Utah Teachers Needed for Developing Curriculum about Opioids and Opioid Addiction

Media Statement

For Immediate Release:
September 19, 2018

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

Julie Kiefer, Manager, Science Communications
University of Utah Health
(801) 587-1293   julie.kiefer@hsc.utah.edu 

Utah Teachers Needed for Developing Curriculum about Opioids and Opioid Addiction

SALT LAKE CITY – Grade 8 –12 science and health teachers from across the state are invited to participate in a workshop to help develop curriculum materials that address opioids and opioid addiction.

During the 2018 General Session, the legislature appropriated $150,000 of one-time funding for the development of a curriculum to teach secondary school students about opioids and opioid addiction. The Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah (UU) will use these funds to update their existing materials on addiction, as well as develop new opioid-specific materials. The opioid-specific curriculum will join the other free-to-use, evidence-based teaching materials on the GSLC’sLearn.Genetics.utah.edu website, which is used in nearly all Utah high schools.

“We’re finally investing in prevention of drug abuse through knowledge rather than just managing the symptoms,” said Representative Joel Briscoe (D-District 25), who helped shepherd the appropriation through the legislature last session. “Utah has spent millions of dollars on law enforcement and treatment to combat the Opioid Crisis. I’m excited that we’re now being proactive to help young people understand and avoid the risks of drug addiction.”

Fliers about the curriculum workshop have been sent to teachers statewide, including targeted invitations to teachers or district science coordinators in counties with the top six overdose death rates. Nationally, Utah has ranked high compared to other states for drug overdose deaths but recently overdose deaths have been decreasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Engaging teachers is such an important part of our curriculum development process,” said Amy J. Hawkins, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the GSLC. “They know the standards, they know their students, and they'll be sensitive to issues we might not be aware of. We want teachers to bring us their ideas and perspectives from their various communities. Once we understand what educators need, we can bring their ideas to life online through engaging visuals and interactive content.”

During the workshop, participants will learn from UU researchers and other professionals about the latest science behind pain, opioids, and addiction. They will then develop ideas for classroom materials that address these topics while also meeting state health and science standards. Participants will receive a $500 stipend, meals, mileage compensation, and lodging. The curriculum development workshop will occur during the scheduled UEA week, October 18 – 20, 2018, in Salt Lake City.

More information, including an application for teachers, is available athttps://www.research.net/r/addictionsci 

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House Democrat Opens Medical Marijuana Bill File

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: 
September 10, 2018 

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

House Democrat Opens Medical Marijuana Bill File

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Representative Brian King (D-District 28) announced he opened a bill file titled "Medical Marijuana Modifications" for the 2019 General Session to serve as a method for the legislature to address the issue in the next session.   

“It may be that we need to make modifications to problematic aspects of Proposition 2, if it passes,” said Rep. King.  “Or we may need to put in place meaningful medical cannabis legislation if Proposition 2 fails. Many of those opposing Prop 2 have said they favor medical marijuana but not the specifics of the proposition. Regardless of the outcome, medical cannabis will continue to be an important public policy for Utahns.  I look forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to develop the best policy outcome possible for Utah patients."

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House Democrat Calls for Accountability for Continued Native American Voter Suppression 

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: 
September 6, 2018

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

House Democrat Calls for Accountability for Continued Native American Voter Suppression

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Representative Mark Wheatley (D-District 35) called for Utah elections officials and the State Attorney General to help San Juan County take urgent action to fix voter location inconsistencies before the November General Election.  Rep. Wheatley also asked elections officials to hold San Juan County Clerk officials accountable for actions that may continue to undermine Native American participation in elections. 

During Wednesday’s Native American Legislative Liaison Committee legislators learned that much more progress is needed to ensure that Navajo citizens’ voting rights will be protected and respected. 

According to a report prepared by the Navajo Nation Human rights Commission (NNHRC) and the Rural Utah Project (RUP) many Navajo voters are not accurately identified as living at the residential coordinates as assigned by the county.  The groups reported that in some assessed precincts about 80 to 95 percent of voters are not placed in their correct residential coordinates, and about 25 percent on average of Navajo voters are not placed in the correct precincts. 

“This effectively amounts to continued voter suppression,” said Rep. Mark Wheatley.  “It’s the responsibility of San Juan County to make sure everyone is counted. I want to make sure we are holding those responsible accountable for their actions.”

Last year a federal district court judge ordered San Juan County to draw new district boundaries after determining illegal racial gerrymandering had taken place.  Then, earlier this year San Juan County Clerk John David Nielson admitted to falsifying a government document regarding a claim that Navajo candidate Willie Grayeyes was ineligible to run for a county commission seat because he did not live in Utah.  A federal judge has since ordered San Juan County to place Mr. Grayeyes back on the ballot.

