By: Miranda Collette, Collin Smith and Jenna Neeley
SALT LAKE CITY – Capitol Hill was blustering with activity by lawmakers, lobbyists, and a bunch of little kids as this year’s 45-day session came to a timely close at exactly midnight. The winding down of Utah’s part time legislature means more then just saying goodbye to salt water taffy for the next year.
For some it means nothing besides a short walk down the hall to an office where more laws must be prepared for the coming year. While for others it could justify a well-deserved vacation.
Mike Mitchell, who has acted as the House of Representative head sergeant of arms for the past 18 years, plans to hit the open road with his wife to go camping. One of the things he will miss most about the session is mingling with the representatives.
“I don’t care what party they’re with, they are all good people,” Mitchell said. “Just because you have a “D” or an “R,” some people don’t like either party, but I’ve found they are nice people.”
When the Legislature is not in session, Mitchell works for Murray’s Parks and Rec Department as well as coaches his granddaughter’s 14-and-under girls softball team.
Located on the opposite side of the rotunda, the head sergeant for the Senate, Tom Shepherd, has been on the hill for 19 years now. He said his favorite part of the last month and a half has been following the excitement surrounding Sen. Steve Urquhart’s bill SB100, a bill that provides housing and employment opportunities regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Shepherd, who’s not a fan of sweets, hasn’t indulged in the taffy for years, but is on the other hand, a fan of the Legislature ending.
“I’m glad to see it over by the end of 45 days. … It’s almost like a circus in here; this last day is just so unorganized,” said Shepherd.
A lot of times, the chaotic, unorganized atmosphere of the last day goes unnoticed. Utah’s very own boy-band, Beyond 5, had never been to the Capitol before, but made their debut appearance in the Senate Chambers this morning to sing the National Anthem.
Among the routine voting and discussing, the last day held several surprises: Senator Luz Robles had a visit from her daughter, A boy band performed before the start of the first Senate session — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwiCQatIjjg – and The Legislative staff was also recognized for all of their hard work.
As midnight approached on Capitol Hill, Senate Pres. Wayne Neiderhauser, R-Sandy, raced the clock to literally speed read and pass as many final bills of the 2014 Legislative Session as possible.
Eighth grader, Joselyn, described the last frantic minutes in the House as, “I feel like they are going so fast, like ah what did they just do?! So hopefully those last bills aren’t anything too crazy.”
The final bill, SB257 Parents for Instructional Materials and Curriculum, stirred up the final legislative pot as all 45 legislators’ participation was needed, passing with only 38 “yeas” vs. 37 “nays.”
Neiderhausser was tongue-tied with final riddles and remarks as the sound of gavel-knocking rang through Capitol doors. But surprisingly, that wasn’t the only thing to be heard, as Taylor Swift, Macklemore and even Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out,” began the “party” on the House floor.
And finally, amidst the tears and laughs, lawmakers finally sat back, and enjoyed the company of their fellow legislators, and even amongst party differences, new friends.
Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, had fun with a Jimmy Fallon-inspired thank you note roast, lightly mocking both the representatives and the issues from the session, closing with “#sorrynotsorry.”
The House rang true with not only legislation, but also in a rousing rendition of, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to hold office,” where all legislators belted the words, “let them be doctors or lawyers or such!”
Gifts of appreciation in the form of Wonder Woman dolls with Speaker Lockhart’s face on it were given to leadership, and a 3.6 lb. bag of Skittles being passed around gave the floor a “sweet” and oddly sentimental feel.
But at the end of it all, love was shared under the dome as they said their final goodbye’s and thank-you’s, and a standing ovation was given to all who helped make this year’s legislative session another lawmaking success.
“You’re a lot of fun people, this is like camping with the Boy Scouts,” Sen. Patricia Jones, D- Salt Lake City, said