How Utah Senate Republicans could assign themselves extra help in Capitol

The proposed resolution excludes two Senate Democrats, Derek Kitchen and Kathleen Riebe, from having an assistant.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Highway Patrol posts the colors for the start of the 2022 legislative session in the Senate chamber at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.

A Utah Senate Republican has proposed a resolution to allow leadership inside the Senate — a chamber with a GOP supermajority — to have an assistant to help them in the Capitol.

The resolution was unveiled Friday and would cost taxpayers nearly $449,000. If passed, the plan would give senators more staffing resources to help them with any number of tasks, including clerical duties, creating talking points, assisting with constituents and scheduling.

SR2 from Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, allows the senate president to assign a “legislative assistant” to several members of the body, including:

  • Each member of the majority and minority leadership

  • The Senate chair and vice-chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee

  • The Senate chair of each appropriations subcommittee

  • The chair and vice-chair of the Senate Rules Committee

  • The chair of each standing committee.

The way the rule is written, all 23 Republican senators in the GOP majority would be eligible for an aide. The resolution excludes two Democrats — Derek Kitchen of Salt Lake City and Kathleen Riebe of Cottonwood Heights — from being eligible to be assigned an assistant.

Kitchen and Riebe were also each stripped of a committee assignment just 10 days into this year’s session.

Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers says there are too few assistants to cover all the chamber’s needs right now.

“We (Republicans) have a legislative assistant for every six or eight senators. I can tell you they’re so valuable,” Vickers said.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, says the 45-day session can be overwhelming.

“The demands I’ve seen in my time have increased every year, and they continue to increase. I love being a part-time legislator. I think this will help us with that,” Weiler said.

Assistants can be assigned to more than one senator at a time, and a senator is free to decline to have an assistant.

These new assistants won’t be volunteers. The Senate plans to add three more full-time employees at the cost of $448,900 annually to taxpayers. It is unclear if the plan to add employees is related to the proposed resolution. The Senate funding request was presented to the Executive Appropriations Committee in January without questions or comment.

Senate leaders also plan to spend $100,000 to update the Senate lounge.