Changes ahead for Utah Legislature


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The 2008 election didn't change the Republican dominance of the Utah Legislature. But the tone set by Democratic victories locally and nationwide could have an effect on the next legislative session.

There are also a few issues that are lingering that will ensure the next session of the Legislature is dynamic.

There will certainly be a shift in leadership in the House, and that itself is a major change. Current House Speaker Greg Curtis has been voted out, and that means new energy in the Utah House.

We are also expecting serious competition for leadership in the Senate this time. Together with the issues that are on tap -- state budget cuts and ethics issues, for example -- it's possible there could be a Democrat trickle-down effect.

Changes ahead for Utah Legislature

"It's going to be very provocative. But the Democrats feel the momentum. Even though they don't have it in numbers, they have it in energy and enthusiasm," said political pollster Dan Jones.

Democrats gained only two seats in the House last night; and only eight of the 29 seats in the Senate are Democratic, so Republicans will still dominate.

Rep. Greg Hughes, recently cleared in ethics hearings with an order to be nicer, now has an eye on ethics reform. He says winning by 3 percentage points, he feels more determined to fairness than ever.

Changes ahead for Utah Legislature

"We're all going to seek more transparency in this process to let the electorate know what's going on. You'll see some good changes, some overdue changes, that will provide greater transparency to what we do," Hughes said.

There is commitment to handle ethics in some way, but there may be pressure to handle other issues in a more bipartisan way, too. We'll have to wait and see how it plays out.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

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Richard Piatt

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