2021 State Of The State: Full Text Of The Democratic Caucus Response
Representative Brian King, House Minority Leader
“My fellow Utahns, we are living through one of the most incredibly challenging times in recent history. For many, this is a time of sickness, a time of economic and personal hardship. We are dismayed and saddened by the violence at our nation’s capitol. No matter your own partisan perspective, no matter where you are from, no matter the color of your skin, we are all Americans. We all love our country. And we all expect lawmakers to stand up for democracy. We want our elected officials to work together to solve problems, whether that is in Washington D.C., or here at our Utah state capitol.
We are eager to work with Governor Cox’s new administration to help Utah families recover from this pandemic and get moving again. And, as Democrats, we are glad to see Utah’s executive leadership coming around to our point of view and proposing policies and actions that Democrats have long been fighting for. Things like better funding for education, investing in public infrastructure like our state parks and public transit, and paid parental leave.
As Democrats, we intend to hold executive leadership, and our Republican colleagues to these commitments. We see a lot of areas where we can work together across the aisle to solve some of Utah’s biggest challenges - like housing affordability, air quality, climate change, and police reform. We’re not interested in political posturing or divisiveness. We are here - as public servants - to solve problems, and to get things done, so that all Utahns have their own opportunities to thrive. I’m now going to let some of my Democratic colleagues say a few words.”
Senator Karen Mayne, Senate Minority Leader
“I’m Senator Karen Mayne, the Utah Senate Democratic Leader. This year is going to be a legislative session like no other. The next 6 weeks of lawmaking, negotiating, and budgeting will be instrumental to how the state recovers and moves forward from this trying period in our history.
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely turned our lives upside down. It is with great sorrow to say that nearly 1,500* Utahns have died, and close to 13,000* have been hospitalized. It has kept us at home and separated from family, friends, and loved ones. It has devastated many in our small business community, and it continues to foster consumer uncertainty. Additionally, the pandemic has heightened gaps within our schools and has amplified challenges for students, teachers, and faculty.
While the vaccine offers us much needed optimism, we are still not out of the woods with COVID-19. Vaccinations continue to roll out for healthcare workers, teachers, first responders, and other high-risk individuals. We applaud Governor Cox’s plan to speed up the rollout of vaccines for individuals and communities experiencing the highest risk for infection. In the meantime, let’s show our famous Utah community spirit and do what we can to limit spread, so no more loved ones are unnecessarily lost.
For our state’s recovery to be effective, we must have blueprints in place to ensure the vaccine is available to every Utahn who wants it. No one should be left out, left behind, nor disregarded. As Democrats, we will continue to fight for transparency and accountability at every step of the way. From the state’s plans for complete recovery, to the phased guidelines for vaccine rollout, all Utahns deserve responsible governance that leads from the front.”
Senator Jani Iwamoto, Senate Minority Assistant Whip
“I’m Senator Jani Iwamoto. The violent incursion at our U.S Capitol was tragic, unsettling, and deeply disturbing. As our great Nation attempts to heal from this anti-American political violence we witnessed in DC, the continued threats of armed protests —which have recently been posed in all 50 state capitols— upsets the honorable calls for unity and restoration. The divisive challenges to the election process, from people who know better, and to our country’s commitment to the peaceful transfer of power must be condemned without uncertainty.
As Democrats, we fervently reject the indefensible objections to this country’s most foundational elements and processes. We will remain committed to upholding our duties as elected officials and to defending the U.S. Constitution and the state’s constitution. The legislation we forward, the rhetoric we apply, and the principles we execute as lawmakers cannot raise doubt nor generate widespread distrust in our democratic systems. Too many elected officials across the country have doubled down on fanning the flames of division, and it must stop.
Here in Utah, we strive to make every corner of our state a welcoming place for all. We value diversity of thought, experience, background, traditions, and approaches to existing on this earth. While the incidents of the past weeks have been unsettling, it’s vital that Utah maintains and strengthens its atmosphere of inclusion and bridge-building to support everyone in our communities. No matter where one comes from, or what they look like, Utah must be a place that embraces partnership and compassion.”
Representative Jennifer Dailey-Provost, House Minority Assistant Whip
“I’m Representative Jennifer Dailey-Provost. The COVID-19 Pandemic has dramatically impacted children in Utah and the quality of their education. We must address the opportunity gaps in our education system that have disadvantaged so many Utah students, especially those in ethnic and racial minority communities or those without access to the appropriate technologies or conducive learning environments. It’s on us to invest even more in our children’s education, to make sure those kids who were sidelined this past year don’t continue to fall through the cracks. We also need to invest in all of our teachers, so that they know they are valued, because teacher turnover is bad for our schools and communities, and it is devastating for our students.
