More than 200 Utahns gathered in the State Office Building Auditorium for Citizens' Day at the Legislature. The annual event allows citizens to learn about the legislative process, discuss key issues and meet with and lobby their elected representatives.
Concerns at Citizens' Day ranged from low-income and critical-needs housing issues to access to health care and funding for programs for services to people with disabilities.The Deseret News asked six people why they were involved:
Larry McCleery, U-Can-Do, said, "Overall, I'm here trying to support mental health - budgetwise,
Two key issues of concern to him, he said, are waiting lists at the State Hospital in Provo and case management services to keep people with mental illness in the community if possible.
"It costs about $350 a day to keep someone in a hospital until they can get into the State Hospital. And there are not only waiting lists to get in, but there's a waiting list to get out.
"The case management, well, it's such a big savings over taking people out of the community. And it improves lives."
U-Can-Do is an organization of consumers of mental-health services.
Tamara Pyke, single parent, has a 6-year-old son who was born with respiratory distress syndrome. "I am concerned about the cutting of Aid to Families with Dependent Children and medical programs. When I go to work, they will cut our medical benefits and I'm afraid he won't get the medicines he needs. I won't be able to get him insurance, most likely, because it's a congenital problem. That really concerns me."
Pyke said she and her three children already have a rough time because they must live on $470 a month. "If it weren't for housing, we couldn't make it," the Salt Lake Community College student said. "It scares me."
Bill Lambert, who came to Utah from Philadelphia upon retirement as the European grants manager for American Friends, attended the session because of his involvement with human service programs and aging issues.
"I've been involved in county programs for the past couple of years, working with the County Senior Legislative Committee and the community block grants. This seemed a natural progression. I'm here to learn how the wheels turn in Utah."
Contractor Hans Jorgensen got interested in tax issues a couple of years ago. Citizens' Day, he said, allows him to learn more about the lawmaking process.
"I'm planning to talk to representatives, including those who aren't in my district, about some concerns."
Besides his interest in taxation issues, Jorgensen said he's following some minor bills.
Turning Point counselor Joyce Valdez attended the session with 11 of the single-parent and displaced
homemaker students with whom she works. "We are here because of the concern the students have regarding AFDC cutbacks. The students are struggling to become self-sufficient and are providing for young children. We're concerned about any related cuts because they will hurt children.
"We are all also very concerned about the cost of quality child care, which is outrageously high. I chose to provide my own child care, but I could because I am married."
"I'm here because of health-care issues for the poor and the inability of many to access health care," said Jess Lewis, special populations coordinator for the American Cancer Society, Utah branch.
"I think there are a lot of barriers - cultural and language barriers - for minorities. And I hope that Citizens' Day will help me to understand the process and do my job better.