Legislators, lobbyists and concerned citizens ended the Utah General Legislative Session on Thursday, March 10.
The busy weeks of protests and lawmaking became progressively hectic over the 45-day period, but the session did not close without a little celebration.
During the Senate on March 9, Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, and Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, dressed up as Alexander Hamilton to promote their bipartisan proposal for the Broadway musical “Hamilton.”
Despite the whirlwind of events often packed into the last day of the session, many Capitol employees spoke about legislators’ quirky traditions to celebrate the momentous last day.
Arman Peterson, a Utah House of Representatives staff member, spoke of unique last-day traditions: the roast on the Republicans hosted by the few-in-number Democrats, the raucous cheers and the celebratory clothes and hats adorned by the legislators and the “real party” that begins after the session ends at midnight.
Peterson spoke of the humor and the musical talent often showcased in the celebrations.
Jerry Campbell, assistant sergeant of arms, described the last day as a hectic and family-oriented experience.
“It always gets crazy on the last night. Families and friends, they all want to come and sit on the floor with their dad or uncle,” Campbell said.
After completing his 12th legislative session, Campbell expressed the gratitude he had for the legislators’ hard work — often seen in the late nights leading up to the last day.
“They all have different ideas about things so sometimes their debate goes on way too long, but that’s what makes the system work — different ideas and different feelings, Campbell said. “They are trying to do what’s right and make it right.”
Garfield County Commissioner Dell LeFevre lingered at the Capitol on the last day with the infamous ‘posse’ of rural commissioners who awaited the verdict on some of the rural legislative bills.
LeFevre, described the legislative session as good for rural communities, but pushed for more representation in the legislative process and explained that the county commissioners’ involvement at the Capitol was vital to the rural communities considering their limited legislative representation.
“You’ve got so many urban legislators that they kill us,” LeFevre said. “They have no clue. These guys have been off the farm so long that they’re four or five generations removed. They have no clue what goes on in these little counties and they think it’s just a big playground down there.”
LeFevre said he would continue to watch the legislators and make sure that the rural counties don’t get “clobbered,” but also expressed his gratitude for Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville; Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe; and Rep. Michael Noel, R-Kanab who have worked on legislation for the rural communities.
In the final ‘Cowboy Caucus’ of the session, LeFevre was honored for his 40 years of service on the hill.
Several school groups at the Capitol observed the final legislative decisions in the House and the Senate. Students described their experience as “one of a kind” and “inspiring.”
Gayle Ruzicka, President of the conservative activist group Utah Eagle Forum, described the experience that Eagle Forum interns have had fighting ‘bad’ bills from being passed.
“It’s all about the relationships — getting to know the lobbyists and the legislators on a personal level,” Ruzicka said.
Elisa Seegmiller, intern program director for Utah Eagle Forum, recalled some of her favorite legislative experiences over the past six years at the Capitol.
“I believe it was last year that the representatives did a video where they did a Brady Bunch-type video and that was very entertaining,” Seegmiller said. “There’s always crazy things going on up here. We always have Dr. Seuss Day where the legislators read The Cat and the Hat on the floor and we’ve had Ronald McDonald the clown all dressed up and sitting in the gallery. There’s always something entertaining going on up here,”
Dogs patrolled the grounds as Explosive Canine Handler Aaron Cov and his partner took the Capitol’s two explosive detection dogs for a stretch on the bright, sunny day.
Arros, a former military dog that served in both Iraq and Afghanistan for about five years, was brought to the Capitol in December and will be completely recertified once he finishes his patrol school in April.