Legislative Update: December 2016

Legislative Update: December 2016

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Legislative Update: December 2016



Chief Budget Staffer Honored

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recently presented Jonathan Ball, chief budget staffer for the Utah Legislature, with the Steven D. Gold Award.

The Gold Award honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of state and local finance, especially those that erase boundaries between academics and public policy.

Ball is the director of the office of Utah’s Legislative Fiscal Analysts and leads a team of 25 economists, accountants, financial analysts and support staff who help legislators craft the state budget each year. He has contributed to several academic publications, is a frequent guest lecturer at colleges and universities in Utah and regularly presents on budget issues for national organizations, including NCSL. He served as president of the National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices and the Western States Legislative Fiscal Officers Association. He is currently staff co-chair of NCSL’s Standing Committees and a member of the NCSL Executive Committee.

We are fortunate in the Utah Legislature to work with such stellar staff members who allow us to better do our jobs as lawmakers. Our state is consistently recognized for the accuracy and reliability of our budget projections and analysis, and in the Legislature, we have Jonathan Ball and his team to thank for that. We congratulate him for this award.

 Majority Leadership Team

Utah House Majority elected their leadership team that will lead the caucus into the 2017 legislative session. They are as follows:

Current Speaker of the House Greg Hughes was selected to serve a second term. Hughes was first elected to the Utah Legislature in 2002.

House Speaker Greg Hughes issued the following statement:

“I am grateful for the support I have received from my colleagues, and I look forward to continuing in my position as Speaker. I have always considered it a great privilege to serve the people in District 51 and all of Utah. In a leadership position, I have an even greater charge that I take very seriously. I believe those elected to serve have a heartfelt desire to make our communities and our state even better. We will continue to focus on listening to Utahns and making their priorities our priorities. We know many challenges lie ahead, but the leadership team we have assembled will to serve with diligence and dedication to improve this great state.”

The Majority Leader will be Rep. Brad Wilson. He currently serves as Assistant Majority Whip and was elected to the Utah House of Representatives in 2010

“It is a high honor to be elected to lead this distinguished caucus — I am deeply humbled and truly grateful,” said Wilson. “My goal is to collaborate and listen to every member of the majority caucus to continue bringing their voices and ideas to the leadership table.”

Current Majority Whip Francis Gibson was selected to serve a second term. He has served in the House since 2009.

“I am honored that my colleagues have placed their trust and confidence in me to serve as Whip,” said Rep. Gibson. “Our work is set out before us, but we are on the right path forward.”

Rep. John Knotwell will serve as Majority Assistant Whip. He has served in the House since 2013.

“I’m humbled to have earned the trust of my colleagues to serve as Majority Assistant Whip,” said Knotwell. “We are here to govern, and I look forward to a productive session that addresses priorities Utah families care about most.”

Speaker Hughes’ extended leadership team will include:

Rep. Dean Sanpei will continue to serve as Chair of Executive Appropriations
Rep. Brad Last will serve as Executive Appropriations
Rep. Michael Noel will continue in his role as Rules Committee Chair

Committee Assignments for the Upcoming Session

Every two years, following the leadership elections, the Speaker of the House selects committee chairs and make assignments for Standing and Appropriation Committees.

The new committee chair assignments have been well received as an opportunity to grow and tackle an aggressive agenda. The committee appointments are based on interest and expertise of members and, in some instances, will allow a fresh perspective. The two-year assignments will begin January 1st, 2017.

View the full list of new committee assignments here.

Season Greetings 

Christmas is a time to remember that we are not alone in this world, that our actions have repercussions beyond ourselves and that each of us has a role to play in blessing the lives of others. Most people in the United States generally feel pretty happy, but according to the Center for Disease Control, 40 percent of Americans don’t feel a deep sense of purpose.

According to one recent study, Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life, while being happy and finding meaning in life overlap somewhat, there are significant differences. One that stands out is that “Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker.” The authors of the study point out that those with more meaningful lives experience higher levels of stress and worry, even while feeling a greater sense of purpose.

Through our work here in the legislature, we have seen the sacrifices of many of our fellow-citizens, from the teachers in our schools to the policemen on our streets, to the parents in their homes, raising children with love and patience.

This Christmastime, as we reflect on the past year, may we each ask ourselves what it is we’re doing to build not only a happy life but a more meaningful life – for ourselves as well as for those around us.


The holiday season can be hectic, from Christmas shopping to family gatherings to school recitals. We decided to share with you a few of our favorite recipes, perfect for a party or a snowy night. Let us know which recipes listed below you try as well as what your favorite recipes are to make this time of year.

Creamy White Chili is easy and delicious, especially on a cold winter night. This dish can be ready in less than an hour on the stove or can be made in a slow cooker, which is the preferred method of the House staff. Both options are below. View the recipe here.

Ingredients: *Serves 6

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder or 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
  • 2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish

In a large saucepan, sauté chicken, onion and garlic powder (or fresh garlic, if using) in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream and cream. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately.

Slow Cooker Option: In a medium round slow cooker, place one-pound chicken breasts (fresh or frozen) without cubing them. Add the chopped onion, garlic powder, beans, green chiles and all of the spices. Do not add the sour cream or whipping cream yet! Reduce the chicken broth to 12 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) and pour in over the other ingredients. Stir the mixture around a bit to incorporate the dry spices. Cook on low for 5-7 hours (if using frozen chicken, you’ll cook on the longer end of that spectrum, fresh chicken will cook in less time). Remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred into bite-size pieces. Stir back into the slow cooker. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the sour cream and whipping cream until smooth. Whisk the cream mixture into the crockpot with the other ingredients. Let the soup cook until heated through.

Peppermint Ice Cream Cake is festive and sure to be a hit during the holiday season! Embrace the cold, sit by the fire and enjoy a delicious slice. View the recipe here. 

Ingredients: *Serves 16

  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups peppermint ice cream (Farr’s is our top choice), softened
  • 3 cups frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
  • 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 8 peppermint candies, crushed

Preheat oven to 350°

Coat two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line bottom of each pan with wax paper.
Combine cocoa, water and butter, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cool.

Combine sugars in a large bowl, stirring well until blended. Add egg substitute; beat two minutes or until light and creamy. Add cocoa mixture and beat for one minute.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to a bowl; beat for one minute or until blended. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pans. Wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for two hours or until slightly frozen.

Spread ice cream in an 8-inch round cake pan lined with plastic wrap. Cover and freeze four hours or until firm.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer, bottom side up, on a cake pedestal. Remove ice cream layer from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Place ice cream layer, bottom side up, on top of cake layer. Top with remaining cake layer.

Combine whipped topping and peppermint extract, and stir until blended. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with crushed peppermints. Freeze until ready to serve. Let cake stand at room temperature 10 minutes before slicing.