With the start of Utah’s 2020 legislative session one week away, some lawmakers have filed a dozen bills, and others just a handful. Some have only filed one or two bills. But Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, has filed 38 bills so far, more than any representative or senator in the state.
The next highest number of filed bills is 29, which is the amount that have been filed by Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, according to bill request totals tracked by the legislature. Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin; Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy; and Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, have each filed 25 bills.
Anderegg said 11 of them are bills he filed in previous legislative sessions but that still needed work done on them. It can take several years for a bill and the ideas behind it to become policy, he said.
Additionally, the high number has to do with the fact that Anderegg co-chairs a number of commissions and committees and therefore introduces bills that reflect the will of those bodies, he said. These include the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, the Political Subdivisions Interim Committee and the Commission on Housing Affordability.
It can be misleading to look at the raw number of bills filed, the Lehi senator said, because even minor adjustments to legislation require a file to be opened.
“If you want to change a comma, you have to open a bill file,” he said, adding that “It’s more about looking at the substance of what is in the bill as opposed to the number of bills.”
Of the 38 bills introduced so far, Anderegg said he expects to run 20 to 25 of them. There are already 10 or so that “have kind of weeded themselves out” since he filed them.
“For me, it’s not about the number of bills,” he said. “It’s about working to get the policy right.”
Much of Anderegg’s work this legislative session will focus on population growth and development in the state, he said.
Comprehensive Rail and Electrification Plan, for example, which has not been given a bill number yet, would “help maximize the dollars that are spent on transportation” by planning railways that support both commuter and freight usage.
Under recent federal regulations, waivers can be granted for railways that do just that, said Anderegg.
“That opens up a new resource for revenue capture so that we’re not subsidizing transportation to the same level that we have in the past for a commuter rail,” he said.
In line with his role on the criminal justice subcommittee, Anderegg is working on a bill that would create more transparency in county jails. Sheriff’s offices in Utah are not required to release their standards, policies and procedures related to the handling of inmates when someone in their custody is killed or injured, Anderegg said, making it difficult for the public to determine if protocol was violated.
“And that tends to be problematic,” he said. “It’s a bit of a problem for me if, when someone is killed or injured, they can say, ‘well, our procedures are protected and you can’t access them.’ … How do we know that you’re following correct procedure in how you’ve handled the inmates?”
Anderegg’s bill County Jails Transparency Requirements would make these policies and procedures public. He added that some jail procedures, such as how to prevent drug smuggling, should be kept private to “avoid giving a roadmap to a criminal.”
Another bill, Homeless Shelter and Services Sharing Amendments, would require nonprofits that provide homeless services to upload information about the individuals they serve into a case management system.
Shelters and service providers tend to keep information about their services private since they are competing for the same state and federal funding, Anderegg said. As a result, it is difficult for the state to keep track of who needs what and which publicly funded services are working, he said.
“We’re basically pushing (homeless service providers) to do what they should have been doing a long time ago, but for self-interested purposes they wouldn’t,” said Anderegg.
Other bills Anderegg has filed include affordable housing amendments, water use amendments, sales tax obligations for minors and consumer online data protection. A full list of bills he has filed can be viewed on his Utah State Senate page.
Utah County residents will get a chance this week to go to a town hall event hosted by U.S. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah — but they won’t get to ask their congressman any questions.
The “mock town hall,” which will take place on Wednesday at the Provo Recreation Center, will not be an actual town hall but rather a staged event that will be filmed and used for campaign ads, according to a Facebook post by Curtis’ campaign.
“Please note that this is not an actual town hall but a campaign event we are using to collect footage for the campaign,” a Facebook event post said. “Your image will likely be used in a media spot.”
One person on Facebook wondered what exactly the mock town hall would consist of.
“Is this just a photo op?” he asked. “Or will there be meaningful discussion?”
The campaign responded, “This is just a film set for upcoming campaign videos,” adding that Curtis will release his town hall schedule soon.
Corey Norman, Curtis’ chief of staff and the former deputy mayor of Provo, said it is not uncommon for campaign advertisements to include staged elements.
“All of those (campaign ads people see) are likely to be staged or at least (be) trying to provide some context for voters to understand what the representative has done,” said Norman.
Norman said this is the first time the campaign has held a staged town hall for filming purposes. But, he added, “we’ve never had an aggressive presence on television. And this is the first time for us to do that.”
The footage and audio from Wednesday’s event will be used for a 60-second television ad and a radio spot, Norman said.
Although it is labeled as a mock event, some on Facebook said they found the Facebook event page misleading and, at first glance, thought it was for an actual town hall featuring engagement between Curtis and constituents.
“If this is a campaign ad, it seems really problematic to talk about it (and lead with it) as being a town hall,” one woman wrote in the public Facebook group Provo Forward. “I also personally find it problematic that Rep. Curtis is doing this now but not doing a real town hall in Provo for several weeks. That’s frustrating for constituents.”
According to Norman, Curtis has held 177 town halls in his first two years in office.
“That’s one of his strengths,” Norman said. “Messaging to voters and engaging with them directly.”
During a town hall in Springville on Aug. 30, Curtis spoke about climate change and how the U.S. can partner with other countries to lower global emissions and encourage natural gas as a replacement for coal.
Filming will begin around 11 a.m. and will last for about an hour, according to the campaign. Lunch will be provided to those in attendance. Anyone interested in participating can register on eventbrite.com.
A picnic table with a bike rack nearby. A sign with a name unique to a family member who was gone too soon.
