Day 16 — Dollars & Sense

education-funding-e1417630732112 (1)As Day 16 comes to a conclusion, our Public Education Appropriations Committee is beginning to finalize the budget.  There have been many good programs that have presented budget requests to our committee and the difficulty is that we can’t fund every good thing.  We have to prioritize the budget requests, and legislation, that aligns with the goals that many stakeholders have come together to support.  Those stakeholders include many of the groups below, and there are others, who represent educators, the private sector, policy analysts, community advocates, and state agencies. 

Check out the links below and I’d love to get your input on what you think is important and where you’d like our limited resources to go.

Budget Tools for Public Education 

Public Education Fiscal Year 2016 Analysis

Utah Foundation’s Report on Utah Taxation

Public Education Budget Overview

2016 Economic Report to the Governor

Governor’s Education Excellence Commission 10-Year Plan for Education

Education First

Prosperity 2020

Public Education Budget, Actual Revenues & Expenditures

Utah State Board of Education

School Finance Fundamentals

State Board of Education Legislative Priorities

State Board of Education Budget Priorities

UEA Issue Brief – FY 2017 Public Education Funding

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Day 15 — A is for Audits

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The Office of the Utah State Auditor provides Utah taxpayers and government officials with an independent assessment of financial operation, statutory compliance, and performance management for state and local government.  

Two important legislative audits were released last week.  Both revealed flawed processes and practices as well as opportunities to improve.  As a legislator I rely on this kind of examination as I work with my colleagues to assess performance of organizations and agencies and look for ways to improve our state government.  We now hold these groups accountable to take the steps to implement the recommendations from the audit.  Check out the brief analysis, the full audit and other news reports, below.  I appreciate the team at the Office of the Utah State Auditor and their role in helping our state government become more effective and efficient.  

Board of Pardons and Parole Audit

From the Audit:

Utah’s Board of Pardons and Parole (BOP or board) plays a critical and unique role in the state’s criminal justice system. For example, last year, they made nearly 18,000 decisions, including releasing offenders from prison, setting the conditions of release and supervision, and responding to over 1,000 parole violations. Consequently, they wield significant influence on public safety and the use of public resources. Utah’s parole board has considerable discretion because of wide sentencing timeframes coupled with an indeterminate system. The level of discretion appears to be greater than is found in other states. This report examines opportunities for the board to better deploy such broad discretion and recommends improvements to the BOP’s oversight, structure, decision making, data collection, and business operations. These recommendations come at a time when criminal justice reform (both nationally and locally) is working toward improved outcomes and lowered costs.

I have several constituents who have spoken with me about this issue for years.  Their experience echoes the recommendations from the audit, as follows:

  1. BOP Can Benefit from Improved Planning, Oversight, and Structure
  • Improved Planning, Performance Measures, and Transparency of Information Is Needed.
  • BOP’s Internal Organizational Structure Should Be Reviewed.
  1. BOP Should Adopt More Proven Practices
  • Structured Decision Making Will Increase Consistency of Decisions.
  • BOP Should Improve Rationale for Its Decisions.
  • Use of Research-Based Practices Can Help BOP Improve Its Outcomes.
  1. BOP Should Adopt an Electronic File Management System
  • The BOP’s Current Paper Process Is Vulnerable to Errors.
  • Paper-Based System Limits Data Tracking and Transparency.
  • Paper-Based System Creates Operational Inefficiencies.
  • Electronic BOP System Will Promote Alignment with Other Criminal Justice Agencies.
  1. BOP Should Consider Implementing Process Efficiencies
  • A Streamlined Decision Process Is Needed for Less Serious Offenders.
  • BOP Should Review Expungement Process and Recommend Statutory Changes.

Full Audit & Media

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Utah College of Applied Technology Audit 

From the Audit:

At the request of the Legislature’s Education Task Force, we reviewed the rates of completion and job placement for career and technical education (CTE). Individual CTE programs at the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) and Utah College of Applied Technology (UCAT) are so different that system-wide composite rates representing all programs are not comparable. USHE and UCAT also have many differences in methods, definitions, and data sources. Thus, reported CTE statistics should be used with caution.

