utpol

Rep. Arent to Revive Straight-Ticket Voting Bill

Media Statement 

For Immediate Release:
November 21, 2018 

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

Rep. Arent to Revive Straight-Ticket Voting Bill

SALT LAKE CITY – Today Representative Patrice Arent, D – District 36, announced that she opened a bill file to eliminate straight-ticket voting (STV) in Utah. 

 “After an election that saw an unprecedented interest for a midterm, now is the time to move past this outdated voting practice,” said Rep. Arent. “Forty-two other states do not allow straight-ticket voting.  It’s time that Utah joined them.”  

Rep. Arent ran similar legislation in 2013 and again in 2016.  

Straight-ticket voting allows voters to choose a political party’s entire slate of candidates with just a single ballot mark.  Utah is one of just eight states that still allows STV, along with Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.  Texas passed legislation to eliminate it, which will take effect in 2020. Over the past two decades the number of states that allow for STV has decreased, according to The National Conference of State Legislators.

 “Straight-ticket voting denies good candidates in both parties the opportunity to receive fair consideration by voters,” added Rep. Arent. “If we want voters to be educated and hold their elected officials responsible, we ought to encourage them to learn about the candidates they are voting for and not just paint all candidates with a single partisan brush on election day.” 

# # #

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. 

# # #


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.

###

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 Committee Passes Bill to Formalize Early Childhood Committees, Address Study Recommendations  

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 15, 2018

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

House Committee Passes Bill to Formalize Early Childhood Committees, Address Study Recommendations  

Salt Lake City - Today the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee voted to pass H.B. 319, “Early Care and Learning Coordination Amendments,” with a vote of 6 to 2.  The bill formalizes a Governor's Early Childhood Commission in the Department of Workforce Services, and an Early Childhood Utah Advisory Council in the Department of Health. The groups would work to address recommendations given by the Early Childhood Services Report from 2017.  

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck said, “This legislation will help Utah’s working families who are seeking assistance and information know what options are available for them. We know that the first years are critical for a child’s wellbeing and development. While Utah values the parent’s role as their child’s first and most important teacher, many struggling, low-income Utah families have no access to early educational programs and services to help their kids thrive from early age and beyond. ”

The bill would formalize and provide accountability from the myriad stakeholders who are already working to improve and coordinate quality programs and services for young Utah children and their parents. The Commission and the Council would coordinate efforts and resources to assess the quality and availability of early childhood education programs, along with health and development programs for young kids. They would also assess available early education programs for low-income children and make recommendations to state officials. The commission and the council would both be composed of early childhood caregivers, experts, educators, and public officials. If the legislation is successful, both entities would need to be reauthorized after five years.

Utah has a growing population and the highest number of young children per capita. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates 13 percent of Utah children ages 0-5 live below the federal poverty line and have limited access to quality early childhood education opportunities. A growing body of research shows a child’s first five years of life are critically important for lifelong learning, and laying a foundation for school and life success.

According to the 2017 Early Childhood Services Report, commissioned by legislation passed in the 2017 General Session (S.B.100 Milner/Edwards), produced by the Department of Workforce Services, and the University of Utah Education Policy Center:

High-quality early childhood services and resources can result in academic and intellectual gains, improving both the cognitive and social development of children. These early investments also benefit state economies and budgets, as the state realizes a greater return on investment for addressing needs early in life, realizing a more productive population and spending less on addressing interventions for adults with long-entrenched issues.”

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

###

House Votes to Replace Philo Farnsworth Statue in U.S. Capitol with Martha Hughes Cannon

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 14, 2018

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

House Votes to Replace Philo Farnsworth Statue in U.S. Capitol with Martha Hughes Cannon

Salt Lake City - Today House Democrats showed united support in favor of the resolution S.C.R.1 - “Concurrent Resolution Recommending Replacement of Statue of Philo Farnsworth in United States Capitol.”  The House voted overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution to replace the Farnsworth statue with a statue of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon.  Dr. Cannon was an immigrant, a polygamist, a physician, a women's rights advocate and suffragist, and the first female Utah State Senator elected in the United States.  

Rep. Patrice Arent said, “Martha Hughes Cannon is the perfect Utahn to represent our state in the nation’s Capitol. She has been one of my role models for many years. As a current legislator, I want to send a clear signal to women in Utah and across the country that our accomplishments are just as important as those of men.”

Rep. Angela Romero added, “When young women from all across the country go to the capitol, they will see an intelligent, strong, and influential Utah woman standing proudly in a hall dominated by men. Having a fellow woman recognized as an important contribution to the history of this nation is a powerful and inspirational message for all young women that tells them not to be scared in the face of difficulty and to press forward with their battles and their dreams.”

