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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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.

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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.”

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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."

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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."

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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.”

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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.


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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.

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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.”

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Democratic Legislators Present $100 Million Affordable Housing Bond

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 28, 2018

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

Democratic Legislators Present $100 Million Affordable Housing Bond

SALT LAKE CITY— Low-income Utahns could find relief in the housing market if a $100 million affordable housing bond passes through the Legislature.

Rep. Joel Briscoe, the Utah House minority whip, is sponsoring HB 464 which issues general obligation bonds in an effort to attract affordable housing and transitional housing projects throughout the state. The Senate sponsor is Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis.

“Utah is facing a future of growth and economic prosperity but not all Utahns are finding that future accessible to them,” Rep. Briscoe said. “We’re around 47,000 units short of affordable housing right now and housing prices continue on an upward trend. If Utah wants to grow right, we need to take action to help low-income Utahns benefit from affordable housing.”

Rep. Briscoe added, “I’ve worked closely with individuals who got into transitional housing after living on the streets of Salt Lake City and spending years inside prison walls. What stops the cycle of recidivism is a place to call home.”

Sen. Davis called the bond a crucial investment.

“An investment in affordable housing is an investment in our communities,” Sen. Davis said. “Accessible affordable housing strengthens communities, schools and the wellbeing of Utahns.”

“The benefit Utah communities will see by this targeted investment in affordable housing is significant,” said Becky Pickle, Housing Policy Coordinator for Action Utah. “Utah families deserve the opportunity for stability, consistency in schools for their children, and a community to connect with.  Action Utah is encouraged by this bill and supports our legislature in voting yes for HB 464.”

The bill is awaiting a committee assignment by the House Rules Committee.


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 House Unanimously Approves Bill to Improve Voter Access

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 27, 2018

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

 House Unanimously Approves Bill to Improve Voter Access

Salt Lake City – This evening the House unanimously passed 5th Substitute HB 218, “Modifications to Election Law” by a vote of 70 - 0 - 5.  The bill provides clarity on voter registration processes via application or renewal of a driver license or state ID, and it allows Utahns to register to vote and vote on Election Day and during early voting by provisional ballot. It also requires a county that conducts an election by absentee ballot to provide a certain number of polling locations on the date of the election. The amended bill also now addresses privacy concerns by allowing anyone to request that his or her voter registration record be classified as a private record.

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, the bill’s sponsor said, “I call it a ‘voter-palooza’ bill because it creates so many efficiencies.”  

Earlier Rep. Chavez-Houck said, “It’s time for Utah to get on track with the rest of the country when it comes to its voting laws. This bill provides administrative efficiencies at the same time that it provides more opportunities for voters to access the ballot.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.


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House Passes Resolution Urging Restorative Justice in Utah’s Education System

Media Statement

 For Immediate Release: February 27, 2018

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

House Passes Resolution Urging Restorative Justice in Utah’s Education System

SALT LAKE CITY - Today the House passed House Resolution 1, “Urging Restorative Justice in Utah's Education System”.  The resolution urges the State Board of Education and Utah's school districts to implement school-wide restorative justice practices in the state's public primary and secondary schools.

Rep. Sandra Hollins, the resolution’s sponsor said, “Restorative justice works to address the root of students misbehaviors. Rather than responding to disciplinary problems in our schools with a traditional punitive response, Restorative Justice practices gives our schools a more effective philosophical approach to managing student behavior problems. Instead of pushing troubled students out, they are pulled in.  Restorative justice allows our classrooms to become spaces for students to self-advocate and build conflict resolution skills to negotiate interpersonal relationships at school, work and home.”

Restorative justice practices can especially help at-risk and ethnic minority students. Data show that disciplinary actions against students of color are disproportionate to our state’s population size. Currently Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and even students with disabilities are much more likely to be suspended and expelled for relatively minor infractions in Utah. Offending students are often removed from classrooms, where they fall behind, and many may drop-out.  Restorative Justice works to prevent this trend.  

Last year, schools in the Salt Lake City School District (SLCSD), like Horizonte Instruction and Training Center, began implementing restorative practices. They report already seeing positive results, like decreased rates of recidivism, and an increase in student attendance. School-based citations (which can be given for conduct ranging from disturbing the peace to drug or weapons possession) are down district-wide from 503 in the 2013-14 school year to 112 last year (2016-17). 