Insufficient and inconsistent accounting practices have led to UCAT misrepresenting the number the certificates, job placement, and credentials earned by students within the UCAT system.  This flawed reporting has a serious impact on how we look at the skills training necessary for workforce demands and the role UCAT plays in that training.  

Recommendations from the Audit:

  1. Broad Completion Definitions Make Composite Statistics Not Comparable
  • Key System Differences Make Summary Statistics Not Comparable.
  • UCAT Has Diluted Its Completion Statistics with Small Achievements.
  • USHE Could Report Completion Rates for Individual Programs.
  1. Provider Methods Make Job Placement Rates Not Comparable
  • Providers’ Placement Calculations Have Significant Differences.
  • UCAT Placements Exclude Some Students, Include Continuing Education, and Present Validity Concerns.
  • USHE Placements Are Reported System-Wide and Have Data Limitations.

Full Audit  & Media

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Week two– Happy 100th Birthday, Utah State Capitol!

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In 1888 Salt Lake City donated 20 acres of Arsenal Hill to the Utah Territory for the location of a State Capitol.  The land then became known as “Capitol Hill,” although no move for the Capitol to relocate there had taken place.

In 1894 statehood was imminent.  The Enabling Act as passed by Congress, permitting Utah to form a constitution with specified provisions for intended administration into the Union.  The following year delegates authored a well-supported state constitution.

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In the following decades, Salt Lake City experienced tremendous growth in population and cultural variance.  This was largely due to religious proselytization, immigration, mining opportunities, and the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, connecting the Union and Central Pacific railroads at Promontory Point in Utah territory.

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On January 4, 1896, U.S. President Grover Cleveland signed the Proclamation granting Utah statehood!  Utah became the 45th state in the Union.  Two days later Inaugural ceremonies were held for Heber M. Wells, Utah’s first governor.  Also adopted in 1896 was the Utah State Flag and the Great Seal for the State of Utah.

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On the Legislative Horizon

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While we don’t have some of the well publicized issues of 2015 facing us this session, remember the prison relocation, gas tax increase, and criminal justice reform, we are still dealing with several significant policy decisions this year.  Those issues include equity in education funding, internet sales tax, water infrastructure, medical marijuana, education reform, election process for state school board, legislative, and state wide offices, and economic growth.

I’m sponsoring 13 bills and am working with my colleagues in the Senate as House sponsor on several bills.  
This link includes the list of the bills I’m working on (this is also the link to request tracking for any bills).
My bills that are numbered and working through the system:
HB 54, Economic Development Tax Increment Financing Amendments
HB 56, Women in the Economy Commission Amendments
HB 97, Children with Cancer Special License Plate
HB 102, Interpreter Services Amendments
HB 134, State Work of Art
HB 291, Working Families Employment Amendments
HB 294, Second-hand Store Amendments
Senate bills I’m serving as House sponsor on:
SB 59, Anti-discrimination Act Revisions
SB 67, Partnerships for Student Success
My bills currently in the drafting process:
Department of Environmental Quality Compliance Amendments
Local Incentives for Energy Efficient Buildings
Capital Facilities Revisions
Affordable Housing Revisions
Affordable Housing Amendments
Joint Resolution Directing Disbursement of Revenue from the Transfer of Public Lands
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Getting to Know Your Legislature — Reading Calendars

Each week I’m including some information about the workings of the legislature.  This week describes House and Senate Reading Calendars.  Calendars contain the list of bills waiting in line to be voted on.  Here is the link to all the Floor Calendars discussed below. 

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By rule each bill must be read, which means heard and discussed, three times.  The First reading is when the bill is introduced, usually when the staff Reading Secretary reads the number and title of the bill on the chamber floor.  After that the bill is assigned to a committee.  In the House the committee hearing is considered the Second reading.  In the Senate both Second and Third readings occur on the Senate floor with a vote of the full Senate, and a bill is not fully passed out of the Senate until it has passed Second and Third reading calendars.   

