By Shawn Wood, communications specialist, University Marketing & Communications
Jason Perry, vice president for government relations and director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, suggests three ways to engage with your local legislators:
- Share your passion for the issues. Tell your legislators how their actions impact you directly.
- Stay up-to-date throughout the session. You can enact change when legislators know the public is staying engaged.
- Be reactive to the changes that occur throughout the session. If something happens that you don’t agree with, let your representative know their constituents are paying attention.
Fun fact: Each legislator is given three priority bills each session. These bills are guaranteed to be seen and discussed by a committee. However, each legislator can sponsor as many bills as he or she wants. There’s no limit.
The 2018 Utah Legislative Session begins today, and according to Jason Perry, U vice president for government relations, the U has four key priorities during the session. A record number of bills have been filed so far — over 1,100 bills — many of which will be considered over the next 45 days. Perry says that for the first time in years, the U is not looking to fund new buildings. Our top priorities this session:
Compensation: The U supports the Utah System of Higher Education’s (USHE) 3 percent pay increase for faculty and staff at state colleges and universities. Gov. Gary Herbert has already recommended a compensation increase in his budget, which Perry says is a promising indicator. This is an important initiative toward improving retention and recruitment of top-tier faculty and staff across the state.
Workforce Alignment Initiative: The U also supports USHE’s initiative to have universities and colleges across the state work with the business sector to prepare students for jobs in industries projected to see the most growth in the coming years. The request is for a shared $4.5 million dollars to be used by the institutions to develop programs designed to meet this need. The U will focus its portion of the funds to promote nursing education and meet the continued demand for this important profession.
Student Housing: The U is requesting state approval to bond for a new $105 million undergraduate student housing complex on campus. The 992-bed project will be funded through the bond, private philanthropy and food vendor contracts – not state funds. Data show there is a 12 percent increase in graduation and retention rates when students live on campus.
Secured Promised Health Sciences Funding : In 2017, the legislature approved and structured the allocation of funds to replace and rebuild the U’s aging medical school – $50 million over a three-year period. The first year, 2017, the U received $5 million which allowed planning and construction to begin. This year, the U anticipates $25 million, and in 2019, the final $20 million allocation.
If you’re interested in learning more about how the state legislature works Perry encourages you to join the U’s volunteer legislative advocates. Comprised of alumni, present and former faculty, staff and students, the group meets regularly and helps educate and inform their representatives and senators about issues critical to the U and higher education in the state. To sign up, click here.
Find your legislative representative at le.utah.gov and clicking the “My Legislators” button and entering your address.