Day 23 — Martha Hughes Cannon, a Caucus worth keeping

About three years ago Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck and I formed the Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus, made up of current and former Utah women legislators.  Our intent was to honor and celebrate Mattie Cannon, the namesake of the caucus, while providing an opportunity for our members to work together on issues and policies, and get in some good old fashioned bonding along the way.

This Deseret News op-ed, penned by Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus member and former State Representative Holly Richardson, highlights the reasons behind the caucus, My view: Martha Caucus seeks to inspire interested women in serve in politics and business

“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 impact of Martha Hughes Cannon was felt in the 1800’s and is still felt today.  A recent Deseret News op-ed, Martha Hughes Cannon changed my world; I want to change the world for her, by Lone Peak High School senior Natalie Tonks, shares how this move is about so much more than just one statue or one woman.

We held our first Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus Reception several years ago and invited the women legislative session interns for some speed mentoring and group discussions with the MHCC members.  It was a great event, with numerous former legislators returning to the Capitol for the first time in years.  The 2017 MHCC Reception had 25 current and former legislators and about 20 interns in attendance.  This year our numbers were even higher.  On either end of the spectrum were an 18 year old high school intern and an 88 year old former Representative who served for 21 years from the 70’s to the 90’s.  We listened, learned, shared, and laughed…..a lot.  

Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus Reception, 2016

Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus Reception, 2017

We also held a retreat in 2016 to kick things off for the MHCC. 


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.That was the first year we heard a presentation on a project rolling out in the state to celebrate the role Utah women played in the suffrage movement.  The project is called BetterDays 2020, and in 2017 co-founders Neylan McBaine and Mandee Grant discussed their large vision for events rolling out in 2020 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of women getting the vote.  Tonight we had Jen Christensen, BetterDays 2020 Public Policy Director, give us an update on what’s happened since last year and what we can watch for as we get closer to 2020 and the 150th anniversary.  Some fantastic events are in the works!

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 this evening and our group mentoring activity:





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Week Three Highlights

Jevonne Tanner and Alicia Mercer brought their Girl Scout troop from Bountiful to the Capitol for a tour this week.  Rep. Ray Ward and I loved spending time with them.  They also brought letters and illustrations showing their support for SCR 1, authorizing the move of the statue of Martha Hughes Cannon to the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall.  They were great advocates!

More and more time is spent in this position as the session moves along.  

Senior Pastor Don Proctor, Bountiful First Baptist Church, offered the prayer this week at the opening of one of our floor sessions, and he was joined by my intern Anahit Verdyan, student at the University of Utah, who led the House Chamber and gallery in the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Again…..floor time.

Making an appropriations request to the Social Services Appropriations Sub-committee.  The request was for a program that trains individuals in the homeless shelter with culinary skills preparing them for jobs once they leave the shelter.  

After delivering their letters of support to Rep. Mike Noel, we were lucky to have Rep. Noel share a little about the history of Philo Taylor Farnsworth and the great contributions he made to our state and nation.

An appropriations request for Ballet West in front of the Business, Economic Development and Labor Appropriations Sub-committee.

Discussing the Ballet West appropriation with Sara West, Vice President of Development, Ballet West.

It was Arts Day on the Hill and I had the opportunity to introduce the Woods Cross High School Jazz Band percussion ensemble, starring Clara Campbell on keyboard, Connor Pemberton on drums, and Alex Pope on bass.  They were amazing!

Outside the House chamber talking to advocates about my resolution on environmental stewardship.  Carrie Butler, middle, is the Policy Director of Action Utah, and Ashley Soltysiak, right, is the Chapter Director of the Sierra Club.  I appreciate their participation in the process and help on several issues through this year.

This man takes the phrase “The People’s House” literally.  He is at the Capitol every day.

Meet Utah’s future leaders!

Another view of the public who attend our Social Services Appropriations sub-committee meetings.  Their advocacy and input are critical to this process.

Brandon Dunn, a junior at Woods Cross High School, is the son of educator and constituent Jessica Dunn.  Brandon has been coming to the Capitol every year.  This year he gave me some good advocacy on why educators could benefit from more money invested in the WPU.