“It seems evident that Mr. Grayeyes’ rights have been violated,” added Rep. Wheatley. “It’s understandable that the Navajo community has lost confidence and trust with the San Juan County Clerk/Auditor’s office. At the same time, San Juan County officials claim they lack sufficient resources to accurately place many of its Native American residents.  As a state we need to be assisting San Juan County and Native American groups with resources to reconcile this situation.  For far too long our Native American brothers and sisters have had their voices suppressed.”  

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House Democrats say All Inland Port Board Meetings Should be Open

Media Statement

For Immediate Release:
August 30, 2018

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

House Democrats say All Inland Port Board Meetings Should be Open

SALT LAKE CITY – Today the Utah House Democrats strongly urged the Inland Port Board to reconsider its decision to not hold its subcommittee meetings in public.

“After all of the backroom meetings that have occurred with the Inland Port project up to now, it is disappointing that the Inland Port Board is choosing to keep its doors closed,” said Representative Brian King (D-28).  “The argument that the law doesn’t apply in this case doesn’t hold water.”

“The issues that Inland Port Board members are discussing directly affect my constituents on the west side of Salt Lake City and, frankly, everyone in Utah,” added Representative Angela Romero (D-26). “The public has a right to know what’s going on.” 

“I have been asking for more transparency at every point of the Inland Port process since my district falls within the port boundaries,” said Representative Sandra Hollins (D-23). “Continuing to not prioritize transparency continues the distrust and bad feelings that have been present for the entirety of this process.  I strongly urge the board to reconsider in an effort to build faith and goodwill with the communities most directly affected by this massive project.”

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Democrats Call for Accountability by Religious Institutions over Allegations of Past Sexual Assault

Media Statement

For Immediate Release:
August 29, 2018

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

Democrats Call for Accountability by Religious Institutions
over Allegations of Past Sexual Assault

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Representative Brian King (D-28) and Representative Angela Romero (D-26) issued the following statements addressing recent sexual abuse allegations involving religious institutions in Utah.

“It’s troubling to hear about alleged incidents of sexual assault involving local religious institutions that may have occurred more than 30 years ago coming out now,” said Representative Brian King.  “No matter how long ago an incident may have occurred, any church that knows about sexual abuse allegations should address those allegations in a responsible, prompt and transparent manner.  Clergy too often are insulated from accountability to protect the institution rather than the victims.  I would hope our religious institutions in good conscience use their resources and authority to seek the truth, and not to cast doubt on whether any past crime occurred.”

“When allegations of sexual assault surface, we need to start by believing the alleged victim,” said Representative Angela Romero.  “All too often, these cases linger for years and sometimes decades because the trauma to the victims is too much to bear.  Addressing these crimes matters because so many people who are traumatized by sexual abuse stay in the shadows. Victims often turn to substance abuse or engage in risky behaviors to numb their pain.  Providing support and resources to survivors is critical for preventing lifelong trauma.”

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House Democrats Support Utah Citizens' Right to Vote for Medical Marijuana

Media Statement

For Immediate Release:
August 23, 2018

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

House Democrats Support Utah Citizens' Right to Vote for Medical Marijuana

SALT LAKE CITY – Today the Utah House Democrats issued the following statement in response to today’s press conference voicing opposition to the Proposition 2 medical marijuana ballot initiative:

Utah House Democrats affirm their support for the citizen-driven ballot initiative process. The process of gathering over 150,000 valid signatures from Utahns has allowed this important policy conversation about medical marijuana to progress. The people of Utah should be allowed to decide whether or not this particular medical marijuana initiative goes too far.  It is clear that a significant portion of the public thinks the Utah Legislature has moved too slowly on the question of medical marijuana and they want their voices heard.  For years the Legislature has had its chance to pass meaningful legislation on this matter.  Now we must respect Utahns’ right to petition their government through ballot initiative.  

As legislators, we can either listen to the people, or expect more ballot initiatives from frustrated and disenfranchised voters in the future.  A significant number of Utahns support more choices in treating debilitating pain and other medical issues.  We appreciate concerns that it is not perfect, but if Proposition 2 passes, then the Legislature will still have the ability to modify and improve the legislation in the months and years afterward. 

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Utah House Democrats Urge Trump Administration to Honor 45,000 Refugee Admissions Ceiling in 2019 

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: 
August 21, 2018

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

House Democratic Caucus Urges Trump Administration to Continue Resettling Refugees and Honor the 45,000 Refugee Admissions Ceiling in 2019

SALT LAKE CITY – Today the Utah House Democratic Caucus sent the following the letter to President Trump and other White House officials:

August 21, 2018

President of the United States Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

The Honorable Secretary Mike Pompeo
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

The Honorable Secretary Kristjen Nielson
Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016

Dear President Trump:

We, the Democratic Caucus of the Utah House of Representatives, write to urge the White House to continue to resettle refugees to our great country and honor the 45,000 admissions ceiling in 2019.  

