On what will be Utah’s Speaker of the House, Greg Hughes’ last legislative session, the Draper Republican leader offered an opening address in which he told his assembled lawmakers and the public to continue working with the “political courage” that Utah politicians are known for, because in his words, “You’re going to see some big changes,” said Hughes, “Particularly regarding lands and monuments.” He outlined other successes that have gone untrumpeted because “We don’t do that. We don’t brag.” His first example was the addition of $800 Million for education funding over the past three years.
Additionally, the Speaker spoke of a unique approach to “inter-modal transportation infrastructure,” saying, “We can’t afford to have our population increase at the same rate as ‘vehicle miles traveled,’ because “we just can’t make the roads wide enough and we can’t repair them quick enough [for the expected population boom].” With his background as a board member of the Utah Transit Authority, Hughes’ influence there has brought the Beehive State to what he calls an “inter-modal, transportation infrastructure plan” that will put the state of Utah “…in the business of moving people from point A to point B and we’re not picking our favorite mode.” Indicating that this plan was new for Utah, he claimed it was a much broader transportation vision than many other states have.
The seven-term Republican, a native of Pittsburgh, went on the say that the reason why Utah does bold things politically is, “It’s due to our culture. We are wired to do difficult things.” Citing the recent effort behind the government’s “long-term plan,” homelessness response known as Operation Rio Grande, (a multi-agency and intergovernmental, inner-city cleanup sweep) Hughes that this is what happens when “branches [of government] work well.” Quick to share credit on that effort with Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, Commissioner of Public Safety Keith Squires, the state Attorney General, Sean Reyes among others, the Speaker’s address also emphasized the bi-partisan nature of voting on the bills before the House.
Compared to a meager 24 percent of bills voted in unison by the Republicans and Democrats of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., the Utah House votes are synchronized in a bi-partisan fashion a whopping 86 percent of the time. “Again,” Hughes stressed, “that’s because of our culture.”
The Utah legislature runs through midnight on Friday, March 9th.