If the bill receives a favorable recommendation from the committee (“passes out”), the committee report is read and adopted on the floor (with no presentation or debate), and then moved to the Third reading calendar (Second in the Senate, see above).  The Third reading calendar is what you see above in the photo.  In the third reading, the sponsor (legislator who produced the bill or is sponsoring the bill from the other chamber) gives a presentation and then the bill is open to debate.  Sometimes it is amended or substituted, and sometimes it is only debated amongst the members.  After the debate has concluded, the bill is voted on and moved off the Third reading calendar and over to the other body for their consideration. There are several other Calendars that can be a landing spot for a bill after it has been recommended by a committee:  Consent, Concurrence, and Time Certain.

Each Calendar has it’s own rules.  For instance, the Consent Calendar means that the bill has received so much support from the Standing Committee  that no discussion to the bill is allowed on the floor.

The Concurrence Calendar contains bills that originated as House bills, went to the Senate and were amended there.  The House then must vote on whether or not to concur, or approve, the Senate changes.

The Time Certain Calendar contains bills or resolutions that are going to be read at a specific day and time.  This is usually because there are members of the community or those involved

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Intern Corner – Week Two

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Intern Corner — Julie Lund

Legislative Intern, Weber State University

When I told my family, friends, and co-workers that I was going to be doing an internship at the Utah State Capitol, the responses sang forth the praises of the building’s history and brought about stories from when they visited the Capitol as children.

However, when I elaborated that I was going to be working for either a representative or senator for the 2016 Legislative Session about half of the people were as excited as I was, but the other half – Well, you would have thought I just bought a ringside seat to Dante’s Inferno. Many of the faces that were sweet and encouraging moments before snarled up into an angry primal expression. One gentleman commented that, “All those legislators are a pack wild squirrels. You be careful up there.” To comments like that, I didn’t know whether to laugh or listen. This pattern repeated. Even strangers on campus and around town had an opinion about “those legislators” up on the Hill. It left me wondering what I might have gotten myself into and once again, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As “week two” comes to a close, I think I can respond to the naysayers that have such a strong reaction to the legislative body here at the Capitol. The legislator, be it a representative or senator, is a face to which a constituent focuses all things political. The reaction is often based on a newspaper article or twenty-second sound bite. Yet, there is more to any story than a few published words. I’ve come to witness there is often a backstory that simply cannot fit into a two minute broadcast on the five o’clock news. The legislators I have seen up here are diligent in exploring both sides of the story, as well as the back story. Yes, they are eventually required to vote either yes or no, but I haven’t seen one legislator take that responsibility lightly. These real people. Moreover, I am surprised to find out they are people just like you or me.

Outside of the political arena, they work for a living at real jobs and go home to their families at the end of the day too. Simply put, they’re human. They have stepped up and volunteered to serve and represent their respective communities. Legislators do this by studying both sides of each issue and looking forward how a bill may affect each segment of their community. It is not easy job. I wondered why any sane person would sign up to endure the political firestorms I’ve witnessed so far. There is just one answer, they have been called to serve and they do so to the best of their ability. So to the naysayers I would say, your opinion is valuable – because you are a valuable part of this community. However, I would caution one to truly seek to understand each issue before passing judgement and if you feel so strongly to change government, maybe you are being called to step into the political arena. I challenge you, walk a mile in a legislator’s shoes; it will change your perspective.

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Day 13 — Lucky 13

Instead of being unlucky, Day 13, was full of “lucky” events.

First off, I feel lucky to have constituents who make the effort to come to my home every Saturday morning for Bagels & Briefings, and talk policy.  They are engaged, informed, and I always learn from them.

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We are lucky to live in such a beautiful state where access to world class recreation is so accessible.  I love my Saturday afternoon ski date, too!