A view of our House Law Enforcement Criminal Justice Standing Committee.  Here Erin Jemison, Director of Public Policy, YWCA, testifies on a bill sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler.

Our annual Clean Air Caucus press conference outlining a number of bills to improve air quality.  I enjoy working with my colleagues as a co-chair of this caucus and looking for solutions as to how we can continue to improve our air quality.

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Day 19 — Calendars, websites, and bills…..oh my!

The Utah State Legislature has a very clear process for how bills are considered and move through to passage.  As each bill moves through that process there are many sets of eyes on each bill, including those from members of the public who can comment during committee hearings, who have an opportunity to analyze, debate, and eventually make recommendations on the outcome of the bill.

The organization of that process once bills have made it out of a committee is organized by House and Senate Reading Calendars  on the floor of the House and Senate.  Calendars contain the list of bills waiting in line to be voted on.  A description of each of those calendars follows.  It is a helpful reference for understanding our legislative process and why it matters.

To begin with, by legislative 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, which means the Senate votes twice on each bill, 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 with the bill who would like to be present in the gallery for the vote.  Or sometimes a person is being honored on the House floor and we make sure to schedule that recognition, usually in the form of a House Joint Resolution, while they are present in the House.

The House Third Reading Calendar contains bills that have received a favorable recommendation from their Standing Committee.  There are several reading calendars, but you’ll see Second and Third reading calendars in the Senate and a Third reading calendar in the House.  The order on the Calendar mirrors the order in which they were passed out of Committee.

“Under suspension of the Rules” means that any legislator can make a motion to suspend any of the above calendar or committee rules.  With a majority vote of their colleagues in the House or Senate their motion will be supported.  This means that near the end of the session we may see bills that “under suspension of the rules” get voted on once in the Senate instead of twice as described above.  We also see that as long as a bill has had one committee hearing, in either House or Senate, the other body may move the bill straight to a Reading Calendar without a committee hearing, “under suspension of the rules.”

Now let’s talk about how to read a bill.  My former legislative colleague Holly Richardson, now a Salt Lake Tribune columnist, wrote an excellent article on how to read and understand bills and legislative calendars, “Utah Legislative Bill Reading 101.”   For those wanting a little hands-on audio-visual guidance, Holly’s video below, includes a walk-through of a couple of bills, one old, one new, and a little tour around the legislative website.  It is a great resource.  

From Holly’s SLTrib article, “If you have an interest in following — and influencing — Utah’s legislative process, be sure to go to Utah’s legislative website, Utah’s website is top-notch for ease of use and ability to find information. If you want email notifications of bill changes, enter your email on the bill page, on the right-hand side under ‘Track this’.”

Hopefully that helps you understand a little more of the legislative process and how you can find out about specific bills or bills related to a certain issue.  Now all that’s left is for you to get involved and make your voice heard.  Thank you in advance!

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Day 18 — Ask and maybe you shall receive

Each appropriation subcommittee conducts budget discussions, hears proposals for funding requests, prioritizes all budget items and requests, and votes on the final prioritized list.  Any additional revenue coming in to the subcommittee will be distributed as per the prioritization of the committee until the funds are expended.  

I served as sponsor for several appropriations this session.  Above I’m presenting in the Social Services Appropriations Committee with Melva Sine, President of the Utah Restaurant Association, about a request to fund a program where they would teach culinary job skills to homeless individuals onsite in the homeless shelter.  They’ve been teaching these skills in high schools for 20 years through the ProStart program, and for 2 years to juvenile justice clients who are incarcerated.  It is a perfect marriage of teaching skills necessary to obtaining a job and helping ease the critical need for more workers in the food service and culinary industry.  

Each of my requests was assigned to the appropriations subcommittee that oversees that portion of the state budget.  I believe these are all worthy projects, but since they are competing against many other great programs and there is never enough money to go around, it will come down to how the committees vote to prioritize these along with the numerous other requests for funding.  

