto Rico said.

“Instead of using the Voting Rights Act as an excuse to lower the count of immigrant Americans and other minorities, the federal government should be strengthening and protecting this solemn statute, that was precisely enacted to protect against the type of arbitrary discrimination that adding a citizenship question to the Census would provoke. The last thing we should be doing is breaching decades of trust built between the professional career staff at the Census and immigrant communities. Every person living in this country, according to the Constitution, needs to be counted and we should be doing everything in our power to ensure that no one is intimidated from responding,” said NHCSL Executive Director Kenneth Romero-Cruz.

# # #

House Democrats Oppose Inland Port Bill

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: March 7, 2018

Contact:     
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

House Democrats Oppose Inland Port Bill

SALT LAKE CITY - Tonight the House of Representatives voted 61 to 11 in favor of SB 234 “Utah Inland Port Authority.” The bill establishes a governing structure over a proposed new Inland Port in the North West Quadrant of Salt Lake City. The new port authority would be given powers to make critical land-use decisions for establishing the inland port and a foreign trade zone.

The area within Salt Lake City’s boundaries near the Great Salt Lake is roughly 38 square miles. The proposed agency being created could override Salt Lake City zoning decisions to reinvest in the area’s development. Salt Lake City officials oppose the bill because the city feels they would be under-represented in the proposed governing structure.  Debate on the House floor was cut short during the late hour session. All but one of the House Democrats voted against the measure.

“My constituents are impacted by this bill more than anyone else in the state,” said Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City. “I’m going to vote no. I’ve always told my constituents this is their chair.  We need a more complete analysis of the repercussions of this proposal. Many people have serious concerns about the environmental impacts of this bill.”

Minority Leader Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said, “It is important that we get this right, because we are creating a platform for decades of development and infrastructure. This is such an important issue, and it has to be part of a larger, ongoing discussion. Most Democrats opposed this version of the bill because we should not rush through such a critical decision without more deliberate process and discussion.”

The bill now goes back to the Senate for additional consideration.

###

Utah Tribal Leaders, House Democrats Present Proposals ​​​​​​​to Elevate Tribal Voices in State Government

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: March 6, 2018

Contact:        
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

Alastair Lee Bitsoi, Communications Coordinator
Utah Diné Bikéyah
(917) 202-8308 | alastair@utahdinebikeyah.org

Braidan Weeks, Communications Coordinator         
Utah Diné Bikéyah
(801) 372-6438 | braidan@utahdinebikeyah.org

Utah Tribal Leaders, House Democrats Present Proposals
to Elevate Tribal Voices in State Government

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Utah Tribal leaders and Utah House Democrats presented two proposals that would elevate Native American voices in state government.   

Members of the House Democratic Caucus along with Utah Diné Bikéyah, Utah Tribal Leaders Association and Utah League of Native American Voters plan to begin studying two proposals, including: 1) elevating the Division of Indian Affairs to a Cabinet level position, and 2) creating a Joint Standing Committee on Indian Affairs.

“The events of this past year highlighted the need to raise the profile of Native American tribes in Utah,” said Rep. Sue Duckworth, D-Magna. “For far too long, there has been systemic discrimination and oppression of Tribal interests in our state. We need to find ways to include the important voices of Native Americans at the policymaking level, and this is a start.”  
 
“Native Americans must have a say in not just how the state administers policies in and around their reservations, but with anything having to do with their lands,” said Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Salt Lake City.  “Up until now they’ve been shut out of the process. They should have a voice over how their land is administered and maintained with regard to resource management. Regardless of whether we’re talking about national monuments, resource extraction, or tourism, they must have a seat at the table.”  

“We’re not going to heal by naming a highway after the president, or by breaking up a national monument,” said Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City. “We’re talking about creating a new dialogue. A respectful dialogue with native peoples who left their marks on the canyon walls thousands of years ago.  I support these efforts to elevate the voices of the native peoples in Utah.”

