Monday, March 30, 2015

Lowry Tells of Success of Legislative Session

TODAY IN ROTARY Lowry Snow, just back from the 45-day Legislative session. noted "it is an honor to serve" the people of Washington County in the House of Representatives.  While there may be a need for a special session in the summer months, Lowry indicated he is pleased with the amount of work - 528 bills - done by those elected officials who also have regular jobs, homes and families.  

He reminded members in attendance, "Utah is the #1 U. S. state for doing business, #1 in job satisfaction, #1 for volunteerism, #1 for the nation's lowest divorce rate, and #1 for the lowest hours worked per week."  

At the end of the session, Lowry's newsletter to his constituents spoke of some of the major bills passed.

Budget and Funding:  Once again we balanced the budget. We had some additional revenues this year to allocate, and that helped us support some specific needs in our area as well as statewide needs.  Public Education received a major boost to the tune of about $510 million representing a 4% increase to the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) which is the largest increase to public education seen in many years. We appropriated $30.5 million for the Dixie Applied Technology College, which allows for the building of a permanent campus on the old St. George airport site.  This will not only be a great addition for post high school education in our area, but will provide economic support by providing a campus that will allow for future student growth as we continue to prepare a labor force to meet the growing demands for skilled workers in all areas of applied technology.  The Business Resource Centers in St. George and Cedar City will receive funding along with the Youth Receiving Centers.  We saw additional funding supporting the arts to benefit the Tuacahn Center and the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts program. 

Anti-discrimination and Religious Freedom SB 296 & 297:  Senate Bill 296 passed both the Senate the House and has been signed by Governor Herbert.  The bill is intended to provide protection for those in the LGBT community from discrimination in housing and employment.  At the same time, the bill provides for protection of religious beliefs, and represents a compromise of the two interests.  The companion bill SB 297 seeks to further protect religious freedoms by giving county clerks the ability to opt out of performing same-sex marriages, if doing so would violate their religious beliefs. However, if the clerk declines, he/she must make other arrangements by having some other person perform the marriage in order to accommodate all requests. In addition, the bill provides other government employees protection from discrimination or retaliation on the basis of religious beliefs. It also protects religious organizations from being forced to recognize or solemnize a same sex marriage or provide accommodations or facilities to solemnize or celebrate a same sex marriage. I believe these bills represent a compromised resolution of a long standing debate in our state. They are intended to find a balance of respect of citizens’ interests on both sides of the issue. 

Healthy Utah and Utah Cares - Medicaid Expansion:  Governor Herbert’s plan, Healthy Utah, was revised in the latter part of the session to include a probationary period of two years. In this modified form, it passed the Senate and moved on to the House where it was eventually heard by the House Business and Labor committee, but failed to come out of that committee.  The House version of Medicaid expansion was known as Utah Cares, a scaled-down version.  This bill passed the House late in the session but the Senate did not take it up for consideration.  Accordingly and unfortunately, the question of Medicaid expansion and health care for those in need in our state was not resolved before the end of the session. However, on the last day of the session a bill was passed by both houses in the form of a resolution calling for the Governor to continue working with leadership of both the Senate and the House to reach a compromise that can be voted on in a Special Session in the summer of 2015 that would be called for that purpose. I fully anticipate that the leadership of the 3 branches will come up with an acceptable compromise and we will address this issue within the next few months.

Criminal Justice Reforms:  HB 348 provides for several reforms in the way criminal justice is administered in our state.  One of the primary objectives of this legislation was to reduce correctional costs by reserving incarceration facilities (jails and prisons) for violent criminal offenders and providing more treatment options for drug offenders, other than those involved in drug trafficking. Also, the bill places more emphasis on reduction of recidivism by doing a better job of supervising released parolees.  Incarceration is necessary for certain offenders, but it is becoming increasingly more expensive. This bill begins a process by which the state takes a smarter approach by following the lead of many states who have already adopted these measures successfully.

Transportation funding and Gas Tax:  At the end of the session we approved the first major overhaul of transportation funding since 1997.   We increased the current gas tax of $.24 per gallon by $.05 cents which will eventually increase to a specific percentage based on a three-year rolling price average of the wholesale price of unleaded gas with a ceiling of $.40 cents per gallon. This issue has been studied in depth by the legislature for several years and while no one likes to see an increase in taxes of any kind, the fact is that our fuel tax implemented many years ago simply has not kept pace with inflation.  Revenues have been further eroded as our autos have become more effiecnt.  Action needed to be taken or the problem would simply continue to get worse in time and ultimately the fix downstream would be even more expensive.  In addition to the fuel tax, we gave a local option to counties to impose an additional .25% sales tax for roads and mass transit, but only if approved by the voters.

