Utah First

I was honored that members of my staff could attend the First Annual Utah Fallen Heroes Family Day at Neptune Park in Saratoga Springs.  This event was organized by The Patriot Guard Riders of Utah, Blue Star Mothers, Survivor Outreach Service Support, and the City of Saratoga Springs.  The event was held to honor and show gratitude to the families of our military and first responders who gave their lives in service to our country and communities.

fallen heroes

Today I attended a conference hosted by the National Association of Counties to discuss the importance and future of Payment in Lieu of Taxes funding.  I appreciated the opportunity to speak to this group, so I could share my thoughts on how we can ensure that a dispropotionate share of the costs and burdens of federal land ownership aren't concentrated in counties with high levels of federal land.

pilt fliers

Materials from the conference that highlight the problematic relationship bewteen PILT and federal lands

In my remarks to this group I identified several areas that we need to focus on as we work together to improve the PILT program and make it more reliable for the counties that rely on the federal government to keep its promise to offset the costs associated with high concentrations of federal land.

I emphasized that PILT is not an entitlement program. It is an affirmative obligation of the federal government. It must not be legislatively partnered with subsidies or other entitlements, because, as we have seen, PILT is being used as a politcal football.  I will continue to work toward funding PILT as either a standalone bill or any other vehicle where Congress can focus on fully funding PILT with a long term bill that provides certainty to counties.

pilt speech

I also pointed out that the most important thing we need to focus on in improving the PILT program is to educate those who come from states with little federal land about the nature of this program.  Every day I work to educate my colleagues about the unique challenges faced by states with high levels of public land.  However, this education effort needs to be promoted by everyone who is concerned with the future of PILT.  I am hopeful that those who attended this conference today will join me in this effort.

 

Today members of staff from my office were invited to attend a ceremony in the Utah State Capitol Building to honor 181 of the 17,000 Utahns who fought in the Korean War.  They were presented with the South Korea Ambassador for Peace Medal.

south korea ambassador for peace medal

south korea honors utah veterans

In a recent trip to St. George, I was invited to tour Switchpoint: a new facility in the area that provides temporary shelter and support for the homeless community in Washington county.  I was joined by St. George City Councilmembers Bette Arial, Michele Randall, and Jimmy Hughes; Mayor John Pike; and City Manager Gary Esplin.  Carol Hollowell is the director of Switchpoint, and she led the tour.

Last November, I delivered a speech about reducing poverty entitled, Bring Them In.  In this passage from the speech I highlighted one of the principles for reducing poverty that is often forgotten in policy debates:

We usually refer to the free market and civil society as “institutions.” But really, they are networks of people and information and opportunity. What makes these networks uniquely powerful is that they impel everyone – regardless of race, religion, or wealth - to depend not simply on themselves or the government, but on each other. For all America’s reputation for individualism and competition, our nation has from the beginning been built on a foundation of community and cooperation.

In a free market economy and voluntary civil society, no matter your career or your cause, your success depends on your service. The only way to get ahead is to help others do the same. The only way to look out for yourself is to look out for your neighbors. 

As I toured Switchpoint, I was convinced that their model that relies primarily on the institutions of civil society is a model that policies that are intended to reduce poverty need to follow.  The institutions of government had a small role to play in helping Switchpoint secure their building.  One of their innovations of the facility is to designate an area where 17 non-profit partners and local government agencies can be available to those who visit the facility.  The bulk of the effort that is utilized to run this facility is provided by volunteers.  Local organizations of contractors and local businesses donated materials and labor for renovating and modernizing the facility.  Another group donated computers that can be used by those who visit the facility to search for work, fill out forms and paper work, participate in job training programs, and develop new skills. Religious groups donated crucial resources and volunteers as well.

switchpoint rooms

Donated Materials and Bedroom Furniture

Computer kiosks

Computer Kiosks for Donated Computers

Aside from this community assistance, much of the operation of the facility will depend on the volunteer work of those who are receiving its services.  While I was touring the kitchen, a woman who was receiving assistance from Switchpoint was helping maintain the kitchen and preparing lunch.

Switchpoint kitchen

Learning About Kitchen Volunteer Program

I was certainly impressed by Switchpoint's innovative approach to making poverty more temporary, but I was not surprised to see this innovation coming from from my fellow Utahns.  This is why as part of my Conservative Reform Agenda, my proposals that are designed to provide opportunity and upward mobility to those who are struggling focus primarily on shifting power from Washington DC to the states, local governments, and local communities that can truly make a difference to those they serve. 

Americans need a new, comprehensive anti-poverty agenda that not only corrects – but transcends – existing policies, and I believe Switchpoint is an organization that proves we can meet this challenge.

