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Utah State Senate

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Utah State Senate

Seal of Utah.svg.png
General Information
Type:   Upper house
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 26, 2015
Website:   Official Senate Page
Senate President:   Wayne Niederhauser (R)
Majority Leader:   Ralph Okerlund (R)
Minority leader:   Gene Davis (D)
Members:  29
Vacancy (2)
Length of term:   4 years
Authority:   Art VI, Sec 4, Utah Constitution
Salary:   $117/day + per diem
Last Election:  November 4, 2014 (14 seats)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
Redistricting:  Redistricting Committee of the Utah Legislature
The Utah Senate is the upper house in the Utah Legislature. It consists of 29 members. Each member represents an average of 95,306 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[1] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 77,006 residents.[2]

The senators serve four-year terms and are not subject to term limits. Half of the senate is up for re-election every two years.

As of March 2015, Utah is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.

See also: Utah State Legislature, Utah House of Representatives, Utah Governor


Section 2 of Article VI of the Utah Constitution establishes that the Utah State Legislature, which the Senate is a part of, is to convene a new session every two years on the second Monday in January. This means that the "2010 session" was actually a continuation of a regular session that convened in 2009. Section 16 of Article VI limits these regular sessions to sixty legislative days, except in cases of impeachment.


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature will be in session from January 26 through March 12 .

Major issues

The major issue facing the Utah State Legislature is the quality of Utah's air. The House's newly elected Speaker Patrice Arent (R) told reporters that clean-air bills are expected to receive support from both sides of the aisle because of the understanding that poor air quality can negatively impact the state's economy. According to State Rep. Arent, bills the legislature will consider this year will include funding for mass-transit, money for clean-air programs and potential tax credits for energy-efficient vehicles.[3]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 27 through March 14.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2014 legislative session included LGBT anti-discrimination, giving protection to clergy who refuse to perform same-sex marriages, the state budget, education funding and changing the position of Attorney General of Utah from an elected position to an appointed one.


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 28 through March 14.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2013 legislative session included ethics reform, adoption rights, alcohol laws and education funding.[4][5]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Senate was in session from January 23 through March 8.

Major issues

Major topics included a projected $13 billion budget, improving technology for students, illegal immigration, and infrastructure improvements.[6]


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Senate was in regular session from January 24 through March 10.[7] A single day special session was called by Governor Gary Herbert for July 27, to consider several issues, including adjustments to health insurance rates, liquor commission guidelines, judicial evaluations, and adopting another resolution supporting a federal balanced budget amendment.[8] Gov. Herbert has called for a second special session this year, set for the week of October 3. During that week, the legislature will cover redistricting issues.

The 45 calendar days that the Utah Legislature is in regular session during 2011 is tied with Wyoming, New Mexico, and Arkansas for the shortest legislative session in the country.


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Senate was in session from January 25 to March 11.[9]

Role in state budget

See also: Utah state budget and finances
Utah on Horizontal-Policypedia logo-color.png
Check out Policypedia articles about policy in your state on:

The state operates on an annual budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[10][11]

  1. Budget instructions are sent to state agencies in July of the year preceding the start of the new fiscal year.
  2. Agencies submit their budget requests to the governor in September.
  3. Agency hearings are held from October through November.
  4. Public hearings are held from March through June.
  5. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature in December.
  6. The legislature typically a budget in February or March. A simple majority is required to pass a budget. The fiscal year begins July 1.

Utah is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[11]

The governor is legally required to submit a balanced budget to the legislature. Likewise, the legislature is legally required to adopt a balanced budget.[11]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 which indicated that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. Among the challenges states faced were a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Utah was one of the 10 states that used cost-benefit analysis more than the rest of the states with respect to determining return on investment regarding state programs. In addition, these states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis with respect to large budget areas and when making policy decisions.[12]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[13] According to the report, Utah received a grade of B- and a numerical score of 82, indicating that Utah was "advancing" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[13]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Utah was given a grade of B in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data is to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A -- Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[14]


Convention system

Utah has a unique election system that combines local conventions and party primaries. A precinct caucus is held to vote for delegates to county conventions. Precinct delegates vote at the county conventions to nominate candidates for state office. In order to forgo a primary election, a candidate must receive more than 60% of the votes at the county convention. If multiple candidates run and none receive 60% of the vote, the candidate with the lowest total is eliminated and another vote is taken. Once only two candidates remain, if neither receives more than 60% of the vote, both will advance to the party's primary. Each party holds its own caucuses and conventions.[15][16][17]


See also: Utah State Senate elections, 2014

Elections for the office of Utah State Senate took place in 2014. A primary election took place on June 24, 2014. The general election was held on November 4, 2014. The signature-filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in this election was March 20, 2014.


See also: Utah State Senate elections, 2012

Elections for the office of Utah State Senate were held in Utah on November 6, 2012. A total of 14 seats were up for election.

The signature filing deadline for the elections was March 16, 2012.

The following table details the 10 districts with the smallest margin of victory in the November 6 general election.


See also: Utah State Senate elections, 2010

Utah State Senate elections were held in 15 of Utah's 29 senate districts on November 2, 2010. The 15 districts where electoral contests took place in 2010 are: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, 21, 22, 26 and 28 .