State School Board Election SB 104, SB 195 & HB 186:  Last fall, Utah’s Federal Judge Clark Waddoups ruled Utah’s process of electing members to the Sate School Board was unconstitutional.  Accordingly, there were a number of bills run this session which would have changed the process for electing/selecting members to this important body.  SB 104 provided for partisan elections. SB 195 provided for partisan elections unless voters passed an amendment to the Utah Constitution that would authorize the governor to appoint members. HB 186 provided for nonpartisan elections.  None of these bills were successful, leaving the issue to be decided by the legislature.  I believe the matter will be addressed further during the interim and we may see brought back as part of a Special Session.

Death Penalty Procedure Amendments:  This bill reinstates the option of death by firing squad for those sentenced to death in capital cases in our state.  The purpose of the bill was not to replace the current use of lethal injection as a means for imposing the death sentence, but as an alternative only in the event drugs used for lethal injection become unavailable.  The Governor recently signed the bill into law, notwithstanding his office having received a significant number of communications and signed petitions from thousands opposing the legislation albeit most in opposition to the death penalty itself.

Constitutional Carry Amendments:  Bills were opened in both the Senate and the House which would have made carrying a concealed weapon by any adult legal without a concealed weapon permit.  The House bill was withdrawn voluntarily by its sponsor Rep. Oda after consulting with the Governor.  The Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Hinkins passed the Senate but was not taken up by the House to be considered before the end of the Session.

Here are a few of the bills I sponsored which passed successfully and which I anticipate the Governor will sign into law:

HB 25 Water Law- Application Amendments:  This bill improves the process by which the State Engineer evaluates and approves water change applications. In addition, the bill provides that any applicant considering filing a change application will have the right to meet informally with the State Engineer for a consultation. 

HB 41 Local Economic Development Amendments:  This bill provides a scaled down version of a local incentive program used to attract and recruit new businesses and creation of higher quality jobs. The bill streamlines the process, thus saving local entities time and expense in the creation of development districts and attracting new industry and jobs.

HB 80 Transportation Project Amendments:  This bill allows the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to conduct its own study and approval of environmental studies required by federal law (NEPA) for major highway transportation projects in our state, rather than waiting on the Federal government to conduct its review and obtain its approval.  This new process will save the State significant time for obtaining approvals and thus substantial money by being able to accelerate completion of major projects. 

HB 35 Parent-Time Schedule Amendments:  This bill provides for an expanded minor children visitation schedule for parties involved in divorce proceedings and may be utilized by the courts in making orders dividing time of each parent with the minor children.  Under certain qualifying conditions, a non-custodial parent could be granted a more expanded visitation schedule than the minimum schedule as currently exists under the law. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Coleman Reports on India Travel

TODAY IN ROTARY Jim Coleman, a longtime member of SGR, shared his experiences on a return trip to India where he served as a GSE team leader in 2006.   On this trip the PDG traveled 37 hours to spend 17 days in India where he participated in a National Polio Immunization Day in Dibrugarh, Assam.  For several hours, the St. George realtor, father and grandfather helped in the distribution of two drops of polio vaccine to children he had never met, nor would ever see again, to protect them from the debilitating, crippling, even fatal, disease of polio.

“To be part of the immunization team, to deliver the vaccine to an infant in his mother’s arms or to an apprehensive toddler unsure of what this activity was all about, was life-changing, not just for the recipient but also for the one doing the immunizing,” states Coleman of his experience.  “Some of the children stepped right up, tilted their heads back and opened their mouth, as if to say, ‘Thank you for helping me to have a normal life free from this terrible disease’.”

India - polio free for three years - is Rotary's fastest growing area in the world, attracting tribesmen as well as polished professionals who proudly declare "together we defeated polio."  It is a country of “classes and castes among people of prosperity, poverty and pollution” but they are working toward unity among diversity.

For more information, contact Jim at

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

SGR Hears About HWSG's Successes and Future!