The resolution was signed by the Speaker, and sent for enrolling.


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House Committee Approves Bill to Study Drug Abuse and Withdrawl in County Jails

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 27, 2018

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

House Committee Approves Bill to Study Drug Abuse and Withdrawl in County Jails

SALT LAKE CITY - Today the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Just Standing Committee voted unanimously in favor of  HB 410, “Alcohol and Substance Use Withdrawl in County Jails.”  The bill would require the Utah Substance Use and Mental Health Advisory Council to establish a workgroup, including various stakeholders, to study alcohol and substance use withdrawal in county jails, and report its findings to legislators.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, the bill’s sponsor said, “Utah leads the nation in per capita jail deaths. Some deaths may be from suicide, and others may be from drug or alcohol withdrawl. We need to learn more about the causes and implement policies to prevent them.”

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.


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House Committee Votes Down Bill to Require Transparency from Animal Shelters

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 27, 2018

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

House Committee Votes Down Bill to Require Transparency from Animal Shelters

SALT LAKE CITY - This morning the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Standing Committee voted against H.B. 221 - “Animal Welfare Amendments” by a vote of  5 to 6.  The bill would require large public and private animal shelters to be more transparent by publishing detailed information about the dogs, cats, and other animals in their care.  Each month information such as descriptions of each live animal, how the animal was obtained, the disposition of each animal, and whether each animal was adopted, euthanized, reclaimed by an owner, or other explanations for what happens to animals in shelters would need to be made public.  

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brian King said, “People want to know how our state’s animal shelters are progressing in reducing the number of animals that have to be euthanized each year. This would require all of our animal shelters across the state to be more transparent.  It would also help us to know how animals are being treated, how many are being adopted, and how many are being put down. Right now the public doesn’t have clear access to this information.”  


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Rep. Angela Romero Elected First Vice President of National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2018

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

Rep. Angela Romero Elected First Vice President of National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators

SALT LAKE CITY – Today the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) announced the results of its leadership elections, which were held during the 15th National Summit of Hispanic State Legislators in Chicago, IL., this week.  Rep. Angela Romero of Salt Lake City - District 26, was elected as the organization’s First Vice President, the second highest ranking elected officer of NHCSL.

Rep. Romero said: “For us as Latinos, whether our families have always been here or as aspiring citizens, we all have the same concerns as all families living in the U.S. We want access to quality education, a living wage, good health care, and safe communities to live in. I look forward to serving as NHCSL’s First Vice President and bringing these issues to a national stage.”

NHCSL Executive Director Kenneth Romero-Cruz said: “We are especially pleased to have Representative Angela Romero from Utah remain on our Board and move from Secretary up to the position of First Vice President. We are excited that she decided to step up to the plate once more and that our membership recognized her capabilities and rewarded her hard work for this Caucus. Rep. Romero has provided a level of depth and knowledge of policy, especially in the areas of education, energy and immigration, that will no doubt continue to enrich this organization and help take it to the next level. We are very proud of her and I personally look forward to working with her in her new role at NHCSL.”

In addition, Utah Rep. Mark Archuleta Wheatley of Salt Lake City - District 35, a longtime member of NHCSL, was elected as Treasurer after serving as Vice President for Membership during the last two years. 

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Democrats Oppose Problematic Bill Dealing with “Bad Faith” ADA Demand Letters

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2018

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

Democrats Oppose Problematic Bill Dealing with “Bad Faith” ADA Demand Letters

SALT LAKE CITY – Today the House voted in 54 to 12 in favor of 2nd Sub. H.B. 115, “Bad Faith Demand Letters Concerning Americans with Disabilities Act,” sponsored by Rep. Norm Thurston of Provo. 

The bill attempts to crack down on people who send illegitimate or “bad faith” demand letters threatening to sue businesses for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  While Democrats agree there may be some bad actors who threaten to file non-meritorious lawsuits under the ADA, most see this bill as problematic that could wrongly hamper efforts to address legitimate discrimination of Utahns with disabilities.  

On the floor the sponsor proposed changes to the original bill and rushed through a second substitute. Democrats felt many stakeholders and legislators deserved more time to review it.

Rep. Brian King of Salt Lake City who made a motion to circle the bill to allow more time for consideration said, “This bill is unconstitutional. If legislators see this as a problem, they should take it up with Congress. The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law. We should not be tampering with the substance of that federal statute at the state legislature.”