“I think it’s time for the state of Utah to move forward to recognize the eight native tribes in the state, and bring them to the same level as other cabinet positions,” said Virgil Johnson, Chairman of the Utah Tribal Leaders Association. “This would open up many doors that are now basically closed.”

“Being kept away from the decision-making processes is a policy more befitting of the 19th century than the 21st,” said James Singer, co-founder of the League of Native American Voters. “States and the federal government aren't the only actors in federalism. Under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Native nations are Sovereign political entities. Since our peoples are systematically gerrymandered out of the political process, our political voices are disenfranchised. Ignoring our voices isn't only undemocratic, but a vestige of colonial racism that shouldn't be a party of our society. This is a question of equality and political rights. It is a painfully simple thing to do to have a cabinet-level position and create a joint standing committee. It's the right thing to do. And right now is the time to do it. It is something Native voters, we Native people, want to see happen.”

###

First-ever Bipartisan Carbon Pricing Bill Introduced in Utah

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 5, 2018

Contacts:
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

Aundrea Peterson
Utah House of Representatives, Majority Caucus
801-791-3365 | aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

First-ever Bipartisan Carbon Pricing Bill Introduced in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY – A coalition of bipartisan lawmakers in Utah are publicly rolling out legislation that would put a price on carbon emissions.

Representative Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, and Representative Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, are cosponsoring HB403, which would put a price on carbon emissions and return the money to Utah residents through dollar-for-dollar reductions in other taxes. Similar legislation has been introduced in a handful of states like New York and Washington. Utah is the first state to introduce bipartisan carbon pricing legislation.

Both lawmakers said they are proud of their groundbreaking bipartisan effort which they plan to work on after the session ends during the interim.  

“This bill helps us achieve things that all of us - Republicans and Democrats alike - hope for,” said Rep. Edwards. “We all want economic security. We all want better funding for things like education, healthcare, and public safety. We all want a promising future for our children as we manage how we grow as a state. This bill supports hard-working Utah families while also engaging in stewardship of our natural environment. It’s common sense.”    

“Utah is breaking the seal on bipartisan efforts to put a price on carbon,” Rep. Briscoe said. “This bill sets a new precedent for cooperation on strong carbon reduction policies among Republicans and Democrats. And it paves the way for Republicans across the country to be leaders on the issue of the changing climate.”

Bob Inglis, former Republican U.S. Congressman from South Carolina and Executive Director of RepublicEn.org, said, "Republican Rep. Becky Edwards and Democratic Rep. Joel Briscoe are modeling for the whole country the spirit and the solutions that America needs to lead the world to climate solutions. Hats off to them for leading, for being willing to stand together and for believing in the ability of free enterprise to deliver innovation through a simple pricing of carbon dioxide."

"HB403 ensures that the real price of fossil fuel consumption is reflected in the market while also guaranteeing that most Utah households are compensated for any increase in energy prices,” said Jerry Taylor, President of the Niskanen Center. “It signals that the Utah legislature takes the changing climate seriously and, likewise, takes the well-being of future generations seriously. Moreover, by relying on market signals rather than government regulation or mandates to address the problem, it is an effective and efficient, Republican-friendly response to the changing climate.”

"This bill is a real life example of state officials forgetting politics in favor of actual leadership. I'm excited to see the changing climate addressed as a people issue, not a party one," said Nick Huey, a BYU student and organizer of The Climate Campaign. "Utah could be the stage from which innovative energy legislation is pioneered by the conservative party."

###

House Democrats Denounce Proposed Donald Trump Highway

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: March 5, 2018

Contact:     
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

House Democrats Denounce Proposed Donald Trump Highway

SALT LAKE CITY - Today the House Democratic Caucus spoke out against HB 481, “Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway Designation,” as a blatantly political and divisive act that most Utah citizens do not support. The House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Standing Committee Voted 9 to 2 in favor of the bill.  The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

House Minority Leader Brian King said, “Democrats are opposed to renaming one of Utah’s most beautiful scenic routes after an American president who has: openly bragged about sexually assaulting women; normalized lying and demonizing the press; failed to denounce dangerous hate groups; shown little integrity; shown more loyalty to Russia than to the United States; and who has shown contempt towards immigrants, minority groups, and anyone who does not share his nationalistic, zero-sum view of the world.” 