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I was lucky to be invited to speak at the Eagle Court of Honor for these four scouts, plus three other young men from the same Bountiful troop who are currently serving LDS missions.

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The sunsets in our area are spectacular and we are lucky Mother Nature continues her show of beauty night after night.

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I’m lucky to work in such a beautiful building.

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Day 12 — A Week at the People’s House

They say a picture is worth 1000 words.  By that measure this post showing the goings on of Week Two of the legislative session is worth 34,000 words.  Some favorite moments below, in no particular order:

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An interview regarding education funding, a topic I’m passionate about.

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Thursday night my husband and I headed to Provo for the BYU/St. Mary’s game.  BYU played a great second half and won.

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Speaking to the Professional Republican Women.  This is a great group that I’m a member of and I love their involvement and impact on our state.

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The traditional “Animal Print Friday” combined with wear red for “Heart Health.”  I love working with these women, and a few participating men.

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View from the back of the committee meeting on SB 73, Medical Marijuana, Sen. Madsen. A rare packed house.

Screenshot 2016-02-03 23.30.02KSL shows interest in the bill I’m running to designate the Spiral Jetty as the Utah State Work of Art.

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Having my parents join me on Monday morning to give the prayer and the pledge as we started our work in the House Chamber was a real treat.

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The best kind of rally is one that involves passion, an important issue, and kids.  This Clean Air rally had all three.

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Across the hall from the medical marijuana discussion our Economic Development and Workforce Services committee had a much less crowded audience for Rep. Romero’s bill presentation.

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Our majority caucus discussed internet sales tax, medical marijuana, and revenue changes in education and general funds.  We meet twice a week for a caucus lunch.

28460f47-dcde-41f0-b6a4-ee328aeb13c4 Famiy Night at the capitol always begins in the Rotunda with an introduction to the Capitol.2b7325c6-bd8a-49df-baaf-4866ec2ab3a6

The basement of the Capitol houses the new state seal mosaic and brass seals for each county in Utah.  It’s really beautiful.  Here a docent is giving a school group a tour.

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A group of advocates, scientists, artists, educators, and land experts helped with my presentation on naming the Spiral Jetty the State Work of Art.

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This is the view of the witness stand when you are presenting or testifying on a bill.

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A few pictures of the speed mentoring/networking exercise we included in our inaugural Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus/women intern reception.

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Krystal Hansen, mother of a child with cancer, shared her story with the committee as part of the presentation on the bill authorizing the Childhood Cancer Special License Plate.

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Jim and Marilyn Nielson came to visit the House.  Jim served with me from 2011-2014 and did an excellent job representing his constituents.  Rep. Ray Ward, from the same district Jim used to serve, had invited them up to give the prayer and pledge for our morning session today.

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An awesome group of 5th grade students from the Madeleine Choir School came up to the Capitol to advocate for clean air.  They knew their stuff!

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It was Weber State Day, which means everyone breaks out their purple, including the purple sock brigade, see Rep. Brad Dee above, and three of the session interns below.

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The Professional Republican Women invited all the women legislators to share their thoughts on public policy and the bills they are running this session.  A perfect time for a selfie!

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It was a treat to work with my cousin, Shelley, on a bill this session.

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The group photo we took at the Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus mentoring event.

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More pictures from our Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus reception for the 2016 women legislative session interns.

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More testifying in committee.  My constituents and people I work with are the best!

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Day 11 — Medical Marijuana

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Today two bills dealing with the legalization of medical marijuana passed out of their respective Senate committees.  They are both headed to the Senate floor.  As a reminder, the Senate votes on each bill twice on their floor and then sends them to a House committee and the House floor.  There is a lot of ground to cover before these bills come before me for a vote, and this is an extremely complex issue, but I will try here to provide a bit of background and update on the issue as best I can, then I’ll share some thoughts I have about medical marijuana.  

Senator Vickers and Senator Madsen, sponsors of the two bills, provided legislators with a summary of each of their bills, which I’ve scanned and included here.  

