As a senator, I would work to end gerrymandering, to make more Utah races non-partisan, (such as the State Board of Education), to adopt alternative voting methods such as Approval Voting (a superior alternative to Ranked Choice Voting) as options for municipalities, and to reform campaign financing. Utah is one of relatively few states with no limits whatsoever on campaign contributions from any source for legislative races. The vast majority of campaign contributions to incumbents come from special interests. According to an analysis reported in the Salt Lake Tribune, on average, only five cents per dollar in campaign contributions come from voters in an incumbent's own district. And a significant number of legislators get no contributions from their own constituents in a given election cycle. This creates an unhealthy dynamic of outsized influence of special interests versus individual voters.
(quotes are from the 2021 Report to the Governor on Utah's Land, Water, and Air)Air Quality
Utah's population has grown roughly 40% over the last two decades, which adds to the strain on our air quality. Despite already poor air quality, the Utah legislature has, over the objections of local leaders, pursued the development of Utah's Inland Port, which will make additional efforts to improve air quality even more vital. "Utah has the nation's largest emissions of hazardous air pollutants, which are linked to cancer and birth defects in human health studies." We need to make more progress more quickly toward having clean air, for the benefit of all Utahns, but particularly those most vulnerable to the effects of bad air. I would support legislative efforts to develop and implement a strong plan that reduces emissions by focusing on permits, allowances, and monitoring.
Population growth, coupled with severe drought, also make water conservation critical. Education and incentives (such as turf buy-back programs) are both useful tools to boost conservation. Monitoring secondary water use can help with voluntary water conservation as well. Yet it's not just individual households depleting this precious resource. "Utahns have the 2nd highest municipal and industrial per capita water use in the United States..." We need to consider measures to further reduce usage by all parties.
Our public schools in Utah are working hard to make limited funding stretch as they, in conjunction with many parent volunteers, educate our students. Teachers already feel beleaguered with the demands put on them during the pandemic. More recent legislative efforts to micromanage teachers threaten to increase the number of educators leaving the profession. Many measures to ensure transparency are already in place. If they aren’t working adequately, local school districts, working with teachers, can bolster transparency rather than adding mandates originating on Capitol Hill. We need to treat our teachers as professionals and not make unreasonable demands on their time. We also need to make sure we fund education adequately. I’ve seen the value of a good and affordable education in my own family. My dad grew up on a farm in Cache Valley. Not only was he the first member of his family to go to college, he went on to get his Ph.D. Education opens doors.
Housing demand has outstripped supply in recent years, resulting in skyrocketing home prices. Rental units are also in short supply. Many Utahns are being priced out of the housing market. We need to create a better balance between single family unit dwellings and multi-family options. Market forces alone aren't meeting our housing needs, and zoning changes could be part of the solution. I support efforts made by the legislature in 2021 to pave the way for more Internal and External Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as part of an overall strategy to address our housing crisis.
Access to Mental Health Care
Although the stigma of mental health problems is decreasing, it remains common to hear of tragedies that could have, perhaps, been avoided with mental health interventions. Access to mental health care is a public issue. Access gaps and months-long-waits to get professional help can increase risk and vulnerability. As a Senator, I’d like to explore further how we can address those issues.