  • 4-H Youth Development
    Description: Build Statewide capacity for 4-H program by adding 4-H coordinators in all 29 counties.
    Agency: Utah State University
    Purpose: These coordinators will expand opportunities for youth to engage statewide to participate in programs like robotics, traditional AG, financial management.
  • Work is the Way Initiative
    Description: Culinary/Job training at the homeless resource centers. Provide certification and a career pathway for homeless population.
    Agency: Workforce Services
    Purpose: Job training for homeless population.
  • Ballet West
    Description:  Ballet West is seeking a one-time appropriation to help support the international tour to China & Victoria, British Columbia, as well as the trajectory of the Choreographic Festival as it matures into an international destination for dance. $500,000 represents 25% of total cost.
    Agency: Heritage and Arts
    Purpose: Arts & tourism
  • Children in Family Treatment Programs 
    Description: Funds the treatment and services delivered to young children in family treatment programs. Services delivered are not medicaid reimbursable. Family treatment programs provide SUD and mental health services to the parent while concurrently treating and reunifying the children keeping them out of foster care.
    Agency: Human Services
    Purpose: Parents and their children throughout the state access these services. Family treatment programs are a partnership between DCFS, DSAMH, juvenile court, Guardian ad Litem, the local substance abuse authorities.
  • Utah Sports Hall of Fame Relocation of Museum
    Description: Since 1975, the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Museum was in the Salt Palace. In 1991, Larry Miller moved the museum to the Jazz Arena. Now with the re-construction of the Jazz Arena, the museum and all the memorabilia , trophies, and videos have been boxed waiting for funding to relocate the museum. The funding will also fund some additional scholarships
    Agency: Economic Development
    Purpose: The “best of the best” 228 inducted athletes in USHOF represent the proud tradition of athletic, scholastic, and cultural unity. Exhibit the history through memorabilia, awards, and video bios of our great athletic achievements.e are now homeless. An additional $1 million will be raised by at-large businesses/sponsors.

This is Sarah West, Vice President of Development, Ballet West.  We’re discussing the appropriation request that will assist Ballet West in making a stamp on the international scene with a tour to China and Victoria, British Columbia, and the growth of the Choreographic Festival.

Presenting to the Business, Labor, Economic Development Appropriations Committee on the Utah Sports Hall of Fame and Ballet West.

One of my requests, Children in Family Treatment Programs, funds the treatment and services delivered to young children in family treatment programs because their parent is in an inpatient treatment program. Family treatment programs provide substance use disorder and mental health services to the parent while concurrently treating and reunifying the children keeping them out of foster care.  This is a beautiful way to help a parent get necessary treatment and keep the family together in a safe and trial basis.  Upon completion of treatment DCFS makes an assessment as to whether to grant permanent custody to the parent.  The goal is keeping families intact when possible and this program helps with that.  It is a complement to many of the efforts going on right now addressing homelessness through a program called Operation Rio Grande.

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Law enforcement officers from several agencies increase their presence in the Rio Grand homeless area in Salt Lake City Monday August 14, 2017.

On August 14, 2017, an extensive collaborative effort to combat lawlessness in the Rio Grande area and lend a helping hand to those in need was launched. On February 5, a six-month update was given on the progress of the program. Operation Rio Grande (ORG), as it has been called, has been shown to have substantially improved the area, both for those seeking services and those who live and work there. Lives have been changed as more resources have been made available for those wanting help and as authorities have appropriately dealt with the drug dealers and cartels who would take advantage of them.

“There’s help out there, and Operation Rio Grande really put me in the avenues to get that help,” said one beneficiary of ORG, Rich Duprez. 

Since the launch of the operation: 

  • • Nearly 200 new addiction treatment beds, and counting, have been created 
  • • About 70 people have entered treatment through Salt Lake County’s new specialty drug court program. 
  • • More than 3,400 safe space cards issued. 
  • • One hundred thirty-three behavioral health assessments have been completed. 
  • • Sixteen people have been placed into sober living and seven new beds have been created, with more on the way. 
  • • Of individuals referred to short-term housing, 44 have been housed, 121 have been diverted from emergency shelter and 189 are receiving housing case management. 
  • • Fourteen individuals have been employed through the Dignity of Work program, 100 have completed employment plans, 33 are work ready and 48 job listings have been posted by participating employers. 
  • • Over 800 individuals assessed during ORG have now been enrolled in Medicaid, which includes coverage for behavioral/mental health treatment. 

