Stenquist and Harrison review legislative accomplishments, talk future plansMar 28, 2022 10:12PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton
Suzanne Harrison presenting her bill to improve patient safety on the last night of the legislative session. (Courtesy Suzanne Harrison)
By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]
Jeff Stenquist and Suzanne Harrison represented Draper in the 2022 Utah Legislative session and both have been affected by the redistricting that happens as a result of the census every 10 years. Stenquist will run to represent Draper in the newly created District 46 and Harrison announced her campaign for the Salt Lake County Council. Both will be working on legislative issues in their current districts through the end of 2022 while simultaneously campaigning.
Stenquist has been District 51 representative for four years. He was first elected in 2018 and again in 2020. Prior to that, he spent 12 years on Draper’s city council. Stenquist explained that District 51 encompasses about 85% of Draper with the exception of the northeast corner (east of the Pioneer Road roundabout) and the Utah County side of SunCrest. Redistricting puts him in District 46 which now includes that northeast corner of Draper and follows the Draper/Sandy boundary from the east up to 300 East, all of South Mountain, the prison property, and now half of Bluffdale’s population. Stenquist said west of 300 East and north of Bangerter, such as the Galena Hills and aquarium areas, are now in the same district as Riverton. Stenquist is a member of the Republican party and works as a director of software engineering.
“I still officially represent District 51 until the end of 2022, but I’m campaigning right now for District 46. We work on a lot of legislation in the summer so it’s ready to go the next legislative session,” Stenquist said.
Harrison was also elected in 2018 and also won re-election in 2020, representing District 32 which encompasses the northeast portion of Draper as well as Sandy and White City. District 32 has been divided into four different districts as a result of redistricting. She resides in what will be District 46.
“A lot of people have said to me that even though they don’t live in District 32, I’m a person that represents their views and values. In wanting to continue to serve in my community, the next step was really clear in how I could have a bigger impact and focus on issues we’ve been working on such as air quality, healthy communities, increased access to mental health services, and government that’s accountable to the people and transparent. From my perspective, I feel I’ll be able to have more of an impact as one of nine on the county council rather than one of 104 legislators,” said Harrison, a member of the Democratic party and a medical doctor.
Stenquist considers his biggest victory of the 2022 session to be legislation that created a new oversight committee called The State Finance Review Commission. “This is a commission that will be made up of finance experts that will review state debt obligations and other financial transactions to make sure that we are following all regulations, but more importantly, making sure we’re looking at it from an affordability standpoint to protect the state’s AAA bond rating. Very significantly, it also has financial oversight of the Point of the Mountain Land Use Authority, the Inland Port Authority, UTA, and Military Infrastructure Development Authority (MIDA) which is building a new resort by Deer Valley. All of those entities could be incurring billions of dollars in debt. My bill would make sure we’re reviewing their financials so there’s nothing that could negatively impact the state’s credit rating. That’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Utah taxpayers,” he said.
Another successful bill from Stenquist made additional changes to a bill he passed last year related to fetal alcohol syndrome. “I also uncovered a lot of other improvements I would like to make, everything having to do with how our alcohol revenue is spent….I see additional improvements I’d like to make for the upcoming year on how that money is managed and spent.”
Stenquist was the House sponsor of Senate Bill 66 having to do with e-bikes. He said the bill had a lot of problems at first, but he offered to help because he knows about e-bikes. “I kind of count that as one of my victories. The final result was a bill that requires any local group that’s planning for building trails to take into account people with disabilities.”
Stenquist’s one disappointment from the session was a bill he’d worked on with Draper resident Mike Schlappi aimed at handicap parking spaces. It passed the House and the Senate, but after a change in the Senate, it had to come back to the House where it failed by just one vote. “Sometimes that happens, sometimes it takes multiple years to get an important piece of legislation through,” he said.
