Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This month, we get to celebrate the founding of Utah. Over the past 175 years, our great state has built a thriving economy where individuals and families can prosper. Utah’s pioneering spirit continues to set us apart as we work to create a place where all who live here can reach their greatest potential. We owe much to our state’s founders, and I look forward to paying tribute to their efforts and successes this Pioneer Day.
Thank you for all you do. Please continue to reach out and be involved.
Ensuring Election Integrity
Utah is considered by many to have the safest and most efficient elections in the country because we don’t shy away from opportunities to review our election procedures and make necessary adjustments. Over the last decade, we have conducted numerous audits that led to statutory improvements to our election process. This year, in response to election security concerns, we passed H.B. 313 Election Security Amendments and H.B. 387 Ballot Processing Amendments, which develop measures to document ballot chain of custody, requires video surveillance of unattended ballot drop boxes and provides greater access and transparency to poll watchers.
Additionally, we have the following procedures in place to ensure election security and efficiency.
All by-mail elections are subject to a mandatory audit under Utah Code. Results are required to be posted on the lieutenant governor’s website.
Any member of the public may witness a post-election audit to ensure it is conducted fairly.
Ballots, along with tabulating equipment and other materials used to count votes, are sealed after they are counted and audited.
To protect the integrity of the ballots and the voting record, only a court would have the ability to unseal the ballots.
I will continue to work with my colleagues to review and improve election procedures. If you have a specific concern about election security in Utah, please provide me with a detailed suggestion, and I will forward it to our election offices and encourage them to investigate it.
Investing in Utah’s Great Outdoors
From skiing to fishing to kayaking to hiking, Utah has the best outdoor recreation in the country. Over the years, Utah has become the national leader in strengthening the economic value of outdoor resources. In 2013, we became the first state to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation. Since then, we have continually invested in this area. Our current outdoor recreational infrastructure grant program is one of a kind in the nation. The Legislature invests in outdoor recreation to boost local economies and ensure Utahns can live a healthy and active lifestyle and access nature.
This year, the Legislature passed H.B. 409 Recreation Infrastructure Amendments, which appropriated more than $36 million to improve trails, outdoor recreation facilities and state park infrastructure. The state also announced it would award $11 million in matching grants to outdoor recreation infrastructure projects. These projects will total more than $90 million in project value — a 9:1 investment of state dollars. Over half of this year’s outdoor recreation grant funding is going to rural Utah counties. This funding will sustain generational economic growth for local communities while ensuring Utah will continue to be an incredible place to live and visit. Learn more about Utah's outdoor recreation investments here.
988 – The New National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
As of July 16, Utahns can now call 988, the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, if they need support during a mental health crisis. Much like calling 911 during an emergency, this new three-digit hotline creates a simplified, universal number that anyone in the country can utilize during a mental health emergency. After dialing 988, individuals will speak with a trained counselor who will listen, offer support and connect callers with helpful resources. This initiative originated in the Utah Legislature before being championed by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Chris Stewart in Congress.
Utah continues to be at the forefront of suicide prevention efforts. In 2016, Utah launched the SafeUT mobile app, an easily-accessible way for Utahns to talk with crisis counselors and a place to provide confidential tips regarding threats to individuals’ safety.
I am grateful to live in a state that rallies together to create a three-digit crisis line. Many were involved in this important effort, including Utah lawmakers, Utah’s federal delegation, the Utah Attorney General’s Office, the University of Utah, stakeholders and constituents. Once again, Utah led out, and now our country has a national crisis line.
Electronic Public Comments for Judicial Nominees
Reviewing and approving nominations made by the governor for vacant public positions, such as judges, council members, board members and commissioners, is an important duty of the Senate. After the governor nominates a judicial candidate, the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee asks the public for comments on the judicial nominee. Individuals can comment on judicial nominees electronically or by mail. Electronic comments can be emailed to email@example.com. All statements should include the respondent’s name, telephone number and mailing address.
Currently, the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee is reviewing the governor’s nominations of Judge Jill Pohlman to the Utah Supreme Court and attorney Rick Westmoreland as a judge for the 2nd District Juvenile Court. Public input is an important part of the judicial nomination process, and the committee appreciates all input provided by the public. View upcoming confirmation committee meetings here.
Ribbon Cutting for Utah’s New Corrections Facility
In June, the Department of Corrections celebrated the completion and ribbon cutting of the new Utah State Correctional Facility. The new location was strategically selected to provide inmates with better access to medical care and the courts, as well as a better location for employees and volunteers to access. The new corrections facility is designed for rehabilitation, with increased space for education and treatment, as well as an improved working environment for staff. I look forward to seeing the progress and good that will come from the rehabilitation in the new facility. Learn more here.
Motion Picture Grant
For years, filmmakers across the country have been drawn to Utah, especially rural Utah, due to our incredible and unique landscapes. Each film has brought important revenue to the state and supported local businesses. This year, the Legislature created the Utah Motion Picture Incentive Program to incentivize film production in rural Utah. This program grants post-performance income tax credits to productions in rural Utah that demonstrate they have spent sufficient funds in the state, driving economic activity in areas that need it most.
So far, the state has approved 13 new productions for state film incentives, generating an estimated economic impact of $142.5 million, with approximately 90% scheduled to film in rural Utah. These productions will be distributed on platforms such as Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. Among the approved productions is Kevin Costner’s period Western, Horizon: An American Saga; Joy to the World, a new feature from Jerusha Hess, co-writer of Napoleon Dynamite; and a new untitled limited series from Taylor Sheridan, creator of Yellowstone. I am excited to see these projects filmed in Utah. You can learn more about what films are coming to the state here.
Senator Ron Winterton
Utah Senate District 26