The signature-filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in these elections was March 19, 2010 and the primary Election Day was June 22, 2010.

In 2010, the candidates for state senate raised a total of $1,612,394 in campaign contributions. The top 10 donors were:[18]


See also: Utah State Senate elections, 2008

Elections for the office of Utah State Senate consisted of a primary election on June 24, 2008, and a general election on November 4, 2008.

During the 2008 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $2,432,680. The top 10 contributors were:[19]


See also: Utah State Senate elections, 2006

Elections for the office of Utah State Senate consisted of a primary election on June 27, 2006, and a general election on November 7, 2006.

During the 2006 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $2,241,882. The top 10 contributors were:[20]


See also: Utah State Senate elections, 2004

Elections for the office of Utah State Senate consisted of a primary election on June 22, 2004, and a general election on November 2, 2004.

During the 2004 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $1,336,110. The top 10 contributors were:[21]


See also: Utah State Senate elections, 2002

Elections for the office of Utah State Senate consisted of a primary election on June 25, 2002, and a general election on November 5, 2002.

During the 2002 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $930,831. The top 10 contributors were:[22]


See also: Utah State Senate elections, 2000

Elections for the office of Utah State Senate consisted of a primary election on June 27, 2000, and a general election on November 7, 2000.

During the 2000 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $785,535. The top 10 contributors were:[23]


To be eligible to serve in the Utah State Senate, a candidate must be:[24]

  • A U.S. citizen at the time of filing
  • 25 years old at the filing deadline time
  • A three-year resident of Utah at the filing deadline time
  • A resident for 6 months of the senate district from which elected at the filing deadline time
  • No person holding any public office of profit or trust under authority of the United States, or of this State, can be a member of the state senate, provided, that appointments in the State Militia, and the offices of notary public, justice of the peace, United States commissioner, and postmaster of the fourth class, shall not, within the meaning of this section, be considered offices of profit or trust.
  • A qualified voter. A qualified voter is someone who is:
* A U.S. citizen
* A resident of Utah for at least 30 days prior to the next election
* At least 18 years old by the next election
* His or her principal place of residence is in a specific voting precinct in Utah.


See also: How vacancies are filled in state legislatures
How Vacancies are filled in State Legislatures
NevadaMassachusettsColoradoNew MexicoWyomingArizonaMontanaCaliforniaOregonWashingtonIdahoTexasOklahomaKansasNebraskaSouth DakotaNorth DakotaMinnesotaIowaMissouriArkansasLouisianaMississippiAlabamaGeorgiaFloridaSouth CarolinaIllinoisWisconsinTennesseeNorth CarolinaIndianaOhioKentuckyPennsylvaniaNew JerseyNew YorkVermontVermontNew HampshireMaineWest VirginiaVirginiaMarylandMarylandConnecticutConnecticutDelawareDelawareRhode IslandRhode IslandMassachusettsNew HampshireMichiganMichiganAlaskaVacancy fulfillment map.png

If there is a vacancy in the senate, the Governor is responsible for selecting a replacement. A liaison for the political party that last held the seat must recommend a successor to the Governor. The vacancy must be filled immediately. The person who is selected to the vacant seat serves for the remainder of the unfilled term.[25]

If the vacancy happens after the nomination deadline in a election year, a new candidate must file papers in order to be on the ballot. This is only if the vacancy happens after September 1st and the unfilled term is set to expire at the end of the election. Nominating papers must be filed within 21 days after the vacancy happened.[26]


See also: Redistricting in Utah

The Legislature handles legislative redistricting, with the Governor holding veto power.

2010 census

Utah received its local census data on February 24, 2011. The state showed a 23.8 percent growth rate, with no county losing population. The largest cities showed mixed growth: Salt Lake City grew by 2.6 percent, West Valley City grew by 18.9 percent, Provo grew by 7.0 percent, West Jordan grew by 51.8 percent, and Orem grew by 4.7 percent. The counties were more impressive: Salt Lake grew by 14.6 percent, Utah grew 40.2 percent, Davis grew by 28.2 percent, Weber grew by 17.7 percent, and Washington grew by 52.9 percent.[27]

Utah's 2011 redistricting process went relatively smoothly, with the Republican controlled Legislature overwhelmingly passing new maps on October 4. Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed the maps on October 19. However, the Legislature approved, and the Governor signed into law, revisions to the maps in late January 2012 after errors were discovered.



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Utah Legislature are paid $117/day. Legislators receive $96/day for lodging each calendar day, tied to the federal rate. They also receive $61/day for meals.[28]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Utah legislators assume office the first or second day of session (January).

