Report from the Legislature

 

By Ralph Okerlund

Senator District 24

Feb. 8, 2018

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

 

The second week of the 2018 Legislative Session is in the books!

We had a busy week getting two bills through committees and one through the Senate floor.

We had the opportunity to entertain 180 students from Pahvant Elementary in Richfield. We spoke to and took pictures with them on the steps of the Capitol Building.

We were able to greet 27 students from Loa as well.

We saw some interesting bills come through the floor, and we passed the base budget.

 

Martha Hughes Cannon

Each state in our nation is permitted to send two statues to reside in the U.S. Capitol.        Currently, Utah has statues of Brigham Young, who led the early pioneers to settle in Utah, and Philo T. Farnsworth, who helped further early television technology.

SCR 1 (https://le.utah.gov/~2018/bills/sbillint/SCR001.pdf) seeks to bring our statue of Philo back to Utah and to replace him with a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female in the country to be elected as a state senator.

This resolution sparked a lively debate on the Senate floor this week with supporters of the bill donning yellow flowers, a symbol of the early women’s suffrage movement.

The debate focused on the positive influence both Philo and Martha have had on Utahns.

Ultimately, the resolution passed on the final reading in the senate 21-7. You can watch the floor debate here (https://le.utah.gov/~2018/bills/static/SCR001.html).

Philo was a man who created one of the most important inventions of our day and should be honored for that, but the day we voted, my daughter was there. It reminded me that today, my daughters and granddaughters have the opportunity to become legislators, doctors, scientists and leaders of our nation.

Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon set the precedent and paved the way for many women to come after her and achieve what once was considered the impossible.

For this reason, I am in support of this change, and I hope to see Philo’s statue in the Smithsonian with all of the other great electronic inventors of our day.

 

Children’s Justice Center Program

The Children’s Justice Center program was established in 1994. The goal is to ensure that every child who is a victim of abuse in Utah has access to a safe environment and specialized services.

My mission for the past few years has been to extend these services to all counties of Utah so that each child has access to this program.

This bill creating a justice center in Juab would complete this 24-year process to provide these Children’s Justice Centers statewide.

Friday morning, Feb. 2, we passed SB81 out of the Senate, and it is now headed to the House.

 

Three New Monuments and a New National Park

SCR8 (https://le.utah.gov/~2018/bills/static/SCR008.html) is a concurrent resolution that we filed in support of HR4558 (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4558/text?r=1) that Congressman Chris Stewart has filed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Due to President Trump’s actions in dissolving the previous national monument, HR4558 would create three smaller national monuments and a new national park.

We filed SCR8 with the support of the leadership of the Utah House and Senate at the request of both Congressman Stewart and the local county commissioners of both Kane and Garfield counties to show our support of Congressman Stewart’s legislation.

The purpose of this bill is multifold.

It creates a management committee composed of five local residents, one appointee from the Department of Interior and one at-large appointee. In this way, it allows for the local control of these monuments and park.

Along with local control, I believe it will provide more economic development in two years in the national park than has been generated in 20 years in the sprawling national monument.

Also, as stated in resolution SCR8: “…The purpose of Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve, Grand Staircase National Monument, Kaiparowits National Monument and Escalante Canyons National Monument shall be to protect, conserve and enhance: the unique and nationally important historic, scenic and natural resources; recreation, including hunting; and grazing…[and]…authorizes public access for hunting, fishing, trapping and grazing within the Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve…”

This is something I believe will benefit and preserve our area in many ways.

To see this in the news, here’s a link to an article about SCR8 in the Deseret News (https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900009104/utahs-mighty-6-lawmakers-urge-support-for-new-escalante-national-park.html).

 

Budget

On Friday, Feb. 2, we passed the base budget.

This insulates us from a government shutdown because, if anything were to happen now that prevents us from finishing the session, we have a budget in place and could go home!

Over the next two weeks, we will take requests for building blocks in each of the departments of the state. This is where they present programs that aren’t funded by the base budget currently, and then we decide to add them into the final budget using extra funds.

Many valuable programs and needs will be presented in these committee hearings.

Thus, we will be watching for the needs of public, higher and technical education as we move forward in drafting the final budget.

 

What do you think?

Thanks for following me along in my legislative journey. I hope to continually keep you informed about my work on the Hill.

Likewise, please keep in touch. I’d love to hear your insights and opinions. I can also be reached by email at rokerlund@le.utah.gov.

I’m grateful for the opportunity you’ve given me to serve in this capacity.

We live in a unique and special place.

Thank you for all you do to make Utah the best state in the nation, and thanks for paying attention.

 

Until next time,

Ralph Okerlund

Utah State Senate, District 24