As the bill requires the Department of Transportation to install signage to reflect the name change, Representative King added, “The fiscal impact of installing signs on this highway should consider the significant continuing expense of replacing or fixing stolen, damaged, and vandalized signs. This would be a significant drain on the UDOT budget.”

Representative Arent spoke to the possible economic impact this bill could have on our state, “Utah has become a top destination for those drawn to our lands, wildlife and outdoor recreation opportunities. The outdoor recreation industry is an integral part of our state culture and tourism is a key piece of our state’s economy. I am concerned that guests to our state will not want to drive on a highway with this name. Frankly, some of them could be offended.”

Representative Briscoe said, "We usually rename public highways for people who have provided a lifetime of positive public service, sometimes posthumously. President Trump has not even completed half a term in office and his legacy is clearly open for question. He has certainly not shown a lifelong legacy of supporting public lands, and many would question whether he shares the values and beliefs of Utahns."

###

 

House Committee Rejects Bills to Give Hard-working Utah Families a Living Wage, Again

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: March 1, 2018

Contact:     
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

House Committee Rejects Bills to Give Hard-working Utah Families a Living Wage, Again

SALT LAKE CITY - Today the House Business and Labor Committee voted against two bills that attempted to address living wage concerns for Utahns.

The committee voted 12 to 2 against HB 117, “Hourly Wage Increase Amendments.” The bill would have raised the minimum wage in Utah from $7.25 to $10.25. The bill would also increase the minimum wage on July 1, 2020 to $12.00. The bill was originally proposed by Rep. Lynn Hemingway; however, because of a family emergency that has caused him to miss the past several weeks of the session, Rep. Brian King is serving as the House sponsor.

“Increasing the hourly wage is necessary to provide stability and security for hard-working families. It also ensures that the wealth created by our unprecedented growth in Utah will be shared fairly,” said Rep. King. “The legislature talks of wanting to reduce entitlement programs and shrink the size and scope of the government. But when we allow employers to deny families financial independence, it is ultimately the state who is forced to step in and subsidize those employers who keep profits from their employees.”

The original sponsor, Rep. Hemingway who has run similar legislation the past 5 years, said, “We are long overdue for an update to our hourly wage. Twenty-nine other states have raised their minimum wage, increasing the effectiveness and productivity of their economies. Utahns deserve to know that their most basic needs will be taken care of though their work, and that they will not have to rely on the state in times of trouble.”

The committee also voted 10 to 2 against HB 118, “Cash Wage Obligation Minimum for Tipped Employees.” The bill would have raised the hourly wage for tipped employees in Utah from $2.13 to $3.25.

“We aren’t getting rid of tips in Utah,” said Rep. King. “We are simply increasing the bare minimum that tipped employees receive for their labor. This shouldn’t be controversial. Working Utahns should not be dependent on the circumstantial number of customers they serve on a given day and their generosity.”

###

Democrats Oppose Bills that Target Watershed Protections of Large Utah Cities

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: March 1, 2018

Contact:     
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

Democrats Oppose Bills that Target Watershed Protections of Large Utah Cities

SALT LAKE CITY – Today the House voted in favor of two bills that target the water management practices of large Utah cities, and specifically Salt Lake City. 3rd Sub. H.B. 135, “Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Amendments,” sponsored by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, would remove the ability of large municipalities like Salt Lake City to effectively and safely regulate watersheds outside of their jurisdictions. Another bill, H.B. 124, sponsored by Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, would require cities to report to state officials details about how they provide water to areas inside and outside their municipal boundaries.  

