Week 4 Update – 2018 Legislative Session

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Friends and Neighbors in District 56 –
We finished another week on Capitol Hill. 

We took a moment on Friday to recognize the families of the 16 fallen servicemen from Utah this past year. It was a somber moment on the House floor. I hope we never forget that others sacrifice so much to protect the freedoms that we have.

Trauma-Informed Legislative Workgroup
H.B. 177 Trauma-Informed Justice Provisions, would enable and assist victims of crime. Under the current system, victims are often re-traumatized by their experiences with the criminal justice system.
The goal of this proposed legislation is to reduce the likelihood of re-victimization, leading to fewer accumulative adverse childhood experiences, less behavioral risk-taking, fewer negative health impacts and a reduction in state spending on healthcare. This increases the likelihood that victims will engage with the criminal justice system in the future and in turn, enables improved healing and coping skills by connecting victims with available resources.   
H.B. 177 will establish a Multi-Disciplinary Trauma-Informed Committee tasked with creating a trauma-informed justice program. The committee will conduct a study of current and
recommended trauma-informed policies, procedures, programs and practices in Utah’s criminal and juvenile justice system including:
  • the role of victim advocates and victim services;
  • the implementation of a comprehensive, seamless victim-advocate system that:
    • is based on the best interests of victims,
    • assists victims throughout the criminal and juvenile justice system, and
    • assists with the process of recovery from trauma experienced as a victim of crime.


State dollars dedicated to education have grown at historic levels, since 2015. Education clearly is and has been a priority for the Utah State Legislature, so much so that in the past three years, K-12 funding has increased by more than $800 million – nearly 20 percent. In addition, the past two years, education spending accounted for the most significant portion of new money appropriated by the Utah Legislature.

This year is no exception; we will continue to prioritize education funding and aspire to do it without increasing the taxes of hard-working Utahns.

HB299 aims to dedicate approximately $700 million to public schools over the next three to four years, and do it in a way that directly and positively impacts teacher pay. This legislation would also prioritize funding for improved teacher training, metrics to ensure children meet reading standards by third grade and technology in the classroom.


On average 24-25 Utahns die each month from opioid overdoses. The Utah Legislature is considering a resolution that calls upon the Attorney General to take immediate legal action against prescription opioid manufacturers. Serious allegations have been raised regarding deceptive marketing practices used by manufacturers and distributors.
Utah ranked 4th in the nation for drug overdose deaths, an average of six per week in 2014. These horrid statistics are more than just numbers; they represent the loss of human lives.
Measures are being taken in Utah to help combat the crisis, but we need to work to change the practices of companies that threaten the safety of our residents for their own financial gain. Sixteen states, dozens of local jurisdictions and Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, Washington and Weber counties have already filed separate lawsuits against prescription opioid manufacturers to seek damages for the public costs of the opioid crisis. 

Joining a multistate lawsuit with a myriad of other states does not allow us to adequately represent the needs and losses of Utah victims, and won’t necessarily lead to a change in business practices by these companies.  HJR 12, Joint Resolution Calling Upon the Attorney General to Sue Prescription Opioid Manufacturers, calls upon the Attorney General’s Office to file a separate lawsuit against those companies whose practices and products have harmed Utahns. The goal is to change prescribing practices and put a stop to the rising rate of overdose deaths, maximize monetary gain to help reimburse the state for expenses associated with opioid abuse and hold accountable those whose actions created this destruction.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you.
Week 4 update from Capitol Hill
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Week 3 update – 2018 Session