Rep. Joel Briscoe stated, “Utahns should pride themselves in the persistence and dedication that Martha Hughes Cannon had in public service, science, and her home life. Young women should know that we stand behind them and the remarkable accomplishments that they make in the face of impossible odds.”

Rep. Spackman Moss said, “Women of intellect and academic achievement have not been celebrated and memorialized to the extent of men in this state and in the country.”

Rep. Elizabeth Weight stated, “Yes, we are recognizing Martha, but we are also celebrating her leadership in 150 years of women’s right to vote in Utah. We are remembering all the women who have fought for rights for themselves and for those without a voice.  This is a celebration and recognition of the valuable roles that women in politics, science, and all spheres of life have had in our society.”

Rep. Mark Wheatley said, “We are not demoting Philo, but rather, we are giving due recognition of Martha Hughes Cannon, her work in public office, and her fight for equality. She was a strong woman who was not afraid of fighting an uphill battle for those left out of the political process.”

###

House Democrats Vote Against Self Defense Bill

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 12, 2018

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

House Democrats Vote Against Self Defense Bill

Salt Lake City - The House of Representatives voted 58 to 11 in favor of H.B. 129, “Self-defense Amendments.” The bill would make the failure to retreat to a safe space irrelevant in court cases when an individual exercises self-defense.  

Earlier during the committee hearing, Democrats spoke against the bill:

“I am outraged,” Rep. Hollins said. “This bill opens a flood gate for the unnecessary escalation of dangerous situations. Violence should always be the last action available. As a nation, we have already seen the impact that discrimination and ‘stand your ground’ laws create in marginalized communities. We need to be working to deter violent situations, not to encourage individuals to attack others when they were clearly not justified,” Hollins added.

Rep. Elizabeth Weight said, “A perceived threat is not always a threat. In this country there is a culture of fear, and this bill empowers people to act on that fear.”

Rep. Angela Romero said, “I do not see how this bill meaningfully addresses the problems posed by situations of self-defense. It completely throws out discussion as to whether an individual acted reasonably in defending themselves and attacking another person. This committee has decided that facts do not belong in the courtroom.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.  

###

House Committee Unanimously Passes "Utah Yield" Bicycle Bill

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 13, 2018

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

House Committee Unanimously Passes "Utah Yield" Bicycle Bill

Salt Lake City -  Today the House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to pass H.B. 58, “Traffic Control Signs for Bicycles” which would revise traffic control regulations related to bicycles. The bill would let bicyclists treat stop signs as yield signs and red traffic signals as stop signs. Under current law bicyclists can pass under a red light after waiting for 90 seconds. H.B. 58 would eliminate the waiting time.  Rep. Carol Spackman Moss has coined this the “Utah Yield.”

Rep. Moss says this bill is needed because our traffic signals are designed only to accommodate cars. “All too often when bicyclists stop at a red light, they have to wait and wait because they’re not heavy enough to trigger the road sensors. Many people commute by bike to work, and they’ll just have to go through the light, and some have been cited for doing that. We want to encourage a bicycle-friendly road system that makes bicycling safer, faster, and easier will help to encourage more ridership.”

Studies from other states with “Stop as Yield” regulations have not shown any increased risk for car-bicycle accidents. One study from Idaho measured a 14 percent decrease in motor vehicle-bicycle crashes. And a 2013 comparative study of cities with and without this law found a decrease in crash severity in those cities with a “Stop As Yield Law.”                                                               

“This bill does not give people on bicycles any special rights.  It just changes our road rules to reflect and accommodate how bicyclists and vehicle drivers actually behave on the road now,” says Rep. Moss.   

H.B. 58 also works to encourage more people to use bicycling which will be increasingly necessary as our population grows. The bill helps to address Utah’s poor air quality. Roughly half of Utah’s poor air quality is attributed to motor vehicle emissions.

This bill also aims to help law enforcement focus on more pressing traffic hazards.  In 2016, the most recent data available, the Department of Public Safety Highway Safety Office, found the most common vehicle accidents involve teenage drivers (45 percent), unrestrained occupant crashes (almost 9 percent), and speed related crashes (almost 6 percent).   

“Bicyclists are not creating significant risks for traffic hazards,” says Rep. Moss. “Courts will no longer have these minor infractions taking up time within the judicial system with this legislation.”

Similar laws have been in place in Idaho since 1982. In 2017, Delaware became the second state to adopt this regulation.

The bill now goes to the House for further consideration.

###