The House voted 58 to 12 in favor of H.B. 124, in a party line vote. Following that vote, the House cut short debate over 3rd Sub. H.B. 135 and voted 42 to 26 in favor of the bill.

“The combination of all these bills is concerning for us who live in Salt Lake City,” said Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City. “Yes, these water rights are complicated. Should they be cleaned up? Yes. But for 130 years, we have accumulated a lot of water rights. The water coming out of those canyons is critical. We really don’t want to see it put at risk.”

Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, said, “This bill removes the jurisdiction of the entire watershed. If we’re going to have water pollution, it comes from a lot further than 300 feet away from streams.”  

Rep. Poulson added, “None of us appreciate it, but having clean water is one of the best public health issues we have here. The canyons area I represent provides so much of the clean water for the state of Utah.  I think changing this law and removing this jurisdiction could result in real problems for our water quality.  This fixes a problem that isn’t there.”

Both bills now go to the Senate for consideration.


###

House Democrats Vote Against Bill to Delay Implementation of Initiatives

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: Thursday, March 1, 2018

Contact:     
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

House Democrats Vote Against Bill to Delay Implementation of Initiatives

SALT LAKE CITY - Today the House Government Operations Committee voted 8-2 in favor of HB 471, ‘Initiative Amendments,’ sponsored by Rep. Brad Daw. The amended bill would delay implementation of initiatives to 60 days after the end of the following legislative session and supersedes the effective date placed on an initiative. The original bill would have delayed any initiative that resulted in a tax change by 13 months. The two Democrats on the committee voted against the bill. 

Rep Seegmiller (R - St. George) said in committee, “I am nervous about the concept of empowering the citizenry. I am in support of the original bill.”

“I am not nervous about empowering the citizenry,” said Rep. Arent (D - Millcreek) in response to the comment by Rep. Seegmiller.  "I trust the public.  The process to get an initiative on the ballot is already very difficult and needs to be respected.  We should not be changing the rules midstream during the last week of the legislative session.”

Rep. Chavez-Houck (D - Salt Lake City) added, “The legislature already has the ability to change laws, this legislation is not necessary. The public has a constitutional right to implement policy that should not be obstructed by the agenda of the legislature.”

The bill now goes to the House for further consideration.

###

House Committee Opts Not to Address Unintended Consequences of .05 DUI Law

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: Thursday, February 28, 2018

Contact:     
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

House Committee Opts Not to Address Unintended Consequences of .05 DUI Law

SALT LAKE CITY – This evening the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee voted against the amended H.B. 345, “Driving Under the Influence Amendments” by a vote of 3 to 5. The bill would have delayed implementation of Utah’s .05 DUI law until 2019. The current law is set to take effect this year beginning Dec. 30, 2018.  The bill would have also removed from the law problematic language relating to “novice drivers” that could be discriminatory towards immigrant drivers.

Rep. Karen Kwan says, “We have committed Utah to becoming the only .05 DUI state, and I don’t think we’re ready.  As written, this law creates too many unknowns for our state.  They say it will jam up our court systems with contested citations and doesn’t give enough latitude to judges in determining minimum penalties.  Public safety is our number one concern and we know delaying implementation will not impact public safety. Law enforcement agencies tell me this bill will not impact the good work they do to enforce public safety.”

The public and many other lawmakers have expressed multiple concerns about the controversial .05 DUI law since its passage last year. Utah’s tourism and restaurant industry worries the law will hurt Utah’s businesses. Advocacy groups say the current law would unfairly discriminate against immigrant drivers and those in poverty.

Rep. Kwan added, “We are not at consensus here, and we need more time to find ways to refine and improve this law. It would have been better for us to get this right, rather than quickly.  Who will be impacted by the unintended consequences? Our citizens, our constituents, and our neighbors. I’m not willing to let them be our test cases and let this unduly impact their lives. This will have dramatic impacts to our economy, our businesses, our judicial resources, and our culture.  This bill was about policy, and this is bad policy.”

###