To Our Legislators, Thank You

To Our Legislators, Thank You
Posted on 04/01/2015
Kelvyn Cullimore, Jr.By Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore Jr. 
At midnight on March 12, 2015, the Utah Legislature concluded their constitutionally-allowed 45 days in session. I had the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill many times and talk to the legislators who were elected by the citizens of Cottonwood Heights. Those who represent Cottonwood Heights in the House of Representatives are Marie Poulson, Robert Spendlove and Steve Eliason. In the Senate our city is represented by Dr. Brian Shiozawa and Wayne Niederhauser, who serves as the President of the Senate.

These Representatives and Senators are asked to do an incredible amount of work in about  seven and a half weeks.  Each of these individuals gives of their time away from family and employment duties for the full 45 days of the legislative session.  It is a total commitment that runs at least 12 hours a day and often longer.  The actual legislative session is not all that is required.  Throughout the year, they have monthly interim meetings and other committee assignments, not to mention the time that is required to campaign every two years for the Representatives and every four years for the Senators.  They also attend community events and make other public appearances.  It is a significant commitment of time, and given that they are paid only $20,000 per year for their service, I think that kind of devotion is motivated by a true desire to render public service. 

During the session, they are asked to deal with legislation on a variety of topics from cow-sharing to healthcare. Over 1,000 bill files were opened this year and just under a thousand bills were actually debated and considered.  Some bills were high profile, such as Healthy Utah (sponsored by Shiozawa), or the anti-discrimination and religious freedom amendments.

Others were small bills to reform and streamline government. Every Senator and Representative votes on bills related to agriculture, taxation, transportation, education, healthcare, law enforcement, natural resources, human resources, judiciary and courts, governance at the state, county and municipal level, housing, and most of all - budgets.  They are constitutionally required to balance the budget every year.  To have a better understanding of the breadth of bills they dealt with, go to www.le.utah.gov and review the bills passed this year. 

There were many bills considered this year that affected municipalities, including Cottonwood Heights.  As I visited with our legislators, I found each to be very willing to consider our position and concerns.  In virtually every case, they defended the position taken by the city leadership. If I sent an e-mail, I would always get an acknowledgement.  If I texted, they would text right back. If I visited the House or Senate, they would meet with me and even invite me onto the floor to talk with them while they conducted business. 

One of the more challenging bills this year was to address transportation funding. The gasoline tax implemented in 1997 had not only lost purchasing power due to inflation, but had also lost momentum due to higher mileage vehicles.  Without change, transportation funding would fall $11 billion short of meeting the needs of transit, local transportation and state transportation over the next 25-30 years. It required vision and courage to restructure transportation funding during this session. It was a heavy lift. The Utah League of Cities and Towns, the Utah Association of Counties, the Utah Transit Authority, the SL Chamber of Commerce and the Transportation Alliance, which consists of business and government organizations concerned about the future of transportation, supported their decision. We will benefit from this legislation and be better able to maintain our roads and infrastructure. More on that in next month’s newsletter. 

Some find sport in mocking or deriding the efforts of the Legislature. I do not share those perspectives. I am a first-hand witness of the significant and sincere efforts put in by each and every legislator that represents Cottonwood Heights. The public service rendered by these individuals does not come without great sacrifice. That sacrifice is not limited to their employment or personal pursuits, but is equally rendered by their families who essentially see little of them for the full session of the legislature. 

To Representative Marie Poulson, a former educator, Representative Robert Spendlove, an economist, Representative Steve Eliason, a businessman, Senator Brian Shiozawa, an emergency room doctor, and Senator Wayne Niederhauser, a businessman, I express my sincere appreciation and gratitude for the work you do to make Utah the great state that it is. Granted, not everyone agrees with every position or action of the legislature, but everyone should be appreciative of the public service you render. I ask my fellow citizens to join me and the Cottonwood Heights City Council in thanking you for a job well done this session; a job few of us would want to do.  We are proud to say you represent our city!