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Here’s what’s new for the 2022 Utah Legislature

Two prominent Republicans have resigned, but GOP dominance continues unabated.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) House Speaker Brad R. Wilson, R-Kaysville, conducts business during in the final hours of the Legislature’s 2021 general session at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 5, 2021.

There will be a few new faces among the 104 lawmakers who will get down to business when the gavel drops to open the 2022 Utah Legislature on Tuesday morning.

Most notably, a pair of legislative heavy hitters have moved on, including the top Republican in the House.

Francis Gibson, who was the House Majority Leader, made the surprise announcement in October that he was resigning after 13 years in the Utah Legislature.

Gibson’s exit set off a shuffling of House Republican leadership. Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, is the new Majority Leader, and Rep. Jefferson Moss, R-Saratoga Springs is the new Assistant Majority Whip. Rep. Val Potter, R-Orem, remains the Majority Whip.

Gibson was replaced by Rep. Stephen Whyte, a Mapleton Republican.

Rep. Paul Ray, who authored 2021′s “pandemic endgame” bill and headed up the once-a-decade redistricting process, stepped down to take a position with the Utah Department of Health. Additionally, Ray was the House chair of the Social Services Appropriations Committee, which controls one of the largest portions of Utah’s budget. Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful is the new House chair,

Ray’s seat will be filled by Rep. Karen Peterson, R-Clinton. Most recently Peterson was the legislative liaison for Gov. Spencer Cox.

Two other Republicans made their exit from the Hill in 2021.

Craig Hall resigned in the middle of his fifth term after he was appointed by Gov. Spencer Cox to the Second District Court. Taking his place is Rep. Judy Weeks Rohner, R-West Valley City, who helped organize opposition to the 2019 tax reform bill. That opposition forced lawmakers to repeal the reform measure less than a month after it passed.

Steve Christiansen, who was involved in pushing falsehoods about 2020 election fraud and leading calls for an election audit, stepped down from the Legislature and his job with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in late October. Christiansen’s hasty exit opened the door for Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, to return to the seat he vacated in 2018.

Utah lawmakers by the numbers

Even with the new faces, the 2022 Utah Legislature is not much different from last year.

The Utah House and Senate are still overwhelmingly Republican. The GOP still has a supermajority, controlling 58 of 75 seats in the House and 23 of 29 seats in the Senate.

They’re predominantly men. Nearly 3/4ths of lawmakers are men. Women hold just 27 of 104 seats. Most of those women are Democrats. There’s just one woman Republican in the Senate and 10 in the House. The number of women grew by one from last year to this year with Rohner replacing Hall.

They’re also mostly white.

Just seven of the 104 lawmakers are ethnic minorities. There’s one Black lawmaker (Rep. Sandra Hollins); four who are Latinos or part Latino (Reps. Angela Romero, Mark Wheatley, Ashlee Matthews and Sen. Luz Escamilla); and two Asian members (Sen. Jani Iwamoto and Rep. Karen Kwan). All are Democrats.

They’re overwhelmingly members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Latter-day Saints hold nearly 9 of every 10 seats on Capitol Hill (86%).

Most lawmakers come from urban areas. More than 80% of lawmakers live in urban parts, while just 17% hail from rural Utah.

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