Though we have made significant strides, it does not end here. The state is committed to securing funding, improving public safety, offering support to those struggling with mental illness and drug addiction to help them get back on the path of self-reliance, and preparing and connecting individuals with housing and job opportunities. 

The progress of the three phases can be tracked online at

Last week we saw first hand an example of the early successes of Operation Rio Grande when Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams visited the Capitol with Cedric Willis, Branden Jenkins and Mikhail Kotlov, clients of Operation Rio Grande’s specialty drug court. I’m familiar with how effective drug court can be because I served with my husband for two years as volunteers in the Salt Lake County Oxbow Jail.  We worked with many individuals who left incarceration and found success transitioning in productive work and safe housing through structure and requirements of the drug court program.  It was inspirational to see the impact it has had on the lives of these three men.  

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Day 17 — They do more than just sell cookies

Some young, and very determined, constituents visited the Capitol yesterday with a mission.  They came as a Girl Scout troop, along with leaders Alicia Mercer and Jevonne Tanner, for a tour of the Capitol and to learn about the way our government works, but that wasn’t all.  Their main goal?  To do some in person lobbying for the resolution replacing one of Utah’s two statues in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall, one representing Philo T. Farnsworth, with a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon.  They knew their stuff.  They knew Martha Hughes Cannon was the first woman in the U.S. elected to a state senate.  That she beat her husband in the general election.  That she was a doctor, a mom, and founder of what became the Utah Department of Health.  

Oh, they also knew that Martha Hughes Cannon was a fighter.  And that she spent a lot of her energies fighting so girls like them could do something very special in just a few short years.  Vote.  

They also knew that over 100 years ago there were a whole lot of women in Utah just like Martha Hughes Cannon who were involved in the suffrage movement to bring women the right to vote.  Martha, called Mattie by her friends, was one of their leaders, along with Emmeline B. Wells, Zina D.H. Young, Sara M. Kimball, Ruth May Fox, and Emily Richards.  These girl scouts knew something many Utahns don’t, that Utah women played an important role in bringing women the vote and were very real partners with other activists we’re more familiar with like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.   

We sat in the Rotunda and talked about how some things in Utah are the same as back in the day when the Capitol was built 101 years ago and how lots of things have changed.  The nice folks with the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center who had a display table set up in the rotunda showed us some old fashioned Utah hospitality and gave the girls brownies.  Utah–this is the place!  Most of the girls were my constituents, but a few actually live in the area of Bountiful represented by Rep. Ray Ward, who just happened to wander by as we were talking in the rotunda.  Time for a picture 🙂

Off to the Senate chamber where we ran into our Sen. Todd Weiler and Sen. Jerry Stephenson, who gifted the girls a wonderful commemorative coin with a depiction of Martha Hughes Cannon on one side.  These are one of a kind and will be a special remembrance for the girls.  

Of course the highlight of the House chamber was the painting depicting the first woman in the U.S. to vote.  On Feb. 14, 1870, Seraph Young, a 23 year old school teacher and niece of Territorial Governor Brigham Young, stopped by on her way to work to make some history by doing something that had never been done before.  Dropping her ballot in a box.   

Feeling mighty proud to be a Utah woman with this troop of girl scout power by my side!

The girls had written notes and illustrations for Rep. Mike Noel, the chair of the Rules Committee, who would be voting the next day to place the “Martha Hughes Cannon” resolution into a House committee.  Remember the part about their goal? Well, we went in search of Rep. Noel.  He was still in a committee, but we were able to see another member of House leadership, Rep. Mike Schultz, who took time to accept the letters on behalf of Rep. Noel and even confided he might be keeping a few of them on his own desk.  He asked the girls why they liked Martha and their answers were short and meaningful:

“I think if Utah had Martha’s statue I think people will see that women can be amazing leaders, too.”

“It is an example for me that I can do anything I want.”

“I think it is a really good idea to replace the Philo statue with Martha because women are not as noticed as the men are.”

