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The City Journals

Legislative representatives speak to city council about session

Feb 03, 2017 11:28AM ● By Kelly Cannon

State Representative Mark Wheatley addressed the South Salt Lake City Council about the legislative session. (Kelly Cannon/City Journals)

By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]

Local state representatives visited with the South Salt Lake City Council on Jan. 11 to discuss the legislative session. Representative Mark Wheatley (R) and Senator Gene Davis (D) both spoke about their plans for the session, which began Jan. 23. Wheatley represents District 35, which includes most of South Salt Lake and areas of Murray. Davis represents South Salt Lake, West Valley City, Millcreek, Sugarhouse and Murray.


Wheatley addressed the council first, thanking them for inviting both him and Davis to talk about the legislative session.


“It’s our favorite time of the year,” Wheatley said. “It’s like Christmas.”


Wheatley asked the council if they have any concerns about what will be discussed, to give him a call.


Davis addressed the council after Wheatley, promising at the end of the 45-day session, there will be a balanced budget.


“Beyond that, everything that is on the table is up for debate and I hope to be able to debate those greatly,” Davis said.


Wheatley explained there are a lot of issues that will be discussed during the 45-day session. The No. 1 issue Wheatley said he has been involved with in his 12 years of service is education.


“Back then, we were talking about education and how we’re going to fund the growing population of our students,” Wheatley said. “And we’re still having those discussions today.”


He explained he and Davis and other representatives had met with the Granite Education Association and had a “lively and robust” discussion about education.


“We have tremendous individuals who are teaching our children,” Wheatley said. “But sometimes they have challenges we create as legislatures.”


Wheatley cited the challenges of not only having enough funding for schools but the problem of retaining qualified and experienced teachers. He said last year in one school, there were 24 vacancies so 13 new teachers were hired. However, 11 of those had left.


“We’re losing a lot of individuals with experience that can teach our students and make sure our students are successful,” Wheatley said.


Like Wheatley, Davis also addressed the need for focus on education, including a number of issues to get money into the classroom.


“The thing is, business is the one writing the bill this year,” Davis said. “We’re afraid it’s going to cause some economic distress if we raise taxes.”


Davis cited the 2008 recession as one where budgets both at the state and local level had to be cut.


“We have not restored to the point of eight years ago the amount of money he had cut because of that downturn,” Davis said. “We’re just barely getting back to where we were some eight years later.”


During that time, Davis said the population has been growing and the education is at a busting point.


“Education is the number one thing we need to do,” Davis said.


Wheatley also talked about the issue of air quality, referencing the fact he has asthma.


“During inversion days, it really affects our children and our elderly,” Wheatley said.


Other bills already slated in the session include a carbon emission tax, education funding, mortgage and student loan forgiveness and a bill to ensure rape kits are tested. Wheatley also cited issues on public lands, cannabis and voter rights which will also be a major part of the session.


“We have a full agenda and I ask that you please contact me to ensure that I can answer any questions you may have,” Wheatley said.


Davis said in order to accomplish what they want to do, they need input from representatives of local government like the city council and from residents at large.


“What are your concerns? What are your needs?” Davis said.