Utahns have an exceptional understanding of the importance of welcoming persecuted peoples and offering them safe haven.  Generations ago, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who also experienced oppression and hardship, sought refuge in what is now Utah. 

By accepting refugees year after year, the great state of Utah has benefited economically and socially by being a welcoming state to refugees and new Americans.  Over 65,000 resilient new Utahns have proven to be an asset to their new communities since our state began resettling refugees but could not have achieved this alone. Over the last two years, over 5,000 volunteers have stepped forward in Salt Lake County to support new Americans in receiving sanctuary, opportunities to rebuild their lives and thrive.

Refugees are compelled to flee their homes, they have faced persecution on account of their religion, ethnicity, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Astonishingly, over 65 million people are displaced globally, the largest displacement crisis in recorded history, including over 22 million refugees. Resettlement offers a chance for less than 1% of the world’s refugees to reach safety in a third country when no other options remain.

Resettlement to the United States is available only for those who demonstrate the greatest and most immediate need for protection and takes place after eligible refugees undergo rigorous selection, security vetting and medical screening processes. Upon arrival, organizations like the International Rescue Committee, Catholic Community Services, and other community partners help refugees in Utah by providing them with the tools of self-reliance: housing; job placement and employment skills; English-language classes; and cultural orientation.

We acknowledge that our nation’s policies for aiding refugees is just one policy piece of a larger immigration puzzle.  We believe Utah’s principles for welcoming immigrants serves as an important model for our nation.  Eight years ago, Utah’s political, business, law-enforcement and religious leaders endorsed the Utah Compact.  It recognizes Utah’s principles in regard to Federal solutions, law enforcement discretion, keeping families together, the economic role immigrants play, and our spirit of inclusion.  Maintaining our commitments to welcoming a reasonable number of refugees is consistent with these values.

In recent decades, we have seen our communities thrive because of our growing diversity and the economic contributions that all newcomers - refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, and naturalized citizens alike - continue to make. The overwhelming majority of resettled refugees integrated into our communities are hardworking, entrepreneurial, and family-focused people who share our Utah values.  Like most Utahns, they want safe communities, they are patriotic, they cherish the freedoms and opportunities America provides, and they want the best futures possible for their children.

As Utah House Democrats, we cherish Utah’s values of helping those in need.  It is only moral and right that we commit to help newcomers from around the world who have escaped life-threatening circumstances to begin building new lives for themselves and their families. 

Sincerely,

Representative Patrice Arent                                     

Representative Joel Brisco, House Democratic Whip

Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck                    

Representative Sue Duckworth

Representative Lynn Hemingway                             

Representative Sandra Hollins, House Democratic Caucus Manager

Representative Brian King, House Democratic Leader                                         

Representative Karen Kwan

Representative Carol Spackman Moss                      

Representative Marie Poulson

Representative Angela Romero, House Democratic Assistant Whip                                  

Representative Elizabeth Weight

Representative Mark Wheatley

# # #

Salt Lake City Democrats Vote Against Inland Port Bill

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: July 18, 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

Salt Lake City Democrats Vote Against Inland Port Bill

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Democrats representing residents in Salt Lake City’s west side explained why they voted against HB 2001, Utah Inland Port Authority Amendments.

“We had a poor process around the Inland port bill during the session, and the process hasn’t gotten better for this legislation,” said Representative Angela Romero, District 26. “This decision will affect Salt Lake City west side residents for decades to come. I have wanted to ensure transparency, and for residents and stakeholders to be given the opportunity to provide feedback and share concerns about the long term impacts. I am disappointed this hasn’t occurred.”  

Representative Sandra Hollins, District 23, said, “Although I appreciate the Salt Lake City Council’s negotiations to improve the bill and their willingness to work with state leaders, I have concerns about the democratic process.”

“Even with the improvements, this legislation still locks Salt Lake City and other taxing entities out of having a fair share of control over its own land,” said Senator Luz Escamilla, District 1. “Compared to the process for creating the Point of Mountain Commission or the Fairpark Board this process has been wholly inadequate in deliberation and intentionality. Legislation with an impact of this magnitude should be considered during the 45-day general session and not in the few hours we have during a special session. And after hearing the frustration of my constituents that residents of the district where the inland port will be placed due to process I can’t support this bill.”


# # #

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…”

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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