Updated: Dec 1, 2022
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As we near Thanksgiving Day, I would like to express my gratitude for each of you. It is an honor to represent you on Capitol Hill. I am also grateful for this great state we live in and the chance you have given me to create policies that will benefit Utahns for years to come.
Recently, the Legislature met for our last interim session of the year. We convened in committees to review many issues facing our community, and I enjoyed discussing these important matters with my colleagues. Below is a review of some of the subjects of discussion in those committee meetings and significant events from this month.
The 2023 General Session is approaching quickly. Please continue to reach out and be involved in the legislative process. I appreciate hearing your thoughts.
Utah Housing Summit
At the 2022 Utah Housing Summit, I joined other legislators, stakeholders and government agency representatives to have important conversations about Utah’s housing needs. Among the topics discussed were housing affordability, community housing development programs, rural housing and homeless services strategies. We recognize affordable housing is a statewide concern and considered initiatives to further make housing attainable to homebuyers in our state.
Working to Preserve the Great Salt Lake
After in-depth evaluation and intensive research into the record low water levels of the Great Salt Lake, Gov. Cox issued a proclamation suspending new water appropriations within the Great Salt Lake Basin, including the Bear, Weber and Jordan River basins and the body of the Great Salt Lake. The suspension pauses further appropriations of surface water and groundwater that are tributary to the lake. It also provides an opportunity for some of the conservation measures proposed during the 2022 legislative session to be implemented while allowing time for additional research to be completed.
This past legislative session, we approved $40 million for Great Salt Lake restoration, part of a historic investment that allocated nearly $500 million to water infrastructure, planning and management. This effectively changed decades of major water policy in Utah. We are committed to doing more to preserve and protect this critical resource, as the Great Salt Lake is pivotal to our economic, ecologic and environmental well-being here in Utah.
Utah Hosts 13 National and International Competitions this Winter Season
Utah is well-known for hosting world-class winter sports events. This winter season, we will host more than 13 Olympic and Paralympic national and international events in our state. After hosting the 2002 Olympic Games, Utah has continued to be a top location for winter sports competitions, like bobsledding and speed skating. We look forward to potentially hosting another Winter Olympics in the future. Learn more.
Unique to Utah - This Month 103 Years Ago
Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country. Zion's sandstone cliffs and breathtaking views encourage more than five million visitors a year to explore this prominent park. In 1909, President William Taft signed a declaration creating Mukuntuweap National Monument, today's Zion National Park. The word "mukuntuweap" comes from the Paiute name for the area, which means "straight canyon." The monument was officially made into Zion National Park on November 19, 1919. Utah is blessed to have so many geographical wonders within our beautiful state. If you have not had the opportunity, I would strongly encourage you to visit Zion National Park. Read more about the park's history.
ICYMI - Utah Rankings
Utah has recently achieved top national and world rankings in several categories. While not surprising, these rankings serve as a reminder of why Utah is the best state in the nation, largely due to the hard work of the good people of Utah. You can review several of Utah's new rankings below.
State Prosperity Ranking:
Utah was ranked fifth in the nation for overall prosperity by the American Dream Prosperity Index. Researchers measured the level of inclusive societies, open economies and empowered people in each state to determine which states have the best environment for an individual to reach their full potential. The Legislature will continue to focus on policies that will allow Utahns to prosper. View the rankings.
State Adventure Destination Ranking:
Utah was named one of the world's top 2023 adventure destinations by National Geographic. With five national parks, eight national monuments and 43 state parks, Utah places a high priority on outdoor recreation and active, healthy lifestyles. Read the Article.
State Math and Reading Ranking:
Utah eighth graders did better in their math scores than all other states in the nation. The pandemic caused a drop in scores throughout the United States, but the resilience of our students and teachers helped Utah stay relatively stable in their education scores. Learn more.
State Self-Employed Women Ranking:
Utah has the highest percent of self-employed women in the nation. Fifty-three percent of those who are self-employed in Utah are women. Utah's economy invites innovation and encourages self-employment. View the rankings.
Senate Art Contest
I am always impressed by the creativity and skill of artists in our state. In the coming months, we will have the chance to support Utah’s young artists once again with this year’s annual Utah All-State High School Art Show. This show, run by the Springville Museum of Art, allows qualifying students to display their incredible work in the museum. A winner will be chosen by an independent judging committee. The winner’s artwork will be on display in the Capitol and they will be awarded scholarship money.
Starting on Thursday, December 1, an online entry form will be available through teachers. Teachers can email APinegar@springville.org to get access to this form. We encourage all students to submit a piece and embrace their creativity! I am already looking forward to seeing the artwork on display. Learn more.
Highlights from November Legislative Meetings
Each month, we hold legislative interim meetings to discuss potential legislation and review study items. During November interim, we discussed a variety of issues.
The Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee considered draft legislation that implements a more accurate and efficient analysis of the state’s per capita water consumption, assisting the progress of water conservation efforts with accurate reporting. Watch the presentation here.
The Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee received an update on state reservoir levels from the Division of Natural Resources. As of mid-November, statewide reservoir levels were averaging 41%, with snowpack on pace to be better than this time last year. However, several more winter storms with heavy precipitation are needed to maintain this course.
In the Executive Appropriations Committee, we heard an economic update from our chief economist. As a nation and state, we are facing uncertain times. Being financially prepared for any circumstance is of the utmost importance to the Legislature. In the presentation, the Legislature's chief economist highlighted several things that have benefitted the state budget, and continue to do so, including labor, historic unemployment lows and taxable sales. She also highlighted issues that have hindered the state budget, including inflation, residential housing and mortgage rates and supply chain issues. Because of our state’s fiscally conservative approach and effective policies, I feel confident about Utah’s future. Learn more here.
In the recent Political Subdivisions Committee, members and attendees came together to discuss how housing issues should be addressed. The wide conclusion is that housing should be dealt with at a local level, with the state’s support. As part of this support, the committee heard potential legislation that would clarify an existing ordinance and change policy on the need for someone who offers short term rentals to have a sales tax license.
The passage of S.B. 48 in 2021 established a State Flag Task Force. After reviewing thousands of design suggestions from the public and spending countless hours on the project, the State Flag Task Force released the proposed design for a new state flag earlier this month. During the 2023 General Session, the Legislature will vote to adopt the design. If it passes, the design will become the official flag of Utah.
Senator Ron Winterton
Utah Senate District 26