What’s happening in state politics.
Last Wednesday was the first day of Interim Committee meetings for the Utah State Legislature. What is an Interim Session? Our state legislature consists of state senators and state representatives who meet once a year for 45 days during the State Legislative Session (Jan – March) to present, debate and decide all of our state law and balance the budget. These part-time politicians also meet on a regular basis on the third Wednesday of most months to study topics and build budgets during what are called the “Interim Sessions”. The legislators meet in Interim Committees or Appropriations Committees by topic. Meetings are open to the public. We highly encourage you to attend and hear what the legislature is talking about during the year!
- Check out the State Legislative Website for more information, such as the calendar of meetings and the Interim Study Item List.
- Did you miss a committee meeting last Wednesday? Find the audio recording of past meetings listed under each committee.
- Want to learn more about what’s happening during Interim? Click here.
Community Lobbying 102
Action Utah kicked off Interim with our “Community Lobbying 102” event to help our members learn about the State Legislative Session, Interim and how community members can lobby the legislature. Special thanks to Rep. Becky Edwards and Tara Rollins, Executive Director of the Utah Housing Coalition, for a very informative event! If you missed it, you can still check out the video here.
State GOP Convention
On Saturday the GOP held its annual organizing convention in Sandy. Among the highlights was the election of a new state party chair. The more moderate Davis County GOP Chairman, Robert Anderson, knocked former state GOP Chairman James Evans out of the post after running on a platform of greater fiscal responsibility and greater representation of Republican residents feeling disenfranchised by the party. Also happening at the convention was early campaigning by a widening pool of congressional candidates vying for Rep. Jason Chaffetz’ seat, which will become vacant upon his departure from Congress on June 30th.
What’s happening in national politics this week?
Expect to see a lot of news about the federal budget, which will be officially released tomorrow with devastating cuts to Medicaid, safety net programs, federal retirement programs, public education, medical research, scientific research and more. Plus continuing questions about Trump’s ties to Russia, Senate efforts to write a new health care bill and the ongoing public lands debate.
The next Interim Session will be held on Wednesday, June 21st. Mark your calendars to attend an Interim Committee meeting, or just listen in online after the meeting audio posts to the State Legislative Website. See the State Interim Calendar for committee meeting times and agendas.
A Special Session may be called to determine rules around the Special Election for Rep. Chaffetz’ congressional seat. Stay tuned for details.
1. Write to the Dept of the Interior about Bears Ears BY MAY 26TH. Secretary Zinke is under executive orders to review Bears Ears in an expedited 45 day period. The DOI has accepted public comments on Bears Ears, national monuments and the Antiquities Act through May 26th only. Be sure to get your comment on the record! Remember, most people on both sides of the debate state a desire to protect these lands, the question is about what is the best way to protect them. Be sure to let Secretary Zinke know that monuments make us great by providing better economic outcomes for rural communities in Utah and across the West, by protecting access to land in perpetuity that can otherwise be sold and leased to private companies, by keeping access for recreation, hunting and gathering, agricultural grazing and other non-extraction activity and providing unprecedented opportunity for poorer communities like San Juan County.
- Submit your comments through Monuments for All or Bears Ears Coalition to ensure your comments get a back up count by an institution outside of the DOI. Be sure to PERSONALIZE your comments, as individualized notes will be counted accordingly.
- Write a letter to the editor using these TIPS. Click here for additional talking points. Want some help writing a letter? We’re here to assist you in finding your topic and editing. Contact us for assistance.
2. Protect voting rights. On May 11 Trump issued an executive order calling for a “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity” to look into voter fraud and voter suppression. The move has been criticized as disingenuous after Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election have proven to be fictitious and after alarming appointment of notorious voter restriction advocate, Kris Kobach (along with Mike Pence), to lead up the commission. The concern is that this commission is a sham that will find fraud where it does not exist and will ultimately lead to voter suppression, rather than working to fix real, large-scale voter suppression occurring in states like Wisconsin.
- Call the Utah Attorney General, Sean Reyes, and ask him to challenge any unconstitutional attempts to curtail voting rights. (801) 244-4636. You can use this 5Calls.org script (note that the number listed on the script is out of service). OR submit a comment by email at email@example.com or via this online form.
- Sign this ACLU petition to VP Mike Pence to remove Kris Kobach from the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.
1.Support the Justice Safety Valve Act. On May 12 Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement through the Justice Department outlining tough new sentencing policies he believes will help fight the war on crime. The only problem is that his zealous pursuit of a tough-on-crime stance is highly unpopular in Congress and considered antiquary and badly misguided. In a unique show of agreement, Congress has come together in a bipartisan effort to support reductions in mandatory minimum sentences and creating new programs to help offenders adjust to life after prison that address excessive and costly incarcerations that harm families and communities.
- Ask your Senators to support the bipartisan Justice Safety Valve Act, introduced by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to give federal judges the ability to impose sentences below the mandatory minimums when appropriate, regardless of Sessions’ sentencing orders.
- Sign this petition Drug Policy Alliance petition, “Sessions: Rescind Your Draconian Memo” (Click to Tweet), and this Change.org petition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to escalate a failed war on drugs, both listed on our Petitions, Petitions! page.
- Read and share: “Rand Paul: Sessions’ sentencing plan would ruin lives.” (Click to Tweet)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (202) 224-5251 (DC) // (801) 524-4380 (SLC) // (801) 375-7881 (Provo) // (435) 634-1795 (St. George) // (801) 625-5672 (Ogden) // (435) 586-8435 (Cedar City)
Sen. Mike Lee 202-224-5444 (DC) // 801-524-5933 (SLC) // 435-628-5514 (St. George) // 801-392-9633 (Ogden)
2. Oppose the Regulatory Accountability Act. The RAA cleared Senate committee last week and will move on for a full Senate vote soon. Instead of streamlining bureaucratic procedures, as proponents claim, the bill would instead add burdensome and wasteful legal steps to block the path of measures that safeguard Americans’ health and protect the environment. It also forces government agencies to find the cheapest, rather than the best, options when it comes to health and safety. This impacts commonsense protections around food safety, clean air, clean water, healthy school food, airline safety, unleaded gasoline, nutrition labeling and so much more.
- Call your Senators to oppose the Regulatory Accountability Act in order to preserve and create the best measures to protect the health and safety of Utahns and their families.
- Sign this CREDO petition to Senate Democrats to oppose the Regulatory Accountability Act.
3. Make the most out of our Petitions, Petitions! page. Every day our volunteers collect petitions on a range of issues and list them on our Petitions, Petitions! page for easy access. Some of our favorite petitions trending now support the Restore Democracy Resolution, WATER Act, the Fairness to Pregnant Women Act and funding for the U.S. Chemistry Board and Head Start Program. Find those and much more!
- Bookmark our Petitions, Petitions! page for easy reference whenever you have a spare moment
- Schedule a few minutes each week to check the list and sign petitions. Five minutes can make a big impact!
Help more Utahns find their voice
Do you know someone who has been feeling disenfranchised, under-represented or helpless to do anything about the policies that impact their lives? Action Utah is here to help empower ordinary Utahns by providing vetted information on the issues and easy, accessible actions anyone can take to affect policymaking at the state and federal level. Invite others to get involved in building stronger communities in Utah by forwarding this email! New members can join us by clicking here to subscribe to our Weekly Actions or liking us on Facebook and Twitter. We look forward to serving you!
Andrea & Katie,
Co-Founders, Action Utah