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Friends and Neighbors in District 56 –
We are done with three weeks on Capitol Hill. We have approved the base budgets, so the government will not shut down. I with the federal government would follow our lead.
Stay Connected
The Utah House of Representatives offers access to live and previous coverage of House Floor proceedings and committee hearings from the legislative website. You can view the current session, search the archive of past sessions, track bills, read proposed legislation and more at
Follow the Utah Reps on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected to what is happening, get a behind the scenes look and receive daily updates. You can also contact your representative at
Contact me
Please let me know the issues that matter to you. You can email me your thoughts on issues at:
Prison Budget
It was recently claimed that the cost of relocating the state prison from Draper to Salt Lake City was hidden from the public and there seemed to be confusion about the procedures for determining what the actual price tag would be. It’s important for the public to understand that the process was the same one used for any state building and there were no “hidden” costs, though there were various bids over time.
When the initial decision was made to move the prison, two significant findings drove that determination. Repairs to the current structure were estimated to cost at least $238 million, and something needed to be done. Additionally, relocation would position the Utah economy to realize billions of dollars of new economic benefit. It was clear from these findings that the advantages of moving the prison would far outweigh the costs and consequently, the decision was made to move forward.
Initial estimates from 2015 ranged from $546 to $683 million, depending on the ultimate size of the new prison but not including site-specific costs. That same year, the Legislature allocated $550 million, largely intended to pay for the land and buildings but not those as-yet undetermined site-specific costs. It was always anticipated that additional appropriations would be necessary once the site was selected and those costs could be determined.
Later that year the Legislature approved the Prison Relocation Commission’s recommendation to move the prison to Salt Lake City, and it was estimated that the site would require an additional $154 million.
In early 2016, an architect working with DFCM engaged the Department of Corrections to determine priorities and create a program to meet justice reinvestment goals and national standards, in addition to addressing potential future needs of a growing population. This common practice generally exceeds anticipated budgets but is an important part of the process. In this case, it resulted in an estimate of $860 million, which led to an exhaustive, line-by-line review that ended with a new $700 million estimate.
During the 2017 legislative session, another $100 million was authorized in bonding to meet the needs of the Salt Lake City location, bringing the total allocation to $650 million. Later that year, in an effort to continue reducing costs, project managers right-sized the space to meet the appropriation. Those changes resulted in the current estimate of $692 million, only $9 million more than the upper end of the original estimates, even when including site-specific costs that weren’t contained in those 2015 numbers.
We are still at the beginning of a very long and involved process, and the current estimate of $692 million is just that, an estimate. Over the last three years, as we have continued recovering from the Great Recession, the construction industry has realized an average 8.6 percent rate of inflation and risks of cost escalation remain. Numerous individuals and organizations will continue to review and challenge numbers throughout the process, including DFCM, BDK (the consultant for the state) the contractor team and the governor’s office, to ensure that taxpayer dollars are well spent.
See the prison development budget timeline here.

Operation Rio Grande Update
On August 14, 2017, an extensive collaborative effort to combat lawlessness in the Rio Grande area and lend a helping hand to those in need was launched. On February 5, a six-month update was given on the progress of the program. Operation Rio Grande (ORG), as it has been called, has been shown to have substantially improved the area, both for those seeking services and those who live and work there. Lives have been changed as more resources have been made available for those wanting help and as authorities have appropriately dealt with the drug dealers and cartels who would take advantage of them.
“There’s help out there, and Operation Rio Grande really put me in the avenues to get that help,” said one beneficiary of ORG, Rich Duprez.
Since the launch of the operation:
  • Nearly 200 new addiction treatment beds, and counting, have been created
  • About 70 people have entered treatment through Salt Lake County's new specialty drug court program.
  • More than 3,400 safe space cards issued.
  • One hundred thirty-three behavioral health assessments have been completed.
  • Sixteen people have been placed into sober living and seven new beds have been created, with more on the way.
  • Of individuals referred to short-term housing, 44 have been housed, 121 have been diverted from emergency shelter and 189 are receiving housing case management.
  • Fourteen individuals have been employed through the Dignity of Work program, 100 have completed employment plans, 33 are work ready and 48 job listings have been posted by participating employers.
  • Over 800 individuals assessed during ORG have now been enrolled in Medicaid, which includes coverage for behavioral/mental health treatment.
Though we have made significant strides, it does not end here. The state is committed to securing funding, improving public safety, offering support to those struggling with mental illness and drug addiction to help them get back on the path of self-reliance, and preparing and connecting individuals with housing and job opportunities.
The progress of the three phases can be tracked online at
Winter Olympics
In 2002, Utah successfully hosted the Winter Olympics and has since maintained the facilities built for those games. This past week, the House and Senate passed SCR 9, Concurrent Resolution on Utah's Olympic Exploratory Committee and its Efforts to Explore Hosting of a Future Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and the governor signed it February 6. In a press conference the next day, the committee expressed that Utah is “ready, willing, and able” to host the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games once again, in either 2026 or 2030.
The Utah Legislature and the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts have teamed up to give high school students an opportunity to see the Broadway hit Hamilton: An American Musical through the New Nation Letter Writing Competition. The purpose is to get young people engaged in the legislative process and in their local communities.
To participate in the competition, a high school student must write a letter to one of their elected officials about an issue of concern in the community and include a proposed solution.
Each student who submits a qualifying entry will be entered into a random drawing to see the musical here in Utah. The competition closes at 9 a.m. Tuesday, February 20. Learn more about it and apply here.
Arts Day on the Hill
High schools from all over the state came to the Capitol for Arts Day on the Hill. Students and administrators met with representatives to discuss the importance of teaching humanities and the arts. Music from choirs, bands and orchestras filled the Capitol Rotunda as audiences took in the beautiful performances.
Transit Day
On February 2, some buses passed all the usual stops and wound up on Utah’s Capitol Hill. Utah Transit Authority (UTA) brought three environmentally friendly public buses to show members of the public and lawmakers some of the features on the new buses. One had an accordion-like mid-section, allowing for greater mobility while transporting more people. This is just one of UTA’s many environmental projects currently underway.
Rural Day
Rural counties from all over Utah came to showcase the unique attributes and concerns of their respective areas on February 2. Individuals were able to discuss policies with legislators that directly affect their rural communities. We were glad to have them join us and enjoy the incredible diversity of the various areas of our state.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you.
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Bears Ears

