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Advocacy group releases scorecards evaluating Utah legislators

By Kelcie Hartley - | May 13, 2022
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Officials listen during the 2022 Utah County Republican Convention on Saturday, April 9, 2022. The convention was held at Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain. Doug Welton, center, and Keven Stratton, right, sit on the bottom row. Norm Thurston sits between the two in the row above and Stephen Whyte stands to the side.
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The Utah Legislature convenes its 2022 general session Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Salt Lake City.

While Utah County legislators received consistently high scores on the Americans for Prosperity-Utah legislative scorecard, one vote stood out to Heather Andrews, the organization’s state director.

Andrews was disappointed to see many of the area’s representatives unsupportive of House Bill 331, the Hope Scholarship Program.

HB331 was considered “primary legislation” to AFP-U and was worth two point towards or against each legislator’s scorecard depending on if they voted for or against the bill. AFP released its annual scorecard on April 26. Each card highlights how legislators voted on issues the group deemed important during this year’s legislative session.

HB331 would have “created a scholarship program for all students in Utah, allowing their education dollars to follow them to the best options for their educational needs,” according to AFP-U’s description of the bill.

“I was really disappointed to see how many Utah County representatives were not supportive of giving more families opportunities and choices in education,” Andrews said.

The school voucher bill, received intense attention and scrutiny throughout the legislative session.

“The hope scholarship bill would have funding follow the student versus the program or system. If COVID-19 taught us anything, it is that one-size-fits-all doesn’t work. Parents, especially those in low-income and minorities families, need more options for their children regarding their educational needs,” Andrews said. “The bill would have given more choices for their kids. I was surprised how many Utah County representatives voted no on that issue because there’s such a strong base of support for it in the county.”

The bill was opposed by members of the education community, and Gov. Spencer Cox promised to veto the bill had it reached his desk. At a Feb. 14 rally at the Utah State Capitol, Provo Rep. Marsha Judkins, a former member of the Provo School District Board of Education, worried that the bill could have “unintended consequences.” It eventually failed in the Utah House by a 22-53 vote.

Andrews told the Daily Herald that elected officials currently campaigning may be affected by their scorecards.

“I think it will affect upcoming campaigns,” she said. “I’ve already heard from some people, especially delegates at the Utah County Convention, share their disappointment in legislators on how they voted on certain issues, particularly the hope scholarship. There were several delegates who were upset with how the votes turned out on it.”

A score of 100 is considered a perfect legislative record by the organization. Utah representatives and senators from Utah County received the following scores, from highest to lowest:

  • Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi — 100
  • Sen. Michael S. Kennedy, R-Alpine — 97
  • Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton — 96
  • Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove — 94
  • Rep. Kay J. Christofferson, R-Lehi — 94
  • Rep. Jefferson Moss, R-Saratoga Springs — 94
  • Rep. Norman K. Thurston, R-Provo — 94
  • Rep. Nelson T. Abbott, R-Orem — 91
  • Rep. Val L. Peterson, R-Orem — 91
  • Rep. Adam Robertson, R-Provo — 91
  • Rep. Keven J. Stratton, R-Orem — 91
  • Rep. Doug R. Welton, R-Payson — 91
  • Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove — 90
  • Sen. Jacob L. Anderegg, R-Lehi — 89
  • Rep. Jefferson S. Burton, R-Spanish Fork — 88
  • Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo — 83
  • Rep. Stephen Whyte, R-Mapleton — 83
  • Sen. Keith Grover, R-Provo — 82
  • Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo — 82
  • Sen. Michael K. McKell, R-Spanish Fork — 81

“We provide people an opportunity to have something to measure and hold their elected officials accountable with,” Andrews said.

AFP doesn’t plan to engage or endorse anyone in the Utah Senate primary in Utah County between incumbent Keith Grover and challenger Brandon Beckham. The organization has endorsed Rep. Kera Birkeland, from Morgan.

“Kera Birkeland has a lifetime score of 92 and is very aligned with us, so we are wanting to help make sure she gets reelected,” she said.

AFP considers bills dealing with a variety of topics — including health care, free speech, taxes, economic issues and criminal justice reform — to go on the scorecards.

“It’s a huge labor of love,” said Andrews. “First, we have to choose from a list of bills to feature. We had more bills that we actually engaged on during the last legislative session, but we have to pick the ones we felt were substantive enough to add to the scorecards.”

Americans for Prosperity is a conservative advocacy group founded by Charles and David Koch in 2004.

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