By Michael Evans
Starting with headline-making issues: Proposition 2, the medical Marijuana initiative, passed with language that required the legislature to draft the final law. Replacement legislation called The Medical Cannabis Act passed a special legislative session on December 3.
Proposition 3, expanding access to Medicaid for at least 150,000 Utah citizens, was approved by the voters and will take effect in April of 2019. This federal program is the financial bedrock of the elder care network that so many Utah families rely on for their parents, grandparents, and aging relatives.
Proposition 4, instituting an independent redistricting commission for congressional boundaries passed by a slim margin. These boundaries are redrawn every ten years by the state legislature based on the U.S. Census, and the new law will turn this task over to a bipartisan committee. Salt Lake County, as a whole, may become a congressional district because of this legislation, but that is only conjecture.
Ben McAdams (D) ousted incumbent Mia Love (R) by approximately 700 votes in the election for Congressional District 4, which includes the southern part of Salt Lake County. McAdams is now the only Utah congressman who is in the majority party in congress. Formerly all four Utah congressional representatives were in the majority party.
Incumbent Chris Stewart (R) kept his congressional seat in District 2, comprising most of Western Utah, including West Valley City and Salt Lake County north of I-80. Stewart began his town hall meeting at West High School in 2017 by acknowledging that many in the crowd likely didn’t vote for him, then went on to say it was still important to hear them. His opponent, political newcomer Shireen Ghorbani (D) promised: “No lies, no hate, no health care cuts, no family separations” in a last-minute mailer, and got almost 40 percent of the total votes.
Rob Bishop (R – District 1) and John Curtis (R – District 3) held onto their seats. Mitt Romney is going to the U.S. Senate after earning 62 percent of the vote. He has residences in several states, but his management of Utah’s 2002 Winter Olympics is widely admired.
Democratic State Representatives Sandra Hollins (District 23) and Angela Romero (District 26) were re-elected by wide margins. In Senate District 2, which includes a portion of Glendale, Democrat Derek Kitchen took 76 percent of the vote.
Linda B. Hansen will represent State School Board District 3, and Laura Collier Belnap will represent State School Board District 5. Nate Salazar took 80 percent of the vote against Douglas Greene in the race for Salt Lake City School Board District 4, which includes a small portion of Poplar Grove east of the Jordan River between 500 South and 800 South. All state judges on the ballot were retained.
Constitutional Amendment A, the Military Property Tax Exemption Modification easily passed with the promise of helping to lower the tax burden of military families. Constitutional Amendment C, which gives the legislature power to call special sessions under circumstances like the sudden resignation of Jason Chaffetz in 2017, passed as well. A state property tax adjustment was defeated, as was a non-binding proposal for a gas tax. Salt Lake County passed a bond issue for road maintenance which indicated that Utahns weren’t completely dead-set against taxation for public services.
Nationally, the Democratic Party gained a majority in Congress. The Republican Party took four more seats in the U.S. Senate, but lost two others. Their majority stood at 53, while the Democratic Party and Independents had 47 seats.