We are eager to get kids back into schools, but we know remote learning, in some capacity, will remain with us forever. We need to improve state-wide broadband access for ALL students and teachers, to give all children the opportunity for equitable, high-quality education.
What’s more, this pandemic exposed the fact that too many working Utah families are unable to find affordable and available childcare. Utahns shouldn’t have to constantly worry about the well-being of their children while they’re at work.
Like many of you, I spent much of this past year working from home, while my children attended school online. It hasn’t been ideal, but it’s allowed many of us to continue working safely. As we move beyond the Pandemic, we recognize tele-working has tremendous opportunities for working Utahns everywhere, and especially in rural areas. We are no longer limited to just the job opportunities down the street - now we can seek employment with companies anywhere in the world without leaving our homes. And expanding broadband access is not only good for our economy, with fewer people commuting it’s good for our air quality.
Our environment is another urgent issue. After a long, dry summer, so far this winter we have only half the snow we normally get. Our mountains are parched and brown. 2020 was Utah’s driest year on record which warns of a bleak water year ahead. We are making slow progress on improving air quality but investing in cleaner transportation infrastructure is long overdue. Double-tracking Frontrunner will go a long way to reduce congestion along the I-15 corridor, shorten the commute time, and will encourage more use of public transportation. This, along with ways to help Utahns to transition to cleaner fuels, including electric cars, will lead to better air quality. Finally, we also must have a renewed emphasis on protecting our Public Lands. We support investing in our state’s open spaces, trails, and parks. With this work, we can continue to be the envy of the rest of the nation.”
Senator Luz Escamilla, Senate Minority Whip
“I’m Senator Luz Escamilla. Governor Cox rightly affirmed that Utah can be a leader in overcoming systemic racism and the vast inequalities and disparities that stand as barriers for too many of our fellow Americans. Historic and existing imbalances prevent certain individuals and communities from not only getting ahead, but also from simply catching up. Systemic racism is indeed a public health crisis. The playing field is far from level on several fronts, and we as Democrats will bring forward policies to address these inequalities.
This legislative session, police reform will be a major structural challenge that lawmakers will address. With already 42 publicly available bills, specifically related to law enforcement and criminal justice, the Legislature must sincerely deliberate proposals that get us closer to a more equitable and fair state.
House and Senate democrats are prepared to bring evidence-based and best practices when addressing social determinants of health and other inequalities that disproportionately impact our most vulnerable communities and their quality of life.
Increased guidance on equity and inclusion training and implementation will help fulfill the goals outlined in the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion — goals that both House and Senate Democrats and Governor Cox pledge to continue to move forward. While the promises and considerations of reform for a more equitable future are significant, it will be critical that we hold all elected officials accountable to finding meaningful solutions.”
Representative Karen Kwan, House Minority Whip
“I’m Representative Karen Kwan. This year we have the once-every-10-year obligation to redraw political districts across our state using the results of the recent 2020 Census. This is a critical task to determine how Utahns are represented for the next decade. It must be done fairly and with transparency.
Unfortunately, ten years ago we saw efforts to draw district boundaries in ways that benefit one political party’s chances of winning over another. Doing this disenfranchised many Utahns. Many have felt their voices aren’t being heard.
Utahns not only understand fairness but voted for it. In 2018, Utahns voters approved an independent redistricting commission. Now, after the U.S. Census data is released in April, this independent commission, along with the legislature’s own commission, will propose new congressional, legislative, and state school board districts. This process must be fair, with ample opportunities for public input at every turn. Most importantly, it must reflect the fundamental fairness that Utahns voted for. Elected officials are selected by their constituents and not the other way around.
We recognize that at the end of the day, the Legislature does not have to accept the independent redistricting commission’s proposed maps. As Democrats, we will demand an open process that produces fair maps that represent all Utahns. As legislators, we must honor the will of the people, so that their voices are truly heard.”
Representative Brian King, House Minority Leader
“I want to leave you with a hopeful message. Every day, thousands of Utahns are receiving vaccines to protect them and their loved ones and all of us from the Coronavirus. We can expect in the coming weeks and months for schools and restaurants to reopen, and to feel safe to be close with friends and family again. Our economic outlook is improving by the day. And we are optimistic that stability and sanity can return to how our Federal government is managed.
We definitely have serious challenges laid out before us. But we have seen through this past year - despite the pandemic, the earthquakes, the windstorms, and the social and economic upheaval - that Utahns are incredibly resilient. And despite perceived differences among our different political parties, or racial and ethnic groups, we all share the same goals - to pursue happy and meaningful lives. Utahns are fundamentally welcoming and inclusive. Our state is ready to innovate and invest in its future so that all Utahns have an opportunity to thrive.