Report from the Senate

Utah State Sen. Ralph Okerlund meets with fifth grade students from Pahvant Elementary School at the Utah State Capitol building in Salt Lake City Jan. 27.

We kicked off the 2020 General Legislative Session Monday, Jan. 27. 

The opening day is largely ceremonial, and we were fortunate to have Elder Ulisses Soares from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offer the invocation, the Utah Air National Guard present the colors, and the Utah Symphony perform the national anthem. We also received a report from Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Durrant on the state of the judiciary.

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with fifth grade students from Pavant elementary. I also was able to recognize Russ Cowley on the senate floor for his service to rural Utah.

One of the first bills we passed this session was H.B. 185 Tax Restructuring Revisions – Repeal, which as the name suggests, repealed all parts of the tax reform package we passed in December. While we still have a structural issue we need to address with the budget, it became clear during the signature gathering for the referendum that many citizens have strong concerns around the tax legislation. Additionally, it would have been difficult to pass a balanced budget for the year if tax code changes halfway through the year via ballot vote. The bill passed unanimously in the senate, and with only one dissenting vote in the house. We do not plan to pass major tax reform legislation during this session. 

Nearly every year I work on water legislation, as it is so important for my district and our state as a whole. This year I am proud to be the co-sponsor of S.B. 26 Water Banking Amendments, which creates a local, voluntary, and temporary pilot for water banking. Over 70 stakeholders weighed in on this meeting, and nearly two dozen outreach meetings were held throughout the state to solicit input. 

The bill address legal barriers to water market activity, incentivizes the use of water banks and creates a governance structure for water banking, among other things. This pilot will be tested through three demonstration projects in specific watersheds and has a 10-year sunset period that can be extended or repealed. 

You can learn more about water banking at This bill passed the second reading with unanimous support in the senate. 

I would like to thank each of you who took the time to complete my pre-session questionnaire. From the questionnaire I learned that many of your top priorities include — economic development, health care affordability, education and water issues. I also learned that many of you rank public education as your top budget priority and would like to see us increase teacher salaries. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts, concerns and opinions with me as we continue throughout the legislative session.

Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to serve in this position and represent you at our State’s Capitol. 

I appreciate your support and hope to hear from you throughout the session.

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