Summary of SB 89, pages 1-3, and SB 73, pages 4-7 

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SB 73, Medical Cannabis Act, Sen. Mark Madsen

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This bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee today with a 4-1 vote.  Eventually you’ll be able to hear the stream of the entire committee audio.  When it is up I will post the link.  Sen. Madsen chairs this committee and chose Sen. Luz Escamilla to chair while he presented his bill.  This is significant because Sen. Escamilla is a Democrat and currently only Republicans serve as committee chairs.  This was the first time I’ve ever seen a Democrat chairing, and I have to say it was awesome.  Sen. Escamilla did a wonderful job chairing what was a very sensitive and emotional committee, and it was also her birthday!

Members of the committee:

  • Sen. Mark Madsen (R)
  • Sen. Gene Davis (D)
  • Sen. Luz Escamilla (D)
  • Sen. Lyle Hillyard (R)
  • Sen. Daniel Thatcher (R)
  • Sen. Stephen Urquhart (R)
  • Sen. Todd Weiler (R)

Sen. Weiler and Hillyard were absent for the vote (Sen. Weiler was hosting an event that evening and had announced at the beginning of the committee that he had to leave early), Sen. Thatcher was a no vote, and Sen. Madsen, Davis, Escamilla, and Urquhart were yes votes.

HB 73 is 60 pages long, includes a “whole plant” option that includes THC, the chemical in marijuana that provides the psychological impacts, or “high” from usage.  It details everything from growing, distributing, usage, regulation, sales, qualifying illnesses, licensing, prescriptions, and criminal actions all related to medical marijuana.  The testimony today focused primarily on individuals sharing their stories of illnesses and the benefits they experienced from using medical marijuana.  While very compelling, the testimonies are anecdotal in nature and do not qualify as medical research.  Treating medical marijuana with the same standards as any medicine is required to completely understand the benefits and risks associated with usage. 

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SB 89, Medical Cannabidiol Amendments, Sen. Evan Vickers

Screenshot 2016-02-05 01.39.17 This bill passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee with a unanimous vote from the six committee members:

  • Sen. Allen Christensen (R)
  • Sen. Luz Escamilla (D)
  • Sen. Peter Knudson (R)
  • Sen. Brian Shiozawa (R)
  • Sen. Kevin Van Tassell (R)
  • Sen. Evan Vickers (R)

This bill presents a more cautious approach to treating illnesses with medical marijuana. The bill sponsor does not intend this to be a competing bill with SB 73, but feels each should be seen on their own merits.  SB 89 deals with cannabis extracts, and includes more limitations on usage, documentation on use and impact, and analysis of that data base for future policy.  It is not a “whole plant” bill, and does not include the use of THC, the chemical responsible for the “high” of marijuana. The bill sponsor states “We decided early on that the only way to be successful was to treat marijuana like a medicine, so we adopted the theme, “If it is a medicine treat it like a medicine both from the medical side and the regulatory side.” 

I attended a conference in Denver in May, 2015, where we visited a large marijuana grow site and a dispensary.  I had an opportunity to speak with several legislators from Colorado who shared their experience as legalized marijuana has rolled out there, and heard their cautions to go slow, make incremental changes, and proceed carefully.  Everything from impact on law enforcement, underage marijuana usage, regulations, research, certification, dispensing, growing, abuse, and addiction, must be considered.  I am not supportive of medical marijuana being a stepping stone to legalized recreational use of marijuana, which it has been in several states.  I do know I need more time to read and compare the details of the two bills.  If you have feedback on this issue I’d love to hear it. 

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Day 9 — Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus

IMG_1751In October 2015 a group of current and former legislators came together and formed the Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus.  The namesake of the group was Martha Hughes Cannon, the first woman in the US to be elected to a state Senate seat where she served two terms.  By the time Martha was elected at age 39, she had already achieved acclaim as a teacher, physician, suffragette, orator, and mother of 3.  She was married at age 28 to Angus Cannon, 23 years her senior, and was his 4th plural wife.  In Martha’s first election Angus was also her opponent where he was running as a Republican and Martha as a Democrat.

