ST. GEORGE, Utah — On the 125th anniversary of Utah’s statehood, Spencer Cox has been sworn in as its 18th governor.
Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson were sworn in at Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, near St. George. This marks the first time that any governor has been sworn in outside the State Capitol in Salt Lake City.
Cox said the choice of venue was intentional.
“We visited all 248 cities and towns in Utah [while campaigning]… and it was so impactful and we wanted to send a strong message that we did represent the entire state not just the Wasatch Front, but everywhere. Holding this event in St. George, in Washington County, is amazing,” he said. “I just can’t tell you what it means to the people here. I’ve had so many people come up to me in tears, thanking us for remembering them. You know, that doesn’t happen when you have an inauguration in Salt Lake.”
During his inauguration speech, Cox also lamented the divided state of America. However, he stressed the importance of treating others well.
“Conflict and passionate debate around ideas can and is healthy. But contempt and contention will rot the souls of our nation and her people,” Cox said. “And this division isn’t just ugly or unfortunate; it is dangerous.”
Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson used her speech to address what she sees as inequality in Utah. She also encouraged more Utahns to get involved in politics.
“We don’t need more women in the public sphere solely to provide expert opinions on ‘women’s issues’. We don’t need more people of color in the halls of government only to help us resolve issues related to minorities,” Henderson said. “And we don’t need more rural Utahns serving in our administration simply to help the people in their hometown. No. We need representation of all our voices, so we can solve the hard problems in front of us in the best way.”
To drive home her point, Lt. Gov. Henderson and her family all wore white to honor suffragettes. She also promised a “seat at the table” for everyone.
What’s next for the Cox administration?
It wasn’t all handshakes and parades for newly-inaugurated governor. He signed two orders Fillmore and announced what’s next for his administration.
In a small ceremony at the Territorial Statehouse in Fillmore, Governor Cox signed his first executive order designed to eliminate overly strict business license requirements. He says there have been many cases where the costs to acquire licenses are too high, and people in lower-income areas have been squeezed out of getting the amount of training they needed.
He said, “We end up hurting people who are trying to get into an industry and trying to make a living. Far too often, these occupational licensing regulations can hurt the people who need the most help.”
For instance, several years ago, hair stylists had to go through 1,200 hours of training.
“It took longer to get a license to braid someone’s hair than it did to become a pilot. That makes no sense,” Cox said.
According to the order, every licensing agency will have to review their requirements and either eliminate rules that are no longer necessary or amend them so there are no obstacles in allowing people to be trained. Every agency has to have their list of recommendations submitted to the governor’s office by June of this year.
The other order was to announce the state’s participation in the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. It’s an agreement signed by government officials, business owners and religious leaders to create cultures of inclusion and equal opportunity to education, employment, housing and healthcare.
Within the next couple of weeks, Governor Cox says he’s bringing in everyone involved in the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
“We will be reevaluating everything that has happened, lessons learned, where we can do better and where we can do more,” he said.
State health officials say they still haven’t vaccinated as many Utahns as they were hoping to.
“I assure you that over the next few days and the next couple of weeks, we will see a significant increase in the pace and number of vaccines being distributed,” according to Cox. “The goal is to get them out as soon as they come into the state.”
The governor also says his proposed budget will be released in the next few days. That is later than normal, but he says it’s not unheard of during a transition from one governor to the next.
You can hear the whole conversation that took place on Utah’s Morning News below.
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