Yesterday I joined with the Salt Lake Chamber and the Governor’s office to host the Utah Solutions Summit.  This event provided a venue for Utah business leaders and government officials to come together to discuss the vast and uncertain regulatory state with which businesses are required to comply. The event was also an avenue to find solutions to government imposed burdens placed on economic development. In addition to providing information about the role of regulation and regulation compliance through panel discussions, Senator Lee facilitated industry specific roundtable discussions. In these roundtables, industry leaders discussed ways to alleviate the burdens these regulations have on their companies with a representative from Senator Lee’s office, a representative from the Governor’s office, and others.

solution summit lee

The summit began with an opening speech by myself, and I was followed by a keynote speech given by my friend, Senator Tom Coburn. Both speeches focused on over-reach at the federal level.  I compared the federal government to a “helicopter parent,” with 80,000 pages of new federal rules handed down in 2013.

solution summit coburn

After the opening speeches, there were two panel discussions: A local regulation panel consisting of city officials and business leaders, and a state regulation panel consisting of economists, business leaders, and an agency director. These panelists examined and provided insight regarding the relationship between regulation and economic development.

panel

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox spoke to the group at lunch where he presented examples on how regulation negatively affects innovation in the economy.

In the afternoon, attendees dispersed into industry specific roundtable discussions. The goal of these roundtables was to bring together representatives of businesses and industries to discuss the regulatory burden under which they are required to comply. Participants were asked to bring their most burdensome regulations to the summit as well as potential solutions they would like to put into place to address these problems.

We held roundtable discussions on these topics

  • Real Estate & Commercial Construction

  • Banking & Finance

  • Technology, Entrepreneurship, & Small

    Business

  • Healthcare, Medical Devices, &

    Pharmaceuticals

  • Transportation

  • Energy, Natural Resources, & Public Lands

Mr. Wayne Crews, an expert from the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, provided a presentation on federal regulation for those attendees that did not participate in the roundtable discussions.

I am grateful for the time set aside and the effort made by those in attendance.  The ideas driven through dialogue produced important strategies to address the vast regulatory burden your business faces every day.

At the end of May, I sent a newsletter to highlight some of the important work my staff had conducted on behalf of Utah's veterans.  At the time, I also announced a series of events that my staff and I would attend to stay engaged with veterans across the state of Utah.

Over the last few weeks, my staff and I have been busy maintaining an open dialogue with Utah's veterans and those who have been entrusted to their care.

Utah Honor Flight

I was pleased to be a part of the Utah Honor Flight, which gives veterans the opportunity to travel to DC at no cost to visit and be honored at their memorials.  During their three day event, they visited the Vietnam and Lincoln memorials, Washington Monument, and Iwo Jima Memorial.  The also toured Arlington Cemetery where they witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknow Soldier.  Veterans are honored at a banquet in DC and presented medals to thank them for their service.  I was honored to have had the pleasure of meeting with these veterans at the WWII Memorial in Washington DC.

utah honor flight bus

Bus to Escort Veterans to Airport

Navy Girl

A Proud Navy Girl

Honorable Send Off

An Honorable Send Off

Several members of my staff attended the send off and welcome home ceremonies in Utah.

welcome home
Welcoming the Heroes Home

Local Trucking Company Honors Veterans

On June 20, my office attended an event hosted by C.R. England to honor Utah’s veterans. C.R. England is a local trucking company and the largest temperature-controlled carrier in the world.  The company unveiled two new veteran-branded trucks that they are adding to the fleet that veterans will drive. I was glad my staff could be part of this great event to show support for our veterans

Flag Retirement Ceremony

I also asked representatives of my office to attend the Provo Freedom Festival's Flag Retirement Ceremony held on Flag Day, Saturday, June 14, 2014.  Jim Evans (former Mayor of Orem) conducted the ceremony.  The Girl Scouts did an informative presentation on the evolution of the flag. The Boy Scouts participated in the retirement portion of the ceremony.  Four flags were retired (burned) in honor of the Gold Star families, Blue Star families, POW's and MIA’s.

flag retirement

Retiring Old Glory

Veteran Focused Mobile Office Visit

On June 26, 2014, my mobile office was set up at the George E. Wahlen Ogden Veterans Home from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.  My staff members Emily Wiscombe, Jessica Christopher, Ben Haymond and Ryan Wilcox were on hand to meet with individuals.

The home adds an $11 million economic boost to the local economy while providing a valuable service to those who have given so much for us.