Harrison passed legislation to increase access to a diabetes prevention program for Medicaid patients (for whom the state is responsible for much of their healthcare costs). “This bill allows patients on Medicaid to have access to a yearlong lifestyle change course that dramatically decreases their risk of developing diabetes. It’s incredibly expensive to care for a patient with diabetes, so it’s in taxpayers’ interest to help them stay healthy. It also helps patients because diabetes increases risk of stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, heart attacks and early death. A lot of bills I passed had to do with helping our community be healthier,” Harrison said.
Another bill Harrison passed related to increasing the number of school nurses. “Ask any teacher or volunteer parent. They know our kids are coming to school with more issues in terms of physical and mental health. Having more nurses is important for our kids to be able to stay in school and have our teachers focus on teaching.”
Harrison passed two other bills; one that helps veterans and other patients experiencing trauma have more success with treatment therapies through ear acupuncture. According to Harrison, it’s already used in Veterans Affairs hospitals throughout the country, but this bill will allow more people to get trained to offer the treatment. “I think it’s very special that more of our veterans will be able to have access to that program,” she said. Harrison’s other successful bill increases safety for patients receiving anesthesia through requirements for monitors and safety equipment.
She co-sponsored legislation to increase mental health services for police and first responders. “I feel it’s important that we take care of those people that are out there taking care of us,” she said. She also co-sponsored legislation to reduce emissions for rail transportation as well as legislation to increase access to optional all-day kindergarten.
Harrison’s air quality bill that would have offered a small incentive for people to purchase electric vehicles didn’t pass. “Too often, great air quality bills don’t pass in the Utah legislature because the super-majority of one-party ideology. This is an area where I feel like we’ll be able to have more impact at the county council level with more of a political balance,” she said.
Harrison said she strives for bipartisanship. “Every bill I sponsored has had a Republican Senate sponsor because I believe in collaboration and bipartisanship, and I focus on issues that are common sense, common ground. I think the extremes on either side of the aisle are the ones that make the most noise, but I think most people are in the middle politically and want leaders to work together to solve problems.”
Harrison and Stenquist voted differently when the legislature took time the first week of the session to call for a vote to undo county mask mandates rather than letting the mandates exist for approximately two weeks longer.
Stenquist voted to overturn the mask mandates. He said the session starts slowly and he felt it didn’t take up a lot of time to tackle that issue. “I personally didn’t agree with mask mandates and the decision the county council had made. I know there were a lot of people in the House that thought ‘let the county council live with that decision’ and not take it up, but I knew if the House was going to take it up, I would vote to overturn it. It was something we’d put in that the legislature had the authority to override those, so I think it was appropriate we did that,” he said.
“I voted no on overturning the decision of the county councils because I believe in the authority of local government. That was an example of when local control and decisions should have been honored. That bill didn’t even have a public hearing or public input. Meanwhile, the local county councils had public input and came to a decision after hearing from local hospitals that were at a breaking point, and local emergency first responders who were having trouble staffing emergency services. We’re in a very different point now, but at that time, I felt the decisions local communities made were done after doing the work of listening to the people and experts on the ground. I didn’t feel the legislature should have swooped in and undermined that decision, especially for something that was a short-term decision,” Harrison said.
Harrison and Stenquist agree on the need for conservation efforts for the Great Salt Lake and were pleased with Speaker Brad Wilson’s leadership on the issue. Both representatives got an aerial view of the Great Salt Lake via a helicopter tour provided by the National Guard.
“It’s in crisis levels and now is the time to do that hard work to conserve water for a sustainable future. If the Great Salt Lake continues to decline in water levels, it’s going to have huge, negative impacts on our health because of toxic dust storms that will result in serious air pollution problems that will impact our health and our economy,” Harrison said.
Stenquist said, “I think there’s still time to save the Great Salt Lake. The changes we made this year aren’t everything, but we made some good steps in the right direction.” He mentioned the metering of secondary water and changing the incentive structure for water rights, particularly for agriculture. “If a farmer or someone with water rights doesn’t use all the water they’re entitled to, they could lose those water rights, so they have an incentive to use all their water. We need to change that mentality and give them…a credit back for saving water. I think that’s really important.”