Then just to be fair we thought we might go pay our respects to the statute of Philo Taylor Farnsworth on the 4th floor of the Capitol.  While we were there, guess who should walk by on the way out of his committee?  Rules chair Rep. Mike Noel!  He was as kind as could be to this group of girl scouts and stopped and talked to them for quite a while.  He shared with them the amazing contributions Philo Farnsworth made to Utah and the world in the area of television, radio, telescopes, and even baby incubators.  Philo was a remarkable individual and his statue has represented Utah in the U.S. Capitol since 1990.  The statues representing each state were never intended to be housed there permanently, and there are provisions to change them out as state’s desire.  In the next week we will have the chance as a legislature to vote on if it is time to bring Philo T. Farnsworth home and send Martha Hughes Cannon to Washington.  

If this determined girl scout troop from Bountiful has anything to say about it, we’ll all have a new face to welcome us to the U.S. Capitol next time we visit:  Martha Hughes Cannon!

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Day 16 — Lobbying the powers of Heaven

Each day our floor time in the House begins with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance given by guests of legislators, often family members or religious and civic leaders.  I love listening to the sincerity of those sharing their faith and prayers and feel strengthened by their words of encouragement.  

For today’s blog post I’m including two of my favorite prayers offered this session and also a prayer I heard on Sunday while worshipping at Grace Lutheran Church in Bountiful.   

Prayer offered by Pastor Don Proctor, Bountiful First Baptist Church

Let us pray

Grant us now, Lord, the courage, the wisdom and the foresight to provide for the needs of our state

Let us wait upon God who already will renew our strength.

And let us rise up with wings as eagles that run and are not weary

That walk and not faint

Enlist us in every good cause to the best of our ability

Grant us wisdom to see what ought to be done and

Courage to begin it

Fidelity to continue it

Strength and skill to complete it

And bring heaven to earth and earth to heaven

Grant this, oh God

Remind us that we are all your children in this house

Bound in a common life to be fellow workers

Open anew our vision to see the wonder and beauty of creation and the earth, and the sea and the sky and it’s care

May we be used in small ways to make greater deeds possible

Grant us forgiveness in our past

Courage for the present

And hope for the future

Keeping us ever mindful

Of the needs of others



Prayer offered by Imam Shuaib Din, Utah Islamic Center

Oh, Lord of the Universe, our creator, and creator of all.

Save us all from words which hurt and bless us with hearts that touch.

God, grant us the wisdom to learn from the guidance that you blessed upon all your prophets.

Our Lord, our creator, our maker, please give us compassion and mutual understanding so that we may live in peace and with justice.

Please help us to stop those who oppress and give us the strength to work for justice.

Give us the strength to work for the good of all humanity and against what is harmful for all of us.

Oh Lord, let our children learn from our errors and work to establish a safer, more peaceful and just world for all.

Guide us and our leaders to make wise and fair decisions.

Protect us from hate and intolerance. 

Make us amongst those who struggle for what is just, good and beautiful.

Have mercy on those who suffered due to intolerance.

And please God comfort and consult all those who now walk in sorrow.

Oh Lord of mankind, make us your true servants, enable us to live our lives according to our faith traditions in harmony with others.

Oh God, Yahweh, Allah, help us raise children who will be better than ourselves

Oh Protector of all, protect us from violence, fear and danger

Oh Lord, nourish our minds and hearts with the examples of the prophets

And Oh God of Abraham and the God of Moses

And the God of Jesus Christ and the God of Muhamad

Accept our humble prayers,


Prayers of the Church in the World

Grace Lutheran Church, Bountiful 

Confident that God our light and our salvation hears us when we pray, let us offer our prayers for the church, the world, and all people in need.

For the church, its pastors, deacons, musicians, artists, teachers, seminarians, and all proclaimers of the gospel that your gift of steadfast love and mercy will spread throughout the world let us pray.

For the earth and all living creatures, for those preparing fields for planting, and for favorable weather, that all of us who care for this life will find voice to help creation thrive, let us pray.  

For all rulers of the earth in local, regional, national, and international offices, and those without the power of official office, that they will be given the courage to work for the protection of all people and act as servants of all, let us pray.

For all who suffer this day; the sick and wounded, the grieving and brokenhearted, the hungry and exploited, those with malaria, and all who need our prayers, that they will be consoled and healed by health care workers, counselors, family and friends, let us pray.

