Legislators work through bills to reach balanced budget


By Ralph Okerlund, Senator District 24



With week four of the General session behind us, we are over halfway through our time on the hill. Time is racing by and I am using every minute possible before the session ends. Throughout the session, we are visited by members of our federal delegation. On Tuesday, Sen. Mike Lee spoke to our caucus. On Thursday, we were visited by Rep. Ben McAdams and Rep. John Curtis.

I had several opportunities to meet with rural legislators and discuss the issues we are currently facing. We are working with house leadership and many others to make a plan that will best suit our needs in rural Utah, especially our emergency medical services. Progress is being made. This isn’t an issue that will be fixed overnight. It will take time and hard work and we are willing to do what it takes to find solutions.

It is no secret that Utah is home to incredibly diverse natural landscapes that give us some of the best outdoor recreation in the world. It’s part of what makes living in Utah exceptional. We want to maintain the outdoors we love for future generations to enjoy.

As our state continues to grow, some of our recreation assets are not keeping pace. We need a statewide, comprehensive outdoor recreation plan to preserve and protect the outdoors, while creating sufficient access for all Utahns.

I was joined by the Mt. Pleasant Youth City Council on the Hill this week! What a great group of young leaders. We had a few minutes to visit and talk about the legislative process and some bills that are currently being debated. These are bright students who have a bright future in their respective fields of interest.

Students from Red Cliffs Elementary also joined us on the Hill. They took a tour of the Capitol and learned more about the legislative process. I was able to take a few minutes to spend with them and talk about their important role in what goes on in the community and in the legislation. All citizens have a voice! These students were great and I loved the short time I had with them.

All of us on the Hill were honored to have the Madrigal Choir from Juab High School come and perform in the Rotunda. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are so proud of their accomplishments and are thrilled for their upcoming trip to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall this spring. I am proud of such incredible talent coming from rural Utah. Along with having some time with the entire group, I took the members of student government on a tour of the House Chambers. I encouraged them to continue leading and being an example to the people they surround themselves with. They are great example to us all and will do great things with the future.

The status of my Legislation to date:

H.B. 21: Intergenerational Poverty Plan Implementation Program Extension: This bill has been passed by both the Senate and the House and is filed with the Governor.

H.B. 103: Utah Promise Program Scholarship Program Amendments: I presented this bill before the Senate House Education Committee. It was passed out favorably in committee and is now on the Senate 3rd reading calendar.

H.B. 161: Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact: I presented an amendment to the bill that changed some legal language in the bill that was agreed upon by both national experts and the Utah Medical Association. This bill was voted on in House and was passed with 73 yea votes, 0 nay votes. This has been transmitted to the Senate.

H.B. 304: Citizen Feedback Program: This bill is still in the beginning stages. It has been sent to the House Rules Committee for further policy and fiscal consideration.