Martha won.

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This November 15, 2015 Op-Ed in the Deseret News outlines the priorities and goals of the Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus.

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A new caucus has come to town. The Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus, named after Martha Hughes Cannon, is made up of current and former women legislators who came together to work on issues important to all of us. As a bipartisan, bicameral group, it is our goal to speak up on these important issues and to inspire, train and encourage other women who have the desire to serve our communities and our state in politics and in business.

Utah women have been working hard to bring into balance their representation in all areas of government and the workplace. Recent studies have shown Utah to be near the bottom of all 50 states when it comes to women in politics and in corporate executive positions. We are proud to be a part of efforts like the Utah Woman and Leadership at Utah Valley University, the Women’s Leadership Institute’s #ElevateHER Challenge and the YWCA’s Real Women Run initiative and their efforts to help women successfully run for office.

Recently, a local radio show had two guest hosts discussing Carly Fiorina’s visit to Utah. One host, a man, asked the other: “I want to ask you a question as a girl. Which you are. I’m interested to know how much does Carly Fiorina being a woman or Hillary Clinton being a woman affect the way that you see them as candidates?” Unfortunately, her answer was: “I know how I get every 28 days. I kind of get crazy every once in a while. … As women, we have a lot of hormonal situations going on and I just wonder how people like Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton deal with their situations.”

We were disappointed in one host’s reference to the other as being a “girl,” rather than a woman. To his credit, he said it absolutely had not been his experience that women were “too affected” hormonally to have leadership roles in politics, business and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, there are still inaccurate mischaracterizations of women and their abilities. Hopefully this represents only a small minority of the population. As we brought this issue to the attention of the sponsoring station, they apologized for this absurd characterization of women leaders. We appreciate that.

President Russell M. Nelson, an apostolic leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently quoted the late Boyd K. Packer: “We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out. … We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous.”

As long as we remain 44th in the nation for women’s involvement in elected office, we are determined to continue talking about and encouraging more women to run for elected office.

We look forward to the day when it is the norm to see women running for office and excelling in business, when it is so ingrained in our Utah culture that we no longer need to note and take action about the lopsided electoral presence.

Until then, we intend to continue speaking up and speaking out about the value women bring to all organizations.

The Martha Caucus is made up of these current and former women legislators: Sen. Ann Millner, Sen. Luz Escamilla, Sen. Karen Mayne, Sen. Deidre Henderson, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, Rep. Marie Poulson, Rep. Angela Romero, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Rep. Sandra Hollins, Rep. Patrice Arent, Rep. Becky Edwards, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, Rep. Sophia M. DiCaro, Rep. Kim Coleman, Rep. Sue Duckworth, former Sen. Patricia Jones, former Sen. Karen Morgan, former Sen. Karen Hale, former Rep. Genevieve Atwood, former Rep. Dana Layton, former Rep. Sylvia Andersen, former Rep. Sheryl Allen, former Rep. Nancy Lyon, former Rep. Jackie Biskupski, former Rep. Ronda Menlove, former Rep. Trisha Beck, former Rep. Holly Richardson, former Rep. Laura Black Arnold, former Rep. Jennifer Seelig, former Rep. Julie Fisher, former Rep. Joanne Milner and former Rep. Lorie Fowlke. 

Tonight, members of the MHCC hosted a reception for the 2016 legislative session women interns.  We shared the reasons we got involved in public service, ways in which we felt we have made a difference, what we wish we had known at age 22, the importance of women having a voice in politics, and our desire to serve as mentors for these bright interns.

I’m grateful for my legislative colleagues and for my predecessors who paved the path for my service.  I hope to be in a position where I can encourage and support other women in achieving their potential and making a difference in their communities.

Some photos from these evening and our group mentoring activity:

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