These are things that mountain bikers, snowshoers, hikers, runners and outdoor enthusiasts will find when visiting Four Bay in Payson Canyon. And to the visitor, those things may mean nothing more than what they are to the eye. But to the people, and in turn the family and friends that each landmark represents, there is so much more to the story.
It was on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012 when trail creator Carey Pierce lost his younger brother, Shawn Pierce, to an accidental overdose of painkillers at the age of 43. According to Carey Pierce, his brother was a friend to everyone.
“Shawn was the middle son in our family of three boys,” Carey Pierce said. “He was born with charisma that attracted everyone. He never married, but he was the favorite uncle to all his nieces and nephews. He served an LDS mission to Thailand and went to Dixie State College to become a massage therapist, and he was really good at what he did, and people loved him. At his funeral, so many people came up to us to say how they were Shawn’s best friend. I never knew someone who had so many best friends.”
Even with how happy Shawn Pierce was, there was pain in his life that caused him to suffer greatly.
“Shawn had a back injury that caused him to need pain killers that he became addicted to,” Carey Pierce said. “It was so hard to watch him suffer because we didn’t know what to do to fix it. He was the type that whenever we would ask him how he was, he would always turn the question back on you, asking how you were. He didn’t want people to know he was hurting, so we didn’t know how to help, and we lost him.”
At the time, Carey Pierce was in the process of building a mountain bike trail system in the Four Bay area up Payson Canyon, and he decided to build a trail for his brother, and call it “Little Shawny” after him.
And while the trail he built loops around trees, past rivers and streams doesn’t have any particular characteristics that remind him of his little brother, Carey Pierce says that each time he sees the sign, “Little Shawny,” he can’t help but remember the years they spent together.
“Little Shawny is a name that is unique to my brother,” Carey Pierce said, “A friend of ours gave him the nickname although Shawn was a pretty sturdy guy. We all just called him Little Shawny, and seeing the sign reminds me of him. Riding on the trail gives me a quiet place to remember him.”
It wasn’t long after building the trail for his brother that Carey Pierce started building a trail for kids to ride on. While doing so, he heard that the owner of Noble Cycling in Spanish Fork, Ryan Cook, lost his 4-year-old son Ezra in a drowning accident.
When he heard about the accident, Carey Pierce thought to name the bike trail after Ezra. And according to Cook, it was a wonderful gesture that has helped his family heal.
“Ezra loved to ride bikes,” Cook said. “When Carey asked me if it would be OK to name the kids’ trail after Ezra, I told him that I would be honored.”
Cook said that the trail has been a great gathering place for their family to remember their son.
“Every year on his birthday, we go up to the trail, bring our bikes and have a party for Ezra at the picnic table,” he said. “Occasionally I will ride it myself just to have a moment to remember him. It’s so nice to have a place in the mountains doing what we love, where we can also remember our little boy.”
Cook said that he enjoys when other people talk about the Ezra trail because it keeps his son’s memory alive.
“Most people have no idea when they see the sign that it was named for our son,” Cook said. “Ezra’s impact was very limited because he only lived four short years, but it’s so neat to hear people say his name. I enjoy taking my kids there to ride bikes because it is the perfect trail for kids, and represents Ezra so well.”
“I realize that naming many of these trails for people we have lost may seem a bit morbid to some,” Carey Pierce said. “But when you lose someone, you sometimes need a place to go and remember them, and the great outdoors is a great place to do that. I hope that when people visit and see these signs and places like the picnic table, that they will be respectful. Naming them after loved ones just brings another element of respect above the respect that should be shown anyway.”
Other trails in the Four Bay trail system named for loved ones lost are Kaya for Carey Pierce’s friend who lost a daughter, and K. Launi for trail builder Darce Trotter’s daughter who passed away in 2015 to a brain tumor.
The Four Bay trail system is located up Payson Canyon between the third mile marker and Maple Dell Scout Camp.
A procedure now available at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo is expected to shorten recovery times for an aortic valve replacement and avoid the need for open heart surgery.
“This is a tremendous advancement in technology for people with aortic valve disease,” said John Mitchell, the director of cardiovascular surgical services at Utah Valley Hospital.
A transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR procedure, includes inserting a replacement valve through a cut in the upper thigh or shoulder. The valve is then navigated through the body to the heart, where the valve is expanded into place.
Valve replacements at the hospital were previously done through open heart surgery. Patients were previously in the hospital for three to five days and would face a six-week recovery before being able to return to their normal activities. With the TAVR procedure, patients are in the hospital for two days and can resume normal activities in 10 days.
“What used to be a last-ditch effort has now turned into a truly life-prolonging procedure with very little impact and good and excellent quality of life,” Mitchell said.
The TAVR procedure is performed on patients with aortic stenosis, which affects about 6.8 million people in the nation. It is the most common in people over the age of 65.
Five TAVR procedures have been performed at the hospital this month. Mitchell anticipated they’ll perform 80 to 100 TAVR procedures a year, doubling the number of aortic valve replacements that were done under open heart surgery.
Mitchell said the one hour, 10 minute procedure came to the hospital with a collaboration with Daniel Bennett, an interventional cardiologist with Revere Health.
The technology has been around for about five years, but was not implemented until Utah Valley Hospital’s hospital replacement project finished constructing its major facilities.
“Initially five years ago, we did not have an adequate facility in Utah County at Utah Valley Hospital to do this procedure,” Mitchell said. “We designed this into the new hospital, which has been open for a year.”