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Holladay Journal

Holladay’s state representatives discuss legislative work

Feb 01, 2021 12:30PM ● By Zak Sonntag

Holladay’s representatives discussed bills they were working on for the state legislative session, which runs from January to early March. (Photo by Michael Hart on Unsplash)

By Zak Sonntag | [email protected]

Holladay City’s representatives to the Utah State Legislature held a summit with the Holladay City Council to discuss statewide issues impacting the city and provide a preview of the bills they’ll pursue during this year’s legislative session at the state capitol. The legislators—five in total—intend to address an array of problems facing residents at both local and statewide levels. 

Some issues will be familiar but no less critical, like clean air and the rising cost of housing; others potentially contentious, like those around public lands; while much of the work will be either immediately or indirectly in response to the ongoing outfall of the coronavirus. The session goes from January to March. Here is a look at what Holladay’s representatives are working on.

Sen. Kathleen Riebe

Sen. Kathleen Riebe, who represents Holladay along with portions of Cottonwood Heights and Millcreek, is a professional educator intent on bringing improvements to both process and outcome in education across the state. One area of focus this session will be on schoolboard election reform (S.B. 70), by which she hopes to enhance the crop of contenders and boost schoolboard talent by lowering the signature requirement to get on the ballot. 

“Currently, you need 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot. But for someone with zero resources that’s a big challenge, which is why during the last cycle everyone who was elected [to the schoolboard] was chosen at the convention, and many ran unopposed. I want to make it easier for qualified people to get on the ballot by lowering the signature requirement to 500,” Riebe said. 

Riebe is also working on education amendments related to student testing, which she believes will provide a needed “roadmap” to address the learning loss resulting from COVID.

“This is completely reactive to the current [coronavirus] situation. It sounds easy to just say ‘Let’s not test kids,’ but then we jeopardize our ability to know how to provide assistance to certain communities and combat learning loss,” she said.

Riebe acknowledges that standardized testing has fallen from favor, but still believes in a need for it, with tweaks to how that testing data is used. 

“What parents don’t like is the beating over the head with that data, and they’re right, that’s not helpful. But that data is important. We need to encourage parents to participate in basis testing because it will give us a roadmap,” Riebe said. 

Additionally, the senator will work on crisis intervention legislation that intends to improve community relations and take burdens off police officers by getting resources to crisis intervention teams trained to deal with persons with mental illness.

Sen. Jani Iwamoto

Legislative veteran Sen. Jani Iwamoto will put energy toward a pair of companion police reform bills. One of the bills will look at interagency accountability and coordination, particularly as it relates to university campus safety, a topic that’s been in the spotlight since the killing of University of Utah track athlete Lauren McCluskey.

“This work will help for seamless communication from on and off campus security. There are loopholes when officers go between different agencies and we want to make sure those loopholes get covered up,” she told the council during the January summit.

Also, the senator wants to promote more transparency in student housing, namely, by requiring building owners renting to students to disclose information about crimes committed on or around the properties.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss

The longest serving representative to Holladay, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, has a record of education and health advocacy. This session, she’s putting emphasis on safety, and she’s calling on Holladay residents specially to get with it.

“I’m going to run a bill I’ve run three times now—the Distracted Driver amendments—and I hate to pick on Holladay mothers, but I live here and I see it: mothers driving big SUVs with kids in the back and kids riding their bikes on the sidewalks, and they’re on their phones. That’s a danger to them and their families,” Moss told the council.

She will also look at other elements of road safety as it relates to cyclists, who she believes ought to be held to tighter road standards. 

“I want them to treat a stop sign like a yield sign. I’ve seen them blasting through at 6:30 in the morning up on Wasatch Boulevard,” she said, suggesting that cyclists are sometimes difficult for drivers to see. Moss will also be looking at improving the legal rights of Homeowner’s Associations, where she’ll seek to curtail lien restrictions placed on HOAs which can lead to unexpected costs for new members. “Some people find that they buy a condominium, and they have nothing to do with the construction company who built it, but they’ll come back” and exact unanticipated fees on the HOA.

Rep. Doug Owens

House member Doug Owens, who’s replacing longtime Rep. Patrice Arent, will make efforts to find solutions to the contention over public lands.

“I think there’s a lot of common ground if we can put the focus on outdoor recreation as an economic development. Recreation access is a big driver for the tech sector,” Owens told the council.

Owens has one bill that would put a visitor center at Bears Ears National Monument. The monument’s shrinkage under the Trump administration became a hot-button issue across the state. He will also work on legislation intending to improve air quality.

Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion

Another newcomer, House member Gay Lynn Bennion, will spend her first session digging into affordable housing. 

“It’s creating issues for our economy because it’s so expensive to live here,” she told the council.

Bennion, corresponding with the City Journal through email, reiterated her focus.

“Many individuals and families are burdened by the high cost of housing. I have been involved with meetings and discussions with various stakeholders for the past two months,” she said.

Bennion is also concerned with the lack of resources available for youth across our state. She’s hoping to “add additional funds to the Department of Human Services…to increase their visits to residential centers for youth in our state. The Project Gateway report from Gov. Cox’s incoming administration found that this entire department is underfunded.”