And so it begins...
The 2019 session of the Utah State Legislature began Monday. Significant turnover has happened with this new session and there is new leadership in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Yesterday, Utah’s new Speaker of the House welcomed the new legislature calling on them to contribute to a "Distinctive Utah" with their upcoming work. Big challenges await including tax reform and a greater alignment between Higher Ed and Utah's economy.
Stuart Adams, president of the Senate, called on his membership to unitedly imagine the future of Utah with safe schools, high graduation rates, effective and efficient transportation, cleaner air, affordable energy, and bringing the Winter Olympics back to Utah.
Under the direction of these two new leaders, the work of 104 lawmakers includes the mandate to balance the state's budget. To that end, appropriations committees meet for the first three weeks of the session to establish a base budget for their areas of responsibility. They then hear reports and proposals and weigh requests for funding before they submit their recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee. There are two appropriations committees meeting every other day with which President Wyatt and I will be working: Higher Education Appropriations and Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations. We will work with these committee members to help them know about the innovations and successes Southern Utah University has achieved, specifically touting our high quality, retention rates, and graduation rates.
As citizens of the state of Utah, we all have the opportunity to be well informed. We don't have to receive information only from filtering media sources. The legislative website, le.utah.gov, is a wealth of information. You can search for potential legislation based on subject matter or legislator and I challenge you to spend some time on this website and learn about what is happening on Utah's Capitol Hill.
It is my intent to keep you apprised to the progress we make towards SUU's initiatives for the session: $1.3 million to help us complete the Sorenson Legacy Child & Family Development Center, prioritization of the SUU pilot of a three-year bachelor's degree, and prioritization of a new $40 million classroom building we are currently calling the TED building. There are also the issues of compensation, health insurance, and other mandates we will follow and for which we will advocate. As the session goes on, there will be any number of bills affecting our school and we will watch those closely.
Finally, if you are interested in bringing a group of students up, please let me know and I will do whatever I can to help provide them with a stellar Capitol experience. To provide a student perspective, my intern (first time ever) Alexandra White will be blogging about her experiences and that of the eight SUU interns serving with legislators.
Let's Do This!
Donna Law Executive Director of Development and Government Relations
Specializing in legislative and regulatory policy, arts and non-profit management, and fund-raising in higher education