Upcoming events

My mobile office will be making several visits to veteran communities and centers across the state over the coming weeks.  You can subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates to attend these events.  I will also hold a veteran-focused town hall meeting in August so members of the community can ask questions and give me their thoughts directly.  Once the time and location of this event is finalized, I will provide more information.  I appreciate the valuable feedback I receive during these events.

ceremonial quarter

Today a member of my staff attended the ceremonial release of the 2014 Arches National Park quarter, the 23rd coin of the United States Mint America the Beautiful
Quarters Program.  The America's Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar
Coin Act of 2008 requires the United States Mint to design, mint, and issue quarter-dollar coins emblematic of a national park or other national site in each state, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. Territories.  The Arches National Park quarter follows the
release of the quarters honoring Shenandoah National Park (Virginia), Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee), Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota), and Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (Maryland).  Under the America the Beautiful Quarters Program, the United States Mint will issue five new quarters each year in the order in which each honored national park or other national site was first
established, with one final coin in 2021.  Richard Peterson, U.S. Mint Deputy Director made the presentation to the state, with participation from Lt. Governor Spencer Cox and Kate Cannon, Arches National Park Superintendent.  Quarters ceremonial packets were issued to all the children present and then to participants.  The official issuance to the
public will be today.

Meeting Utah Businesses

During the last week, I have been meeting with various groups across the state of Utah.  I had a few meetings with various business leaders, employees, and industry leaders in Utah's thriving private sector.

On Wednesday morning I was part of an executive roundtable with several dozen heads of companies that are listed on NASDAQ.  Many of these companies are technology companies.  We had a very engaging conversation about the patent reform bill I am co-sponsoring with Senator Leahy and how “patent trolls” are crippling many companies in their industries.

I also met with regional Comcast representatives to discuss Utah-specific issues regarding infrastructure and access.  As Utah continues to be one of the world's foremost locations for new businesses, entrepreneurship, and the tech industry, it was important to hear from one of our state's internet providers regarding the importance of high-speed internet access to these different sectors and to Utahns.

On Thursday I met with over 60 Salt Lake City-based employees of the Williams Company.  I provided a report of the current issues facing Congress, and I was able to hear from these hard-working Utahns about their industry, their concerns, and their accomplishments.

I also had a very productive discussion with the Utah Steel Fabricators Association.  This group comprises most of the distributors, processors, and fabricators of steel in the state of Utah, which represents many thousands of Utah jobs.  We discussed the future of American manufacturing, and how certain reforms can help continue job growth in Utah.

Meeting with Local Officials

On Thursday morning, I met with a group of legislators from the Utah House of Representatives.  It was an engaging and lively discussion with many of our state legislators, and we spent several hours discussing issues such as healthcare and education, and how I can best be a resource to our state legislature.

legislators lunch

I also spoke at the investiture of Judge Carolyn McHugh to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. I supported Judge McHugh’s nomination, the first female member of this court to be appointed in over 20 years.

mchugh

Meeting with Utah's Media

I had an enjoyable tour of ABC4 Studios in Salt Lake City by Richard Jones, the General Manager.  I met with many of the employees of Channel 4, and had an in-depth interview with Glen Mills, Channel 4’s political reporter, who asked me questions about my bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act, which I am co-sponsoring with one of my Democratic colleagues in the Senate. 

Sentencing reform

Transportation Reform

I hosted a dinner to honor high school graduates that I personally nominated to attend U.S. military academies.

These students go through a very rigorous interview process, they have impeccable grades, outstanding test scores, and they've also demonstrated and aptitude for leadership and high performance in every aspect of their lives.  I expect great things from this bright young group of students, and I am grateful that they are choosing to apply their talents to the service of our country.

Of the seven high school graduates from all over the state of Utah that have been accepted into these academies, four are going to the Naval Academy, two to West Point, and one to Air Force Academy.  I wish them the best in their future endeavors.

academy nominations

Pictured left to right: Dexter Clark, Seth White, Sen. Lee, Amy Johnston, Zerek Olson, & Keven Yeh


On Tuesday the 27th of May, the staff in my St. George office hosted an awards ceremony for Sidney Ingram (Ski).  LTC Anderson conducted the ceremony along with SGT Larsen and SGT Ogden of the SFC US Army 222.  They presented Ski with three ribbons he had earned during the Vietnam War. 

It is important that we all remember our Veterans that have served this country and that we ensure they receive the awards and recognition that they deserve.  I salute the efforts made by these men, and I appreciate the efforts of my staff to serve them.

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Honor Utah Veterans Gallery

As we approach Veterans Day on November 11, I am creating a photo gallery display in my Senate office memorializing the service of Utah’s veterans. If you are one of the brave Americans who has served or is serving, or if you are the friend or family member of a veteran - you are invited to share a photograph on Instagram that captures their commitment to country and their willingness to sacrifice.