For those who gather in fellowship and festivities, for the ministries of this congregation in our community and throughout the world, that in all our service we see ourselves centered around Christ, let us pray.

In thanksgiving for those who have died in the faith and now sing praises around the throne of God, and that we be assured of the promise of everlasting life, let us pray.

Merciful God, you hear our prayers even before we speak them.  Receive them for the sake of the one through whom you have revealed your goodness, Jesus  Christ, our Savior and Lord.  

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Day 15 — All about that base budget

We are in the midst of finalizing the budget for the 2018 session, but to give you an idea of what that may look like, here is an outline of what happened with the state budget during the 2017 session.  
The Utah legislature is unique because each legislator sits on one of 9 appropriations committees.  In some state legislatures the budgets are concentrated in one committee, like the United State House Committee on Ways and Means.  Legislative rule dictates we must pass or defeat each base budget bill before noon on Day 16.  This year, Day 16 is Tuesday, February 6.  To facilitate this timeline, each of the following nine base budget substitutes were presented and passed by the House and Senate this morning.
Full detail on base budgets by subcommittee, agency, and line item are under “meeting material” for February 1 and 2 on the Executive Appropriations committee page, or under “Total General Session Appropriations” on the Issues tab in COBI.
The Compendium of Budget Information (COBI) detail’s Utah’s budget and related financial authorizations. It contains summaries of issues faced by legislators, performance measures, background information (including references to statutory authority), and financial history. It’s also really cool and has lots of features that  get you into the weeds on the state budget.  
One more interesting place to check out is where you can see:
Taxpayer receipt, where you can discover how your taxes are being spent
Appropriations Bills and Acts, for the 2018 session
Budget data in a bubble visualization
Utah fiscal health dashboard, this shows at-a-glance snapshots, as well as history, for state reserves, obligations, revenues, and expenditures
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‘Twas the end of Week Two and all through the House

It was a treat to speak to the 4th grade students from Woods Cross Elementary.  They were on a field trip to the Capitol and were excited to learn about the government.  Talking to school groups is one of my favorite things to do.

Meet Martha Hughes Cannon.  Her statue resides on the north side of the Capitol, but with the passage of SCR 1, sponsored by Sen. Weiler and myself, a new statue of Martha Hughes Cannon will move to the U.S. Capitol and replace one of Utah’s current statues, Philo Taylor Farnsworth, who joins Brigham Young as the statues representing Utah in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol.  Dr. Cannon was the first woman elected to a State Senate in the U.S. and was also a physician, founder of the Utah Department of Health, a powerful advocate for suffrage, and a pioneer in many other important ways.  I look forward to introducing her to the rest of the country.  

It was a treat to welcome Provo’s new mayor, Michelle Kaufusi, to the Capitol.  Mayor Kaufusi and I are both home grown Provo girls who have found a way to give back to our communities through public service.  I look forward to watching her leadership in a place I love.

The Bountiful Hills Ward Young Women came to the Capitol for a tour and a little Q&A about how they can make a difference in their schools, communities, and world.  Here they are showing their girl power poses and you can really feel the energy and potential for greatness!

Utah is the #1 state in the U.S. for volunteering.  AmeriCorps is one of the programs that UServeUtah administers through the Commission on Volunteerism, Department of Heritage and Arts.  LaDawn Stoddard, Director, and the program directors from around the state were at the Capitol for AmeriCorps Day on Hill.  

Animal print Friday, week two. Always a highlight!

Our Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee heard Rep. Ivory’s Trauma Informed Justice Provisions, HB 177, which creates a trauma-informed justice program within the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.  This will make a difference in how we view crimes and sentencing of those impacted by serious trauma in their lives.

These three gentlemen in the left are currently engaged in addiction treatment through Drug Court as a result of the Operation Rio Grande.  I know first hand through my work as a volunteer at the SLC Oxbow County Jail how successful drug court can be.  It was our pleasure to hear them speak about how much they appreciate the opportunity to turn their lives around.

