View From The Gallery: Week 1 | KUER 90.1

View From The Gallery: Week 1

Jan 29, 2016

The 2016 Utah Legislative session has begun and while week one saw little work on actual bills, it did see an overabundance of speeches. KUER’s Brian Grimmett has the full recap in this Week’s View From the Gallery.

Speaker Hughes

The speechmaking started off with Speaker of the House Greg Hughes. His speech lasted what seemed like an eternity, while actually clocking in at a little more than an hour. The first half of the speech focused on pointing out all of the things the Legislature accomplished last year, like passing huge increases to education funding, statewide LGBT non-discrimination, and relocating the prison.

Notably absence from the list. Passing a Medicaid expansion alternative.

Hughes then turned his focus to what he wants to accomplish this year. That list included providing money for water infrastructure, figuring out how the state can gain control of public lands, and improving air quality.

Again, notably absence from the list was passing a Medicaid expansion alternative.

House Democrats, on the other hand, have long supported a full Medicaid expansion. 

In response to the speech, House Minority Leader Brian King said he was disappointed.  

State of the State

Later in the week Governor Gary Herbert gave the annual State of the State Address. As always, Herbert patted himself on the back about how good Utah’s economy is doing. He also called for even more education funding and unlike Speaker Hughes, did mention that he’d like the legislature to do something, anything, about helping more people get health insurance.

In response to the speech, House Minority Leader Brian King said he was disappointed.

State of the Judiciary

Not to be outdone, Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant gave the most substantial address of the week with his annual State of the Judiciary speech. Durrant applauded the legislature for passing justice reforms last year, but warned that if they didn’t properly fund treatment programs, releasing non-violent offenders would only lead to more crime. He also called for reforms to Utah’s pretrial release practices and for improvements to indigent defense services, which in many rural areas are terrible.