Wilson shakes up House seating assignments

Utah House Chamber 01

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson says he wants to make the House a kinder gentler place in 2019 and 2020, with more options for veteran members to mentor new members, and better communications between the majority Republicans and minority Democrats.

A small part of that, perhaps, is how the House members are seated on the floor – a new arrangement Wilson, R-Kaysville, has put in place. (The 45-day general session begins Monday morning.)

UtahPolicy.com noted that the new seating arrangement has some veteran Republicans sitting on a rear row that used to be for the Democrats, on the chambers south side.

Democrats are sitting in some seats that used to be had by Republicans. You can see the seating chart here.

Yes, the old GOP dogs are still on the two back rows of the majority (north) side of the chambers.

And leadership for both parties sits in their traditional seats – the last back row on each side.

Wilson tells UtahPolicy.com that when you take the freshman lawmakers, coming into their first session, and those who have only two years experience, more than a third of the 75-member House could be considered newbies.

So, he placed some of those new/newer members next to more veteran members on the floor, to mentor them, help them with the proper protocol in making motions in debate and such.

This goes along with Wilson’s committee chair and vice-chair assignments, previously reported by UtahPolicy.com.

For the first time in anyone’s memory, Wilson named a minority Democrat as vice-chair of a committee – something that is just not done in the partisan 104-member Legislature.

And he put several freshmen and two-year sophomores into vice-chairmanships, as well. Also an unconventional move.

Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna, vice-chair of the joint Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, a respected veteran of the Legislature, will oversee the transition of bringing the state’s technical colleges closer into the higher education system, says Wilson.

Of course, if Duckworth steps out of line, the majority Republicans can always vote her down or put her in her minority place.

But Duckworth is not that kind of person, and has not been critical of Republicans much in the past.

If there is any Democrat who can get along with the Republicans, it is likely her and Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne, D-West Valley, both known for their kind personalities.

Democrats picked up two more seats in the House in November’s election, one more seat in the Senate.

Republicans hold a 59-16 majority in the House, a 21-6 majority in the Senate, both two-thirds majorities, so the Democrats have no way to stop debate or otherwise hinder the work in either body, even if the wished to.