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Day 11– Go to jail

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the prison relocation.  Questions remain as to what the real cost will be to move the prison and how we balance that with the anticipated economic benefits to the existing Draper site and the area surrounding the SLC site for the new prison.  One thing is for sure, there’s no get out of jail free card.  It’s going to be expensive.  However, many people, including myself, have wondered how the costs have skyrocketed to upwards of $692 million from the original estimate of $550 million.  This article in the SL Trib details many of the concerns.  Even at that, the current $692 million figure is an estimate and the final costs of the project will not be known until it is placed for bidding. There are still variables to this estimate, including cost escalation due to high labor demands and rising material costs.

With all the unknown elements, it is helpful to have some context to use in gaining a better understanding of where we’ve been and how we got here.  The information below does a great job answering those questions, as well as explaining what we can anticipate going forward.  After looking at the budget, we’ll look at the factors that were considered in the decision to move the prison and the work being done now by the Point of the Mountain Development Commission.



Prison Development Budget

Legislative Estimates and Approach


  • • Cost Anchoring – To ensure all parties worked in a fiscally responsible manner and to prevent a creep in the scope of the project. 
  • • Planning for Future – When the Legislature made the first appropriation, it had not selected a prison site and site-specific costs were unknown. Appropriating all funding upfront with incomplete knowledge would have been unwise. The Legislature anticipated that it might need to make additional appropriations. The Legislature later learned the site-specific costs for the selected site were $154 million. 
  • • Inflation and Cost Escalation – At the time the appropriation was made, it was difficult to project construction cost inflation as the economy recovered from the Great Recession. The construction industry has realized an average 8.6% inflation rate over the last three years. The prison project is facing the same construction cost challenges as other large projects. 

Facts on Original $550 Million Appropriation 

The Legislature’s original 2015 $550 million appropriation was intentionally set close to the lowest existing estimates for three primary reasons: 

The Big Picture 

The state is creating economic development opportunities in two ways: 1) by freeing the land in the Silicon Slopes region for economic development; and 2) providing infrastructure for economic development in the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City. The following are Legislative estimates of the costs and benefits of prison relocation: 

Cost of Relocation  Economic Benefit of Prison Relocation 
$692 million 

Cost to construct new prison 

$6.6 Billion 

Economic benefit of developing NW quadrant. 

$2.7 Billion 

12- year economic benefit of redeveloping the Draper prison property. 

36,213 Jobs 

Created by developing the NW quadrant in Salt Lake City. 

23,334 Jobs 

Created over 12 years by redeveloping the Draper prison property. 

$Hundreds of Millions 

Tax revenue generated from development of NW quadrant (actual estimates unknown). 

$178 million 

Tax revenue generated over 12 years by redeveloping the Draper prison property. 

What information was available when? 


The decision to move the prison was based on: 

  • • estimates that the existing prison needed at least $238 million in repairs; and 
  • • estimates that the Utah economy could realize billions in economic benefits by relocating the prison. 

While it was clear the benefits dwarfed the costs when the Legislature and governor made the decision to move the prison, new prison construction estimates were highly variable because important factors, such as how many beds the new prison would have and where it would be located, were unknown. 


Winter – Cost estimates ranged from $546 to $683 million, depending upon the size of the prison. This did not include site-specific costs. The Legislature allocated $550 million for the prison ($470 million in bonding, $80 million in cash) in advance of the final site selection. This appropriation was largely intended to cover the cost of the land and buildings, but not unknown site-specific costs. The Legislature anticipated that it might need to make additional appropriations. 

August – The Legislature approved the Prison Relocation Commission’s recommendation to move the prison to Salt Lake City. Every site then under consideration would have required additional funding; the Salt Lake City site was estimated to require an additional $154 million. 


Spring – DFCM contracted with an architect, who engaged the Department of Corrections in a prioritization exercise. Together, they created a program for the prison that met justice reinvestment goals, met national standards, and addressed potential future needs of a growing Utah population. This initial programming is common practice and usually exceeds anticipated budgets. The consultant who assisted with the design exercise estimated the cost of the program to be $860 million. 

Summer/Fall – DFCM and the Department of Corrections, with their consultants, conducted an exhaustive line-by-line review of the program estimate and reduced it to $700 million. 