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss of Salt Lake City stated, “This bill risks unfairly targeting people with disabilities who have legitimate complaints against businesses who discriminate against them. The definition of “bad faith” is very vague in this bill.  What’s more, the disability community is all united against this bill.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

House Passes Bill to Help Reduce Diesel Vehicle Emissions

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 23, 2018

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

House Passes Bill to Help Reduce Diesel Vehicle Emissions

Salt Lake City  - Today the House voted 56 to 15 in favor of 2nd Sub HB 101, “Air Quality Emissions Testing Amendments.” The bill requires counties that currently have gasoline vehicle emissions testing programs and do not test diesel vehicles, to institute a three year pilot diesel emissions program.

The bill’s sponsor, said Rep. Patrice Arent of Millcreek said, “The support for this bill shows that we as legislators can find common ground and create straightforward clean air policies that benefit all Utahns. Public health is not a partisan issue, and improving our air quality is an essential part of creating healthier communities.”

During the floor discussion, Rep. Francis Gibson of Mapleton said, “Clean air affects business and industry. If we don’t make an effort to clean out the air, it will affect the number of businesses coming to be here. This is a start. My finger will painfully vote for this bill.” 

A similar version of this bill was unsuccessful last year. It now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

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House Passes Controversial Charter School Bill by a Close Vote

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 22, 2018

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

House Passes Controversial Charter School Bill by a Close Vote

Salt Lake City - Today the House voted 38 to 33 in favor of passing H.B. 313, “Charter School Revisions”. The bill would weaken the Utah State School Board’s oversight authority over charter schools. Currently, when a local school district, the State Charter School Board or a state higher education institution wants to authorize a new charter school, they must get a final vote of approval by the state school board. The bill would remove the school board’s vote, and instead direct the board to establish minimum criteria and rules for those authorizing charter schools to follow when evaluating applications.  All of the House Democrats voted against the bill. 

Rep. Marie Poulson said, “This bill diminishes the powers of the state school board. These are public funds being used, and basically, with this bill we’re turning it over to people who are not elected. The Utah School Boards Association and the Utah Education Association oppose this, and so do the school districts I represent.”

Rep. Joel Briscoe said, “I like the idea of having different ideas out there contributing to our education system, and one of my daughters graduated from a charter school. But I find it curious the sponsor recognizes the state school board has a responsibility here to make minimum standards, but they can’t actually implement a review and evaluation under this bill. This is too drastic a change at this time.”  

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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House Committee Votes to Hold Paid Parental Leave Bill

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 22, 2018

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

House Committee Votes to Hold Paid Parental Leave Bill

Salt Lake City - Today the House Business and Labor Committee voted 11 to 1 to hold H.B. 156, “Family Leave Amendments” in the committee. The bill would grant six weeks - or up to 240 hours - of paid parental leave for state employees in the executive branch and state higher education, technical colleges, and board of education employees. Under the bill, employees would be eligible to receive sustained pay during leave after a year of full-time employment. Employees who take the leave would be assured of returning to the same or equivalent position.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Elizabeth Weight said, “Utah cares about family values. We need to enact legislation that upholds those values. Parental is an essential part of the healthy development of a newborn, the well-being of mothers, and the critical involvement of fathers in the raising of children.”

Rep. Weight added, “We recognize the increasing economic value of parental leave for business. It reduces turnover. It attracts the most skilled employees. It increases retention and it dramatically reduces retraining costs. This increases stability in the workplace and increases productivity. The LDS Church, our military, and numerous businesses within the state are already noting the benefits of paid parental leave;  it is time that our state employees see that benefit too. We shouldn’t force mothers and fathers to choose between their children and their employment.” 

Rep. Susan Duckworth, the only other Democrat on the committee who voted for the bill said, “It’s time we bring our parental leave laws into the 21st century. If you care about children, you support this bill. If you care about families, you support this bill. If you care about good business practices, you support this bill. It’s just that simple.“

Other local Utah employers who have recently adopted paid parental leave provisions include Salt Lake City, the LDS Church, and RioTinto. California was the first state in 2004 to implement partial paid family leave. New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York now also have similar programs. The United States is one of only two countries in the world that doesn’t have a national paid parental leave policy. The other is Papua New Guinea.  


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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.

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