New leaders taking over as Utah Legislature opens

FILE - In this March 4, 2015, file photo, Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, speaks during a news conference at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. The 2019 Utah legislative session will kick off Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, with a new set of leaders as Republican Brad Wilson takes over for Greg Hughes as Speaker of the House, Republican Adams replaces Wayne Niederhauser as Senate President and Democrat Karen Mayne becomes the minority leader of the Senate. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Legislature’s 2019 session will open Monday with new faces in several leadership roles.

Taxes, education and Medicaid expansion are expected to be among the big issues this year. Utah voters approved fully expanding Medicaid in November, but lawmakers who long resisted the change are expected to propose revisions that will have supporters fighting back.

Here is a look at the top leaders, chosen by a vote of lawmakers within their party. Majority leaders appoint committees, chair daily sessions and oversee the running of their respective chambers:


Republican Brad Wilson is moving from majority leader to speaker of the Utah House, replacing outspoken former boxer Greg Hughes, who decided not to run for re-election in 2018 and is considered a possible candidate for governor.

Wilson represents Kaysville, and his day job is CEO of Destination Homes. During his legislative tenure he has helped oversee the sometimes contentious project to move the state’s aging prison from Draper to Salt Lake City. He also sponsored legislation that led to the removal of the so-called Zion Curtain that blocked bars from view in Utah restaurants.

Taxes will be among the big issues this year, he said, including Gov. Gary Herbert’s proposal to tax more services as sales tax revenue shrinks.

Sen. Evan Vickers is the new majority leader.


Utah’s new Senate president is Republican Stuart Adams, who was third in line as majority whip before winning the top job. He represents Layton, near Wilson’s hometown of Kaysville.

He is a partner in a real estate development firm and was first elected in 2009. Education will be among the top issues this year, especially preparing people for jobs needed in the workforce, he said.

Adams co-sponsored a milestone 2015 compromise bill extending antidiscrimination protections to LGBT people. He also co-sponsored the measure that created Utah’s lowest-in-the-nation DUI threshold of 0.05 percent blood-alcohol content, which took effect this year.


The Senate also has a new minority leader, Democratic Sen. Karen Mayne. She joined the Senate in 2008 after being appointed to the seat held by her late husband, Sen. Ed Mayne. She’s been elected twice since then, and previously served in other leadership roles.

Criminal justice reform and water use are among the important issues she expects to see this year, along with taxes and Medicaid expansion.


Rep. Brian King is returning to his role as minority leader in the state House for a fifth year. An attorney by trade, the Democrat has sponsored bills to keep guns from people convicted of domestic violence, which passed, and to create more comprehensive sex education in Utah schools, which failed.

King also advocated for full expansion of Medicaid, which was approved by voters after failing at the Capitol for years. The issue could be a contentious one again this session, with Republican lawmakers saying changes may be needed to keep costs in check.

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  • joe schmoe January 26, 2019 at 8:20 pm Reply

    Can they just take a few years off? Seems everytime they get together “we the people” get hosed!

  • Warren s Pugh January 27, 2019 at 4:27 pm Reply

    Joe is correct. From our congress we learned this to be true. If you can spend two+ years on Russiagate and 90+ days on the Kavanaugh ‘trial’ you have too much time on your hands. Reduce legislative sessions to 180 days.

    Most tragic is that freshXXX think they must write a bill to become someone. That stinks.

    Also heard the legislature is discussing a suggestion that red lights may be ignored when traffic is light. Yes and No. Only if drivers approaching reds make a complete stop. East-west traffic at Main Street intersections is bearish especially on Sunday.

    Perhaps we could talk the DMV to include driver lessons that teach all ages how to
    negotiate, say, eastbound turns by vehicles north and southbound. It is possible
    as long as southbound vehicles stay in the eastbound inside lane, and northbound
    vehicles remain in the outside lane of eastbound traffic. This will reduce the likelihood of a citation for sitting in the intersection while waiting for movement.
    Besides the red light change the bill making machines are considering a traffic fine
    for doing just that. Let’s hope the Utah legislature is a little more efficient than the U.S. variety.

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