Spring – As planned, the Legislature authorized another $100 million in bonding to account for site-specific costs of the selected site, bringing the total allocation to $650 million. 

Summer/Fall – In an effort to continue to reduce costs, overall off-site and on-site costs were reduced to right-size the space and meet the appropriation. The resulting and current estimate is $692 million – a 19.5% reduction from the highest estimates. This current estimate is only $9 million more than the upper range of the original 2015 estimates, even though it also includes site-specific costs when the 2015 estimates did not. 

2018 and Beyond 

The current $692 million figure is an estimate and the final costs of the project will not be known until it is placed for bidding. There are still variables to this estimate, including cost escalation due to high labor demands and rising material costs. DFCM anticipates possible appropriation requests in the 2019 general session. Decisions regarding site transition, fixtures, furniture, and equipment may also affect final costs. 

Through the estimation process, numbers are reviewed and challenged by DFCM, BDK (the state’s consultant), the contractor team (general contractor, architects, engineers, etc.), and the governor’s office. This serves as a multi-faceted cross-check to ensure estimates are as accurate as possible. 


Point of the Mountain Development Commission


Today in our Majority Caucus Rep. Lowry Snow gave a presentation on the work of the Point of the Mountain Development Commission.  The slides below are from his presentation.


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Day 10 — Tending to others

Today was AmeriCorps Day on Hill.  With me at the Capitol was LaDawn Stoddard, Director of UServeUtah, Lt. Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism, and many of the AmeriCorps program directors who were engaged in training and public outreach and education with legislators.   


I currently have the opportunity to serve as a Commissioner with UServeUtah and have become very familiar and impressed with the various programs they administer.  I want to take a minute to introduce two important initiatives that are at the forefront of their work and help to make Utah the number one state in the nation for volunteerism.  In fact, the volunteer rate in Utah is almost double that of the national average, with 43% of residents volunteering.  The number of volunteer hours per Utah resident, at 75 hours a year, is more than double the national average of 31 hours a year.   

Many of you may be familiar with, a community service initiative designed for individuals, families, and groups to find opportunities to serve those in need. The website was recently rolled out in Utah through a partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and UServeUtah and has seen amazing results.  If you haven’t had a chance to explore the website or app, I would encourage you to take a minute to become familiar with it and possibly find a volunteer opportunity of your own.  


UServeUtah also oversees the AmeriCorps program throughout the state.  This program works to address critical community needs and improve the quality of life in Utah. Every year numerous individuals choose to give of their time and talents to serve Utah communities through AmeriCorps programs in our non-profits, schools and government agencies.  These AmeriCorps members work in areas that include;

  • tutoring and mentoring youth,
  • connecting underserved populations to health care resources,
  • cleaning and tending public lands,
  • providing services to the homeless,
  • teaching environmental stewardship,
  • helping seniors maintain independence,
  • operating after-school STEM programs, and
  • helping communities prepare for and respond to disasters
    • AmeriCorps members from Utah are currently serving in Texas and Florida helping with cleanup from the devastating 2017 storms.

One example is the Utah State University-based Utah Conservation Corps (UCC), shown below, who welcomed back two crews from Texas and Florida who completed disaster response projects in December, 2017 and then on January 6, UCC deployed twenty more individuals to Florida for Hurricane Irma disaster response. This is the third deployment from UCC in the last six months in response to the hurricanes that hit the east coast earlier this year. The UCC AmeriCorps members will be based out of Fort Myers and will return on February 18th.

Over 1,650 AmeriCorps members are currently serving with 400 organizations across the state.  The work accomplished by these members is impressive.  In 2017 AmeriCorps members provided services to 112,279 clients and recruited 17,669 volunteers who served 137,541 hours.  The total economic impact of the resources leveraged through AmeriCorps to the State of Utah in 2017 was over $15.5 million.


We hosted AmeriCorps program directors in the House gallery today representing AmeriCorps programs around the state.  They also provided an opportunity for legislators to visit with them during lunch to discuss the projects in their districts being served by AmeriCorps volunteers.  Thank you to all throughout Utah who consistently make a difference in their communities by volunteering.  We appreciate you.  We need you.  And we thank you.  

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