Hosted by the Herbert Institute for Public Policy, the legislative forum on Jan. 14 at Utah Valley University heard from Rep. Brad Wilson (R-H.D. 15), speaker of the Utah House, Rep. Val Peterson (R-H.D. 59), assistant majority whip, Rep. Jefferson Moss (R- H.D. 2), majority whip and Rep. Stephen Whyte (R-H.D. 65). Each of these representatives expressed their concern over the devastating drought throughout Utah this last summer.
“Our top priority is water,” said Wilson. Speaking about projects to conserve Utah and the Great Salt Lakes, Wilson noted that the state had a great opportunity to make “generational investments” that will affect the state for years to come.
According to statistics by the National Centers for Environmental Information, 2020 was the driest year Utah has ever experienced since 1885 (when record-keeping began), with an average rainfall of 7.62 inches. As this drought continued, it has harmed the state’s ability to replace consumed water. This led Gov. Cox famously to urge residents to pray for rain in 2021.
Utah is still experiencing this drought. According to statistics provided by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, most of Utah is still rated in a “severe drought” as of Jan. 11.
“We are focusing on the issues that will affect Utahns for generations to come,” said Moss. With an unprecedented amount of funding coming to states through various stimulus packages passed by congress, the forum inferred that meaningful improvements can be made.
Growth is also considered to be a high priority among the state legislators, with Whyte stipulating, “[the] greatest challenge we are facing is growth.” Between 2010 and 2020, Utah saw nearly half a million new residents added to the state with the nation’s highest growth rate of 17.5%, according to the Census Bureau.
The same data also found that Utah County has outpaced Salt Lake County for the first time in many years, in terms of growth rate. Utah County had a growth rate of 27.7% since 2010.
Whyte explained that the state legislature will focus on infrastructure and planning so that Utah is better equipped to handle the explosive population growth. Focusing on roads, sewer systems, transportation and more. Whyte stated, “the future is looking bright!”
Wilson stressed that constituents need to be a part of this process if it is to be successful. He encouraged citizens to contact their local legislators and make their voices heard.
“The role of the house is to champion the issues of our constituents,” said Wilson. “Email your representatives, and if you don’t hear back from them, try calling their offices.”