Report from the Legislature
By Ralph Okerlund
Senator District 24
Feb. 15, 2018
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have just concluded week three of the 2018 Legislative General Session, and what a productive week it was!
We are nearing the end of our appropriations subcommittees who have taken requests from all the departments and are now taking building-block requests to fund programs not included in the current base budget. We saw some big issues on the Senate floor this week and met with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke about his plans for conservation and energy development.
This week we recognized our Senate Art Contest Winners. We received over 300 submissions from high school students around the state for our annual contest. This year’s theme was “The People of Utah.” The top 28 students were recognized on the Senate floor on Monday, Feb. 5, including Jessica Wright from Juab High School and Hannah Ostraff from North Sanpete High School. Their art is hanging in an exhibit outside of the Senate office in the Capitol.
Week Four Big Issues
Secretary of the Interior—I had the opportunity to meet with Secretary Zinke this week when he came to share his plans to improve conservation and management of public lands.
As Secretary of the Interior, he is focused on domestic energy development and reaching a point where the United States can be self-sufficient. He is also working to maintain federal protection of our lands yet allow a greater partnership with the state and the people in the management of the lands.
He spoke to Congressman Chris Stewart’s resolution HR4558 for the creation of three smaller monuments and a new national park on the former Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears national monument lands. Secretary Zinke said both he and President Trump are in favor of this resolution. You can read more about his visit (https://www.ksl.com/?sid=46257565&nid=148&title=interior-secretary-zinke-details-reorganization-plans-to-utah-leaders).
Budget—In Utah, we are required to pass a balanced budget every year by the end of session.
As we’ve seen recently from our federal government, when the legislature doesn’t pass a spending budget, the government shuts down.
In Utah, we mitigate the threat of a government shutdown by passing base budgets within the first few weeks of session. By doing this it allows us to have the minimum expenses covered so no one can hijack the budget bill and threaten a government shutdown. Before the end of session, we will pass a more complete budget bill.
Olympics—The state is in the process of considering hosting the Winter Olympics again in Salt Lake City. In a recent poll, over 83 percent of Utahns favor the idea. Unlike many former Olympic hosts, most of the facilities in Utah are still in operation. This resolution (SCR9 at https://le.utah.gov/~2018/bills/static/SCR009.html) says, in essence, that Utah is ready, willing and able to host the Olympic games again. This doesn’t guarantee the Olympic committee will choose Salt Lake City, but it will serve as Utah’s official application.
News stories on this appeared in the Deseret News (https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900009658/we-did-it-once-we-can-certainly-do-it-twice-another-olympic-bid-for-salt-lake-recommended.html) and in the Salt Lake Tribune