Utah courts are becoming stronger, more efficient and more transparent according to newly-appointed Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant. Durrant gave the annual State of the Judiciary to lawmakers this afternoon on day one of the 2013 legislative session.
Chief Justice Durrant touted the high court's ability to handle a 10 percent cut in staff during the recession. In the face of reductions, the court system was able to reduce the age of pending cases by 34 percent, meaning cases are being resolved faster.
State House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart opened this year’s legislative session by calling on Utah to become less reliant on federal dollars.
Lockhart told House members that gridlock in Congress has a direct and immediate effect on Utah.
“It’s become increasingly apparent that the action or inaction of the federal government profoundly influences our success. We must have or implement a plan to get the state of Utah less reliant on federal revenue,” said Lockhart.
Newly elected Utah Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser opened the 2013 Legislative session by urging senators to be fiscally responsible.
In his opening remarks Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser warned his fellow senators to be careful not to believe they can create money out of thin air as they go about tackling some of Utah’s tough budget issues. He says he hopes to see legislators pass laws that work in the long term, especially when it comes to education funding.
The Utah legislature opens its general session on Monday with a lot of new faces. 21 out of 75 members of the Utah House of Representatives are serving their first terms, along with 4 out of the 29 members of the state Senate. Republicans still far outnumber Democrats. In fact, there are only 14 Democrats left in the House. But among those new Republican members, there could be a few more moderate voices. KUER's Dan Bammes spoke to a couple of new members of the House from Utah County.
The chorus of voices demanding an investigation of Utah's attorney general is growing. The Alliance for a Better Utah is asking the Utah State Bar to look into accusations that Attorney General John Swallow helped to arrange a lobbying effort aimed at sidetracking a federal investigation of Internet entrepreneur Jeremy Johnson.
Alliance Director Maryann Martindale says, if what Johnson has been saying is true, Swallow could have violated ethical standards.
Democrat Ben McAdams was sworn in as Salt Lake County Mayor this morning by Salt Lake County 3rd district juvenile court Judge Andrew Valdez at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. McAdams, Deputy Mayor Nichole Dunn and newly elected council members Max Burdick, Jim Bradley, Michael Jensen and Sam Granato all took the oath of office before a packed theater.
Following his pledge to uphold the United States constitution and the constitution of the state of Utah, McAdams told the crowd today is the day he begins to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign.
A performance by the One Voice Children’s Choir helped mark the inauguration of Gary Herbert to his first full term as Governor. The ceremony also included performances from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and a 19 gun salute by the Utah National Guard. In his inaugural address Herbert refrained from making any strong political statements. Instead he urged everyone to keep pressing forward while praising the “can-do” attitude of state residents both past and present.
John Dougall will be sworn in this morning as Utah's new state auditor as business opens for the day. He won't be on the platform with Governor Gary Herbert or the other state officials during Monday's inauguration ceremony. Dougall is a former Republican state legislator from northern Utah County who won the auditor's job after defeating the incumbent, Austen Johnson, in a primary election last summer. He's promising to bring some fresh energy to the job.
Democrat Ben McAdams will be sworn in as the next Salt Lake County Mayor on Monday at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. He’ll be joined by newly elected county council members Sam Granato, Jim Bradley, Max Burdick and Michael Jensen.
First on McAdams’ agenda is creating a public works service district that operates like the model that currently exists with police and fire. Public works projects like road maintenance, flood control and snow removal will no longer be a service of the county. Cities or the county would contract with the new district for services.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to help avert the “fiscal cliff” late Tuesday night that includes extending Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class. But for most of Utah’s Congressional delegation the deal wasn’t good enough to earn their support.
The managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism, Leigh von der Esch is retiring after more the 28 years of public service. Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development says von der Esch's dedication to promoting Utah is unmatched.
"At the core of Leigh von der Esch you have a deep commitment and a deep passion for the state and for promoting the state and all of its grandeur. And all of the incredible characteristics, the diversity of the culture and of the landscape," said Eccles.
Salt Lake County Mayor-Elect Ben McAdams is already implementing changes to the government structure. Thursday he announced he will reorganize the Department of Public Works and appoint two people to oversee it. It’s now called the Department of Public Works and Regional Development. McAdams has named Taylorsville Mayor Russ Wall as the department’s director and Patrick Leary will fill a new position to called Township Executive. McAdams says the two men will help meet the diverse needs of county residents.
Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz is voicing his concern over connections between gun violence and those suffering from mental illness. Chaffetz is one of the only Republican lawmakers in the U-S House to participate in a public discussion about reducing gun violence since the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last week. He says he’s most concerned about weapons being available to those with mental health issues.
The state’s Prison Relocation Authority Committee has endorsed the idea of moving Utah’s main state prison away from Draper, and that's something the business community there would like to see.
Bill Rappleye, the head of Draper's Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Draper City Council, thinks that's a great idea. He says it would allow the kind of high-tech businesses that have been locating in Utah County to come into his city.
Utah's six presidential electors met today at the state capitol and cast their ballots for Mitt Romney. The electors are all Republicans who were chosen at the party's state convention. They're required to vote for the Republican candidate, since he won the popular vote in Utah. Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell announced the results, which were not a surprise to anyone.
"We declare that Utah casts all its ballots for president for Mitt Romney and all its ballots for vice-president for Paul Ryan," he told a crowd made up mostly of media and school children.
Independent and Third Party Candidates in the 2012 Utah Elections— Role, Effect, and Future
Bill Barron, Unaffiliated Candidate, U.S. Senate Tim Chambless, Hinckley Academic Outreach Coordinator, Professor Lecturer Charles Kimball, Unaffiliated Candidate, District 2, U.S Congress Ty Markham, Justice Party Candidate, State Legislature
Jeff Robinson, (moderator) Associate, The Exoro Group
The Utah Republican party is welcoming former Democratic state representative Christine Watkins with open arms after her recent decision to join the GOP. Watkins, who has served her district near Price for four years, was considered a conservative democrat in the legislature and often sided with Republicans on issues like energy development. Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright says those shared values are some of the reasons why Watkins decided to make the switch.
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With 67 votes in the second round of voting, Utah’s Democratic Party Chairman, Jim Dabakis, narrowly beat outgoing Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon in the special election for Utah’s 2nd Senate district. Dabakis will replace Senator Ben McAdams who is leaving with two years left in his term after winning the election for Salt Lake County Mayor.