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Temporary changes made in Senate leadership

SALT LAKE CITY — Temporary changes in Utah Senate leadership were announced Thursday because of health considerations for Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe.

Okerlund has begun the process of being evaluated by doctors for potential heart and kidney transplants, an intensive medical process that requires more of his time and attention, according to a statement released by the Senate majority.

Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, will serve as majority leader until Okerlund's return.

“I want to express our love, appreciation and respect for Senator Okerlund. While the work of the Legislature continues, these temporary changes will allow him to focus on what is most important — his health and family,” Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said.

The Senate president also named Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, to fill in for Van Tassell as the Senate vice chairman of the Executive Appropriations Committee.

“I appreciate Senator Van Tassell and Senator Vickers for helping temporarily fulfill these duties. I have complete confidence in them and look forward to their contributions to the success of this legislative session,” Niederhauser said.