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Yesterday President Obama created a new national monument in Utah.  This reckless decision to tie up land larger than Rhode Island is a travesty. This is an abuse of the Antiquities Act and Executive over-reach, and I agree with the sentiments of the Speaker and the Commission for the Stewardship of Federal Lands.


Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands Statement about Bears Ears National Monument Designation


Salt Lake City ­ Today, the Obama Administration used the Antiquities Act to declare Bears Ears area a national monument. Chairs and members of the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands, Rep. Keven Stratton – Chair, Sen. David Hinkins – Chair, Rep. Mel Brown, Rep. Ken Ivory and Rep. Mike Noel, issued the following statement regarding the monument designation:

 “Like the unilateral tyranny exercised by the King of England against the American colonies two and a half centuries ago, our President has exercised an unconstitutional unilateral exercise of the Executive power to establish a monument greater in size than a number of the original thirteen states. Our children are the biggest losers and our Federal Executive Branch is well aware that this designation goes against the voice of the American Citizens living within the boarders of the State of Utah and an overwhelming super majority of those elected to represent them. This Bears Ears designation will not survive a constitutional review by our Judicial Branch and we pledge to take and support every lawful action available under the rule of law to overturn this act of repulsive political cronyism.”

Speaker Greg Hughes Statement about Bears Ears National Monument Designation

Salt Lake City ­ Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes issued the following statement regarding the Obama Administration using the Antiquities Act to declare 1.35 million acres of the Bears Ears area a national monument:

“We are truly disappointed that President Obama today chose to use the Antiquities Act to unilaterally declare a 1.35-million-acre Monument in Utah. The Antiquities Act, created by Teddy Roosevelt, was never intended to be used in this way and only the smallest area necessary for the purpose of protecting significant archaeological or historical sites is allowed. Not only is that clearly not the case here, but this administration has had no real conversations with those who will be affected by this designation, let alone any study of what “antiquities” they are attempting to protect.

Adding to a long list of executive actions that threaten the sovereignty of the states and the citizens of this nation to chart their own course, our president has chosen to once again subvert the will of the people. Earlier this month, nearly all elected officials who represent the area, from local to federal, assembled at the Utah State Capitol to plead with President Obama to resist the temptation to grant these types of political favors. This action betrays the interests of Utahns, stands in the way of better stewardship of the land we all love and cherish and ultimately amounts to a blatant federal land grab.

Our democratic republic is designed to be most effective and accountable when major decisions are made closest to the people but President Obama has chosen to circumvent all democratic processes and lock up nearly one and a half million acres of land from use based solely on ideological principles.

Nearly 70 percent of Utah is under federal management and control and 90 percent of our population lives on just 1 percent of our ground. Nothing about this is even remotely reasonable, and that is why we in the Utah Legislature have been pushing back for decades. This designation makes that effort even more important and we will do everything within our power to seek to overturn this action once President Obama leaves office next month.”


Week 1 – 2016 Legislative Session

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Week 1 – 2016 Legislative Session

The Legislature is off to a great start as members of both the House of Representatives and Senate have rolled up their sleeves and gotten to work. In fact, with a full reading calendar meant for two days worth of work, the House was able to adjourn early after getting through every one of the bills posted.
These bills were debated, voted on and passed out of interim committees since the end of the last Legislative Session, and rather than adding to current code, many were repealing language that was confusing or unclear in the law. Every one of the bills considered and passed today came out of an interim committee with unanimous, bipartisan support and no fiscal note.
We accomplished many major reforms during the 2015 General Session and the work that our interim committees did over the past year has allowed us to start off with a momentum that should lead to another successful session. Click here to watch the full video.

Internet Sales Tax

I want to hear from you on this issue.  Please read through this information and e-mail me back your thoughts on a sales tax on internet purchases.
A proposal gaining support in many states across the country is a law requiring the collection of sales tax by the merchant, at the specific tax rate where the buyer lives, for all purchases on the internet or by mail order. Marketplace fairness legislation has already passed in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington. Utah is among the states looking at options to reclaim the lost revenue that currently is required to be paid by the consumer, but seldom is.
Justice Kennedy has said that a previous Supreme Court decision, in Quill Corp v. North Dakota,  “ . . . now harms states to a degree far greater than could have been anticipated earlier,” finding that Congress needed to act to allow state collection of the sales and use tax. Congress has failed to act, in which case it is incumbent on states, as sovereign entities, to exercise their constitutional right to act.
Under current law, sales and use tax is already required on all sales but if a Utah resident doesn’t pay the tax at the time of purchase, it must be remitted when filing their Utah income tax return. Unfortunately, few people actually do this, leading to an estimated $190 million uncollected this year. Art Laffer has estimated that Marketplace Fairness legislation would lead to the creation of 16,961 new jobs in the state and an increased state GDP of $5.2 billion by 2022.
Unless we address this issue, we can expect to see problems in adequately supporting our public universities and transportation needs, as both are partially funded through the sales tax.
Right now, over 2,700 businesses in more than 4,300 taxing jurisdictions are using free software that allows them to collect those taxes and dozens of software and web applications exist to easily, quickly and affordably calculate, collect and remit the sales tax for these online purchases.
Rep. Mike McKell will be running Marketplace Fairness legislation this year that allows the state to require online retailers who do business in Utah to comply with our tax law. It will require the State of Utah to reduce the state sales tax rate when the collection of remote sales tax begins, which will lead to revenue neutrality. The Utah Taxpayers Association has publicly declared support for a Utah solution that is revenue neutral.
This legislation will allow both businesses and consumers to more easily comply with existing law, it will extend a tax break to all — even those buying locally — and it will treat all businesses, consumers and transactions equally.


House Guests

Utah House of Representatives welcomed Congressman Chris Stewart and Congressman Rob Bishop. Congressman Stewart discussed three issues the United States faces: economic growth, national debt and national security. Click here to watch his remarks, it starts at 13 minutes. Congressman Bishop and former Utah Speaker of the House discussed public lands and military during his visit to the House. Click here to watch his remarks, it starts at 42 minutes.

Public Lands

The Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands announced key findings from a comprehensive legal analysis performed by legal scholars and practicing attorneys from across the country. These experts conducted a rigorous objective legal analysis to determine if there are legitimate legal precedents and historical principles for the State of Utah to challenge the federal government’s permanent ownership of the majority of the land within the State. The conclusion of the legal analysis is that compelling legal basis does exist for the State of Utah to challenge federal ownership of public lands in the state. The findings identify three primary legal theories as having merit:

1. The Equal Sovereignty Principle, which mandates that the States in the U.S. Federal system be equal in sovereignty with one another.

2. The closely related Equal Footing Doctrine, which requires that States admitted to the U.S. subsequent to the 13 original colonies should receive all sovereign rights enjoyed by previously existing states in the U.S., including the right to control land within their borders.

3. The Compact Theory, which posits that Utah’s acceptance of admission into the U.S. entailed explicit and implicit promises that the federal government would “timely dispose” of public lands in Utah’s borders, as it had done with the states admitted prior to Utah.
You can also see more on this by watching Speaker Hughes’ address at the Heritage Foundation.

2016 Legislative Session – Committees

I serve on the following committees in the Legislature:

  • Public Utilities and Technology
  • Transportation
  • Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Appropriations Subcommittee – Vice-Chair

It is a pleasure to serve you in the Legislature.  Please let me know which issues are important to you.


Representative Kay Christofferson
Utah House of Representatives | District 56

2014 Week 3 Legislative Update

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We’re wrapping up week three of the 2014 legislative session here on the hill. This week we continued to meet in appropriations and standing committees, as well as debate House and Senate bills on the House floor. We spent time discussing the Utah School Readiness Initiative (HB 96), election laws (HB282), and a variety of other bills, including HB 283, a bill that enacts the Nonprofit Entity Receipt of State Money Act.

President Abraham Lincoln came and visited us and delivered a timely message.

The House honored former Representative Howard Nielson, Utah.

This last week the House of Representatives voted on HB 96 – “Utah School Readiness Initiative”  

It was a bill that attracted a lot of attention.  I received close to 300 emails, for and against this bill.  I also spoke with many people about the details of the bill and the pros and cons.  We debated the bill on the House floor for over an hour and amended it to improve the language.  The vote was 49 for and 24 against with 2 who did not vote.  As I read and studied the bill the following points stood out to me:

  • The bill is a free-market approach to solving a problem in the school system.  I have been working to get free-market forces to drive quality, service and cost reductions in government agencies and operations.  This was part of my campaign platform.  I think this program is a way to solve a problem privately, that has not been met yet in the schools.
  • It is a post-performance payment.  This means that the private company is at risk for the results and will not be paid if they don’t reach the objectives.   These companies are motivated to be successful.
  • It is voluntary.  At the parents will, the student may be enrolled or not.
  • The bill will not cost more to the taxpayers.  The money that is used is paid from the savings that are currently being used by Special Educations programs.  It may even save money for the State – worst case, it will be cost-neutral.
  • It results in improved performance.  Many school kids are falling behind and have a tough time in their first years of grade school.  This approach has been tried in other schools and has been successful.  Weber State University, Utah State University and Brigham Young University all sent letters supporting this kind of educational opportunity for those who are from low-income and high-risk homes.   Weber & BYU have developed tests to identify students who would likely be at risk and need remedial help in the future.
  • The program is adapted to any school model.  It can be used in home schools, private schools, charter schools as well as traditional public school settings.

I understand that there are risks in any program.  Some of you mentioned that it is similar to the Head Start Program and why do we need another program?  I look at it as less expensive to the State because if the students don’t improve their performance, as expected, the provider of the program doesn’t get paid.  I’m sure there may be some adjustments as the program develops.

HB 96 has been passed by the House but still has to be vetted by the Senate.  If there are concerns with areas of the bill it can still be amended before being voted on.  Please let me know if you can recommend other changes to the bill that would improve it.  I am more than happy to pass information on to the Senate as they vet the bill.  Also, please let Senators Madsen and Valentine know your thoughts.

H.B. 275 – Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day


Vietnam War Veterans being honored in the Utah House of Representatives Gallery.

This week the Utah House passed a bill that designates March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day. Representative Oda sponsored the bill in an effort to honor those that served in the Vietnam War by creating a day in which all Utahns could show their gratitude for the Veterans’ sacrifice.

I was also able to celebrate the birth of my grandson, Tyce.  He has an infection and is currently in the NCIU but is improving fast.  He should be home this weekend.

Be sure to contact me with any questions comments, or concerns. Your feedback and participation is always welcome.

Representative Kay Christofferson
Utah House of Representatives | District 56

2014 Week 2 Legislative Update

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The start of our second week here on Utah’s Capitol Hill was met with hard work as our appropriations subcommittees continued to meet diligently and discuss the budget. These subcommittees reviewed state departments, audits, and spending, and then brought forward a base budget. The base budget is presented in bill form and is essentially a guideline for spending for the year. The legislature continues to keep Utah fiscally responsible by balancing the budget every year.

This session, the legislature will introduce a solution that has been years in the making. By consolidating the 9-1-1-system across the state of Utah, we hope to ensure every Utahn will receive the best possible emergency response. Reforming the dispatch system will eliminate confusion, save money, shrink emergency response times and save lives.

Later in the week the Utah House of Representatives had the privilege of honoring fallen Sgt. Derek Johnson and his family with a citation on the House floor. As legislators, and as Utahns, we are grateful for the sacrifices law enforcement members and their families make every day.

 (Honoring the Johnson Family)

Federal Land
I am passionate about Utah getting access to federal lands.  This week we heard from Senator Orrin Hatch and I asked him about getting control of our lands.  The following is from

Hatch also talked about his support for the state’s push to get the federal government to turn over the two-thirds of the state under Washington’s control after being asked about the issue by Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi.

“We’re not treated fairly,” Hatch said, describing himself as one of the original “Sagebrush Rebels” from a similar effort decades ago. “We were being treated even worse than we are today. I’ve got a long history of being on your side.”

We also took a day to meet with the Fire Caucus – it was nice to spend some time with firefighters from District 56.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you regarding any questions, comments, or concerns.

Representative Kay Christofferson
Utah House of Representatives | District 56