Organization of the Utah State Legislature
Members of the Utah Legislature meet in political party caucuses between the general election and the beginning of the next legislative session to elect their leadership. Leadership refers to the speaker, the majority and minority leaders, whips, and assistant whips in the House of Representatives, the president, the majority and minority leaders, whips, and assistant whips in the Senate.
The Presiding Officers in the House and Senate. The speaker of the House of Representatives and the president of the Senate are the presiding officers of their respective houses and are in the line of succession in the event there is a vacancy in the governor’s office. They are formally elected by their membership at the opening of the general session. However, in practice they are selected by the majority party caucuses.
General duties of the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House:
• Assign responsibilities to and supervise the officers and employees in their respective houses.
• Assign locations and determine access for news media representatives.
• Chair the daily sessions of the houses.
• Announce the daily order of business.
• Receive all motions and proposals submitted by the members of their houses.
• Conduct voting and announce results.
• Enforce the rules of order during debates.
• Enforce the observance of order and decorum among the legislators and also the public in the gallery.
• Inform the houses, when necessary or when referred to for that purpose, on any point of order or practice.
• Receive any official messages and inform colleagues.
• Sign acts, orders, and proceedings adopted by the respective houses.
• Appoint the members of legislative committees and other committees as specified in law.
• Represent their house.
• Sign or authorize expenses from their house.
The majority and minority leaders. Each house elects their respective party caucuses leaders. Their responsibilities include:
• Conducting party caucuses.
• Managing the consideration of legislation on the floor of their houses.
• Informing members of agendas and voting schedules.
• Mobilizing party strength to support or oppose legislation.
• Communicating with the leadership of the other party particularly with respect to scheduling legislative business.
The party whip and assistant whip. These party caucus officers in both the Senate and the House are dependent upon the majority and minority leaders for their assignments but are usually responsible for reporting to the leadership any factors pertinent to the legislation being discussed and other business of concern to their respective parties. They also assist the leaders in encouraging support of party programs. The term “whip” is derived from foxhunting where the huntsman’s assistant responsible for controlling the hounds is called the “whipper-in.
Legislative committees. All members of the Legislature hold membership on standing committees and joint appropriation subcommittees during the 45-day general session. They also hold membership on interim committees during the period of time between general sessions. All of these committees work under the direction of a chair and vice chair. Appointments to these committee chair assignments are made by the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House. With the appointment of the committee chairs and vice chairs, the organization of the Legislature is complete.
Party caucuses. The majority caucus and the minority caucus play an important role in determining the outcome of important or controversial legislation. The caucus serves as a party communication center where leadership can inform members of partisan positions, allow members an opportunity to voice their opinions, and attempt to reach consensus on party matters.
Other legislative officers. Non-elected officers in both houses serve critical support functions in the legislature. These officers include the secretary of the Senate, chief clerk of the House, administrative assistants, the sergeants-at-arms, and several special clerks.
The secretary of the Senate is appointed by the president and the chief clerk of the House is appointed by the speaker.
Special clerks are assigned duties assigned to them by the secretary and chief clerk. These special clerks include the journal clerk, docket clerk, voting machine operator, reading clerk, and audio recording clerk.
Each house appoints a sergeant-at-arms who is responsible for maintaining security in the lobbies and galleries.