Our History


Utah Capitol Blueprint.jpg

Before Statehood

The Utah Territory was established by an act of Congress on Monday, September 9, 1850 which provided for a territorial government made up of a territorial governor chosen every four years, a territorial Assembly with a 13-member council chosen every second year and a 26-member House of Representatives chosen annually, and a territorial Judiciary made up of a Supreme Court, District Courts, Probate Courts, and justices of the peace. The creation of the Territory of Utah was part of the Compromise of 1850 seeking to preserve the political balance of power between the slave and free states.

Following the organization of the territory, Brigham Young was inaugurated as its first governor on Sunday, February 9, 1851 and the first territorial assembly met Monday, September 22, 1851. The legislative body of the Utah Territory continued to act until 1896 with the successful passage of the Utah Constitution and Utah achieving statehood. The first President of the Utah Territorial Senate was Willard Richards and the first Territorial Speaker of the House was William Wines Phelps. In 1870, the length of a Representative's term was extended to two years, and in 1896 the Utah Territorial Council became the Utah Senate with a four-year term.

After Statehood

Utah first petitioned for statehood starting in 1849, and a constitutional convention was called to draft a State Constitution for a proposed State of Deseret on March 8, 1849 to be held in Salt Lake City. The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate rejected the proposed state and followed up the rejection by creating the Territory of Utah. It wasn't for another six years before the Fifth Territorial Legislature passed an act on December 10, 1855 establishing a constitutional convention to make a second attempt at Statehood. This second constitutional convention was held on March 17, 1856 in Salt Lake City and a proposed constitution was created which was subsequently rejected by the U.S. Congress.

A third constitutional convention was held on January 20, 1862 in Salt Lake City and a proposed constitution was drafted and subsequently submitted to the U.S. Congress which rejected the petition for statehood. The Twentieth Territorial Legislature on January 31, 1872 would call for a fourth constitutional convention and again petitioned Congress for statehood yet this effort also failed and it was not until April and May 1882 that a fifth and final attempt at statehood was made prior to Congress passing the Utah Enabling Act in 1894.

The Utah Territory proceeded to hold a constitutional convention on March 4, 1895 which ended on March 6, 1895 and the proposed Constitution was ratified by the voters Tuesday, November 5, 1895. The first election was also held on this day and state officials were elected. The First Utah State Legislature convened on January 13, 1896 and proceeded to conduct the business of organizing the state.

 

About the Current Body

The Utah Constitution assigns legislative power to a part-time citizen legislature that meets each year, beginning on the fourth Monday in January and ending in mid-March. When the legislative session adjourns, senators return home to their homes, families, and regular occupation, to live under the laws they created.

The Utah Senate currently consists of twenty-three men and six women. Occupations include attorneys, businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, educators, an engineer, CPAs, homemakers, a pharmacist, a nurse, a doctor, a dentist, an orthodontist and former university president.

The political makeup of the Utah State Senate is about 80 percent Republican and 20 percent Democrat.

 

Running for The Senate

Do you want to serve? The State Constitution outlines the qualifications to become a senator:

  • A citizen of the United States

  • A resident of the state of Utah for three years

  • At least 25 years old

  • A resident of the district from which they are elected for six months 

  • A qualified voter in that district

Senators are elected to four-year terms, with roughly half the senate standing for election every two years.