From far left:  Roger Allred, Kurt Johnson, Cort Matthews,
Lane Ronnow,
Nick Lang and Jeff Morby
TODAY IN ROTARY, SGR officially welcomed 4 new members:  Cort Mathews with a classification of Home Health and sponsored by Brent Guerisoli; Roger Allred with a classification of Business Consultant and sponsored by Kurt Johnson; Lane Ronnow,  a Business Consultant sponsored by Nick Lang and, returning member Jeff Morby with a classification of Property Management is sponsored for a second time by Linda Sappington.  With the addition of these four outstanding business and community leaders, SGR now has a current membership of 69 with 6 honorary members!!!  More members means more service to our community, our district and the world!

Today’s speaker Kyle Case, CEO of the Huntsman World Senior Games provided impressive numbers relating to the success of the event he has directed for the past nine years.

Now in its 29th year, the HWSG’s is the world’s largest event of its kind with 10,853 participants in 2014 … larger than the London Olympic Games with a mere 10,350 participants. 

·               19 of the 28 sports in 2014 saw a substantial increase in participants
·               In 2014, the games had 2244 new athletes – those who had never participated in past years – which means the word continues to get out to the world about this fun event and what a welcoming community St. George is!
·               Softball had 340 teams, while volleyball had 192 teams and pickleball maxed out 550 participants registered in 22 days and SG City is in the process of doubling its courts to 24
·               The games brought in $19,195,217 new dollars which are doubled, tripled, even quadrupled in the local economy
·               Two new sports – small bore and shuffleboard – were added last year and expected to grow substantially in the second year of play

In 2015:
·               Opening ceremonies will be held on Tuesday, October 6 with the 2nd week opening ceremonies scheduled on the DSU campus on Tuesday, October 13
·               Registration opened on March 1 and pickleball maxed out by March 3 with women’s 50+ volleyball category now closed
·               As of March 16, 1385 participants have already registered for the event
·               New branding is in place to give the games a new look

Rotarians are encouraged to “register today to compete, volunteer or sponsor” in the Huntsman World Senior Games October 3 – 17, 2015.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

District Fiesta 2015

“Members will go to Mexico … but they’ll come back as Rotarians,” said PDG Gil Trujillo as he and District Conference chair Bev Christy shared plans for service for every age in Puerto Penasco, Mexico during the week of June 8 – 15, 2015. 

Things to know before you go:

*  It's safe!!!
*  Our club hasn't selected a service project, yet
*  Transportation will be provided to all service projects
*  May 1 is the final deadline for registration

*  All activities - and registered participants - are covered by RI's insurance policy
*  Enterprise Rentals has automobile insurance available for drivers in Mexico
*  This is going to be a memorable, exciting and once-in-a-lifetime experience
*  It's safe!!!

For more information, contact Gil Trujillo at (in charge of approximately 40% of service projects) or Bev Christy at

Monday, March 2, 2015

Kane Speaks of the "Amazing IHC"

She’s the lady who oversees the regional facility named one of America’s Top 100 Hospitals.  Terri Kane, CEO of Dixie Regional Medical Center for more than a decade, has administered - "from an incredible front row seat" - the multi-faceted health care center with more than 2200 employees, nearly 300 physicians, about 250 volunteers, and where in 2014 more than 4700 inpatient surgeries and 8300 outpatient procedures were performed and over 45,700 people visited the Emergency Room for care.  A former Rotarian who is proud and passionate about her work and the “groundbreaking things happening at DRMC” calls her time as the lady-in-charge “a massive journey" to make changes to care for more than 350,000 people in the Southern Utah region of Intermountain Health Care. 

Following quickly on the heels of the opening of the River Road campus, DRMC’s plans for continued development “were scaled back when the economy slumped” but soon work will begin on the addition of another 300,000 square feet to the existing facility.

What are the plans for the 400 E. campus?  “We have maintained it very well over the years so we are discussing the future of the space in the heart of the St. George residential community – close to the temple, the university, the hospital and downtown,” said Kane to members of SGR during their Monday, March 2 luncheon.  “We will soon be moving Women’s and Children’s Services to the River Road campus, then we will be in a better position to move forward on a plan which will likely focus on the senior community.  In 2025, the state of Utah will have an over 65 population of 13% of the total … but in Washington County, that number will be almost 30% of our general population.” 

“Please invite me back to share more of the amazing things happening at DRMC,” said Kane.  “Good health care is one of the major components in people’s decisions to live and work here.  I love that I can draw a paycheck for helping people improve their lives!”