Learning curves and long days for Northern Utah’s Freshmen Legislators

Utah House of Representatives at work during the 2019 Legislative session Utah Capitol.

Long days, learning curves and a lot of legislation. That’s how three Northern Utah freshmen legislators summed up the 45 days spent in Salt Lake City during the 2019 legislative session.

As for the “long days”, Rep. Casey Snider, R-District #5, said, “I’m just thankful to be able to get back and get to the farm.”

Rep. Dan Johnson, R-District #4, said he “learned you can’t take things personally.”

Rep. Joel Ferry, R-District #1, agreed the amount of legislation was staggering, however, “at the end of the day when we passed our final budget, we were able to do it in a way that’s fiscally responsible and moves our state forward.”

Snider, Johnson and Ferry were among 17 new faces in the Utah House of Representatives. That’s about 23 percent of the 75-member chamber.

Snider, who was assigned to several committees, including the Criminal Justice Committee, dealt with a number of gun laws that failed to gain traction.

The most controversial was the so-called “Lauren’s Law” dealing with gun owner liability. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to hold HB190, named for a University of Utah student who was gunned down last fall, after a motion to move it forward failed. The bill would have allowed a gun owner to be sued if the weapon was loaned to another person and it was used in a violent felony.

Snider thought the “implications on legal and law-abiding citizens” were too punitive and he was glad to see the bill put on hold.

Snider was able to move a few pieces of legislation forward including the Emergency Services Volunteer Employment Protection Act. The bill protects the jobs of emergency service volunteers who are called out on an emergency during business hours.

Johnson was assigned to the House Education Committee, Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee and Transportation Committee. He said his background in education helped when it came to making decisions on bills that involved funding for various school programs.

Johnson said it was fascinating to be involved with topics ranging from Medicaid to the alcohol content in beer. “A lot of really important work was done,” he said.” I was really excited about being a part of this particular legislative session when so many public issues were addressed.”

Ferry sat on a number of committees, including the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee.

He said he quickly embraced the legislative process. “The approach I tried to take was to be there to learn, observe, absorb and to contribute as much as I could to make significant changes and input that would benefit our community in Northern Utah.”

“I really worked hard to help with some of the land protection stuff,” Ferry said. “We created the Willard Spur Waterfowl Management Area and I’m proud of that.”

All three representatives say they are fiscally conservative and were glad the Utah State Legislature did not pursue the passage of a controversial tax reform bill.

The bad news, according to Snider, “tax issues aren’t going away.”

Legislators indicated they would essentially go back to the drawing board with the bill, possibly during a summer special session.

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