New leaders taking over as Utah Legislature opens
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Legislature’s 2019 session will open Monday with new faces in several leadership roles.
Taxes, education and Medicaid expansion are expected to be among the big issues this year. Utah voters approved fully expanding Medicaid in November, but lawmakers who long resisted the change are expected to propose revisions that will have supporters fighting back.
Here is a look at the top leaders, chosen by a vote of lawmakers within their party. Majority leaders appoint committees, chair daily sessions and oversee the running of their respective chambers:
Republican Brad Wilson is moving from majority leader to speaker of the Utah House, replacing outspoken former boxer Greg Hughes, who decided not to run for re-election in 2018 and is considered a possible candidate for governor.
Wilson represents Kaysville, and his day job is CEO of Destination Homes. During his legislative tenure he has helped oversee the sometimes contentious project to move the state’s aging prison from Draper to Salt Lake City. He also sponsored legislation that led to the removal of the so-called Zion Curtain that blocked bars from view in Utah restaurants.
Taxes will be among the big issues this year, he said, including Gov. Gary Herbert’s proposal to tax more services as sales tax revenue shrinks.
Sen. Evan Vickers is the new majority leader.
Utah’s new Senate president is Republican Stuart Adams, who was third in line as majority whip before winning the top job.
He represents Layton, near Wilson’s hometown of Kaysville.
He is a partner in a real estate development firm and was first elected in 2009. Education will be among the top issues this year, especially preparing people for jobs needed in the workforce, he said.
Adams co-sponsored a milestone 2015 compromise bill extending antidiscrimination protections to LGBT people. He also co-sponsored the measure that created Utah’s lowest-in-the-nation DUI threshold of 0.05 percent blood-alcohol content, which took effect this year.
SENATE MINORITY LEADER
The Senate also has a new minority leader, Democratic Sen. Karen Mayne. She joined the Senate in 2008 after being appointed to the seat held by her late husband, Sen. Ed Mayne. She’s been elected twice since then, and previously served in other leadership roles.
Criminal justice reform and water use are among the important issues she expects to see this year, along with taxes and Medicaid expansion.
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER
Rep. Brian King is returning to his role as minority leader in the state House for the fifth year. An attorney by trade, the Democrat has sponsored bills to keep guns from people convicted of domestic violence, which passed, and to create more comprehensive sex education in Utah schools, which failed.
King also advocated for full expansion of Medicaid, which was approved by voters after failing at the Capitol for years. The issue could be a contentious one again this session, with Republican lawmakers saying changes may be needed to keep costs in check.
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