News / Utah / 

Big changes in Utah Senate leadership

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Jan. 20, 2010 at 5:28 p.m.



This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Less than a week after the arrest of a top state senator, big changes are happening in Utah Senate leadership.

The Legislature convenes next week, and those leaders say they'll have to hit the ground running.

They all say it will be business as usual, but in a lot of ways, this year is different.

Leadership is going to be crucial in a year when the state could be facing cuts, layoffs and a fight over tax increases.

Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, is the new Senate majority leader replacing Sheldon Killpack, who resigned after last week's DUI arrest.

Jenkins says he's ready to get to work.

"We'll probably handle ethics a little bit, we'll get into all the major issues this year. So I anticipate business as usual, no big changes," he said.

Related:

New as majority whip is Sandy Republican Wayne Niederhauser. Longtime Sen. Pete Knudsen, R-Brigham City, is the assistant whip.

Senate President Michael Wadddoups calls this a "solid team." He expects he's going to need that foundation to deal with a tough state budget right away.

Sen. Curt Bramble dropped out of the majority leader contest, citing party unity.

But another senator says he simply didn't have the votes.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, said, "He's a man who gets things done, but he bothered a few people and today they weren't willing to vote for him."

The new leadership team also fielded lingering questions about Sen. Killpack.

Killpack was sorting through a slew of ethics bills before he left. That work will continue. But these senators doubt any ethics law would have prevented Killack's arrest.

"Periodically we find that through the foibles of man some of us make mistakes, and they do things that shouldn't happen," Waddoups said.

"Senator Killpack didn't break the law until he got in the car and drove," Jenkins said. "Until then, he was well within his rights."

In the meantime, lawmakers are facing pressing problems.

The head of appropriations, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, says the current budget is down $200 million. He predicts tough decisions are coming.

"I think these problems are deep, that we have to have some basic reform things done in the long term," Hillyard said.

This new Senate leadership team is definitely ready to move forward.

But distractions like Killpack's arrest, or bills that emerge from the shadows to spark emotion or anger, are bound to pop up.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

Related Stories

Richard Piatt

    SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

    Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast