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Utah Legislature convenes Monday

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Jan. 27, 2013 at 10:14 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — When the Utah Legislature convenes for its 60th session Monday, the state's budget and education are expected to be two key issues.

Federal funding, which makes up a major portion of Utah's budget and is crucial to many programs, is in flux because of uncertainty in Congress.

"We're going to have to take a conservative and cautious approach, in my mind, and probably work with a pretty flat budget because we simply can't spend money we don't have," said House Majority Whip Don Ipson, R-St. George.

Ipson and House Minority Whip Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake, expect education to be another hot issue in this year's Legislative session.

A recent poll for the University of Utah's Center for Public Policy and Administration found that a vast majority of Utahns feel education, especially funding for education, tops the list of spending priorities.

Deseret News:

"They want to see changes in their own schools. They see it manifesting in what we don't supply in schools, the challenges of enrollment and growth," Chavez-Houck said on KSL's Sunday Edition.

Other priorities, according to voters, include economic development, health care reform, immigration policy, and transportation.

Even though some are talking about solving some funding challenges through a tax increase, Republicans are reluctant to embrace the idea.

"(Of) the people that I talk to, I don't think there's an appetite to raise taxes, and the education funding is a challenge," Ipson said.

Democrats want to be creative.

"There's ways of taking what we've got right now and being more innovative about how we utilize it for our public education system," Houck said.

Also this year, in light of the allegations against Attorney General John Swallow, ethics reform is another issue.

A lot of people anticipate efforts to take on gun legislation, as well.

And, Senator Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake County, is proposing a bill that would toughen animal cruelty laws. The bill would make cock-fighting a felony, limit the time for which a dog can be tethered, and clamp down on puppy mills.

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