Legistlative report for week two, by Sen. Okerlund

Legistlative report for week two, by Sen. Okerlund


Senator Ralph Okerlund 

District 24



Week two of the 2017 Legislative Session is in the books. A total of 11 bills have passed through the entire legislature but committee agendas and reading calendars are filling up with bills in a hurry.

We had some exciting events happen on the floor this week. We witnessed the proposal of Senator Henderson’s intern (she said yes). Senator Anderegg read an emotional citation honoring the Search and Rescue Dog Handlers that participated in the effort to find his missing niece – Annie Schmidt and bring closure to his family. (https://goo.gl/5JL0ed) Senator Henderson sponsored a resolution honoring a true American hero and Utahn, Gail Halvorsen. The resolution read in part:

“during the Berlin Airlift from 1948 to 1949, Halvorsen, moved by the gratitude and resilience of the children living in that devastated city, dropped tiny handkerchief-sized parachutes filled with candy from his C-54 for the children of Berlin to chase down and collect — an act for which he was affectionately nicknamed the “candy bomber,” and, though he was nearly court-martialed for doing so, Halvorsen continued to make his candy drops for several months;”

“… almost 70 years later, Halvorsen’s service to the children of Berlin stands as one of the foremost examples of kindness and human compassion, bringing relief to a war-torn country and joy to children in need of a little bit of hope”

Overall, we have had a productive and busy week. While the media has focused on issues like the Bears Ears and Escalante Grand Staircase Resolutions, there have been many other issues and bills discussed by the legislature.

My concurrent resolution to recognize local snow removal crews is presently underway. On Jan. 13, 2017, Terry Jacobson, a UDOT snow removal crewman, suffered a collision by a semi that sent his plow truck crashing down a 300-foot embankment. Because of this, the Utah Legislature is moving quickly to highlight, as well as appreciate, the dangerous work our snow fighters undergo in order to provide safe roads and an improved quality of living. Snow removal crews have already driven over 2.7 million miles of road in the process of their work, often amidst the worst weather Utah has to offer. As the sponsor for this resolution, I am working to guarantee their labor does not go unnoticed. This resolution received enthusiastic reception in the Senate Committee recently, and will reach the Senate Floor this coming Friday.

This week, the House debated a resolution that calls on President Trump to overturn President Obama’s Bears Ears decision.  The resolution sharply criticizes President Obama for using the Antiquities Act—which was designed to help protect Native American structures and objects—to set aside 1.5 million acres of Utah land for environmental protection. Among other things, the resolution chides Obama for ignoring the wishes of the residents of San Juan County-many of whom are Native American. This resolution passed the House and will now be heard by the Senate.

We are beginning the process of pushing new bills in order to encourage rural economic development. I am in the early stages of creating an Outdoor Grant, which will ensure available funding for regional service centers for education providers throughout my district. Education has been a top concern to Utah according to recent local surveys, therefore I desire, by the end of this legislative session, that this appropriation request will bring more resources to our students and schools.


Further bill information is publicly available on our website le.utah.gov, where we provide live online streaming for each of our committees, Senate Floor discussions, and House Floor activities as well. Connect specifically with the Utah Senate for updates wherever you live on social media by visiting www.senatecloud.com. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and all sorts of other sites. Feel free to visit our new website for updates, articles, and information: www.senatesite.com.

You can connect to me personally online through my email at rokerlund@le.utah.gov, or by phone at (435) 979-7077.  If you would like to meet with me, you can reach out to my intern, Saren Winter, at (335) 441-0600 or via email at swinter@le.utah.gov.

You are welcome to join me at the Capitol any time this session – you would be a welcome guest.

As we dive further into the 2017 Legislative Session, I am mindful of the incredible sacrifices by so many which allow us to debate society’s ideas in a civilized, free fashion. It is an honor to represent you – my colleagues, friends, and neighbors – in such an arena.