Partisan composition

See also: Partisan composition of state senates
Party As of March 2015
     Democratic Party 4
     Republican Party 23
     Vacancy 2
Total 29

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Utah State Senate from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the Utah State Senate.PNG


The presiding officer of the Senate is the President of the Senate and is selected by the majority party caucus. The majority and minority leaders are selected by their respective party caucuses.[29][30]

Current leadership

Current Leadership, Utah State Senate
Office Representative Party
President of the Senate Wayne Niederhauser Ends.png Republican
State Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund Ends.png Republican
State Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams Ends.png Republican
State Senate Assistant Majority Whip Peter Knudson Ends.png Republican
State Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis Electiondot.png Democratic
State Senate Minority Whip Karen Mayne Electiondot.png Democratic
State Senate Assistant Minority Whip Luz Robles Electiondot.png Democratic

List of current members

Current members, Utah State Senate
District Senator Party Assumed office
1 Luz Robles Electiondot.png Democratic 2009
2 Jim Dabakis Electiondot.png Democratic 2012
3 Gene Davis Electiondot.png Democratic 1999
4 Jani Iwamoto Electiondot.png Democratic 2015
5 Karen Mayne Electiondot.png Democratic 2009
6 Wayne Harper Ends.png Republican 2013
7 Deidre Henderson Ends.png Republican 2013
8 Brian Shiozawa Ends.png Republican 2013
9 Wayne Niederhauser Ends.png Republican 2007
10 Aaron Osmond Ends.png Republican 2011
11 Howard Stephenson Ends.png Republican 1993
12 Daniel W. Thatcher Ends.png Republican 2011
13 Mark Madsen Ends.png Republican 2005
14 Vacant
15 Margaret Dayton Ends.png Republican 2007
16 Curtis Bramble Ends.png Republican 2001
17 Peter Knudson Ends.png Republican 1999
18 Ann Millner Ends.png Republican 2015
19 Allen Christensen Ends.png Republican 2005
20 Scott Jenkins Ends.png Republican 2001
21 Jerry Stevenson Ends.png Republican 2010
22 Stuart Adams Ends.png Republican 2009
23 Todd Weiler Ends.png Republican 2012
24 Ralph Okerlund Ends.png Republican 2009
25 Lyle Hillyard Ends.png Republican 1985
26 Kevin Van Tassell Ends.png Republican 2007
27 David Hinkins Ends.png Republican 2009
28 Evan Vickers Ends.png Republican 2013
29 Stephen Urquhart Ends.png Republican 2009

Senate committees

The Utah Senate has 12 standing committees:



Before the Seventeenth Amendment was adopted in 1913, the U.S. Senators were elected by the state House of Representatives rather than by popular vote. In 1899, this became a problem when the Utah House of Representatives could not come up with a majority vote for the second Senate seat by the end of the session, and the Senate President Aquila Nebeker, declared the session over and the seat vacant. The result was that the state of Utah lost a vote in the Senate for several years.[31]

Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Utah
Partisan breakdown of the Utah legislature from 1992-2013

Throughout every year from 1992-2013, the Republican Party was the majority in the Utah State Senate. The Utah State Senate is one of 13 state senates that was Republican for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. Utah was under Republican trifectas for all 22 years.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Utah, the Utah State Senate and the Utah House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Utah state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Utah state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. During every year of the study Utah had Republican trifectas. Its SQLI ranking stayed consistently in the 20s range for the first half of the study, but gradually moved up, bringing it into the top-10 for five of the last six years of the study.

Chart displaying the partisanship of Utah government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

External links


  1., "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  2. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
  3. Troy Wilde' Cache Valley Daily, "Air quality, again, a major issue for Utah lawmakers," January 28, 2015
  4. FOX 13, "Adoption and alcohol likely topics for Utah legislative session," January 21, 2013
  5. Salt Lake Tribune, "Call them the Swallow Reforms," January 24, 2013
  6. Salt Lake Tribune, "Top issues to watch in the upcoming Utah Legislature," January 21, 2012
  7. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 6, 2014(Archived)
  8. StateScape, "Session Updates," July 22, 2011
  9. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," December 8, 2010
  10. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  12. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  14. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  15., "How Utah’s Caucus System Works," accessed April 15, 2014
  16. Utah Republican Party, "Bylaws," accessed April 15, 2014(Section 7.D)
  17. Utah Democratic Party, "Bylaws," accessed April 15, 2014(Section 4)
  18. Follow the Money, "Utah Senate 2010 Campaign Contributions," accessed August 2, 2013
  19. Follow the Money, "Utah 2008 Candidates," accessed August 2, 2013
  20. Follow the Money, "Utah 2006 Candidates," accessed August 2, 2013
  21. Follow the Money, "Utah 2004 Candidates," accessed August 2, 2013
  22. Follow the Money, "Utah 2002 Candidates," accessed August 2, 2013
  23. Follow the Money, "Utah 2000 Candidates," accessed August 2, 2013
  24. Utah Secretary of State, "Becoming a State Candidate," accessed December 18, 2013
  25. Utah Legislature, "Utah Code," accessed December 18, 2013(Referenced Statutes 20A-1-503 (3) (a)-(b))
  26. Utah Legislature, "Utah Code," accessed December 18, 2013(Referenced Statutes 20A-1-503 (4)(a))
  27. U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Utah's 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting," February 24, 2011
  28., "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  29. Organization of the Utah Legislature, "About the Legislature," accessed August 2, 2014
  30. Organization of the Utah Legislature, "Utah State Senate Leadership," accessed August 2, 2014
  31. History to Go, "Utah Senate History," March 1995