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President Obama gets down to business



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It was swift and decisive action on two issues for President Barack Obama. On his first day in office, he issued two executive orders, one of them dealing with lobbyist influence. The other executive order puts a freeze on the salaries of about 100 aides who make more than $100,000.

The president is tightening restrictions on lobbyists. It's a major piece of ethics reform unlike anything Washington has seen before. And there are a lot of people in Utah looking to do something similar.

The executive order came during the swearing-in ceremony for White House staffers. The implications of restricting lobbyists could be huge. It's an effort to "clean up Washington," Obama says.

The end result is stricter lobbyist limits than under any other administration in history. Obama said, "If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be allowed to work on matters you lobbied on or in the agencies you lobbied during the previous two years. When you leave government, you will not be allowed to lobby my administration for as long as I am president."

In addition, the president banned gifts from lobbyists to anyone working in the administration. The president promised to make sure his presidency is a transparent one.

These are the kinds of issues the Utah legislature has been fighting about for years. Republican leaders have only gone so far in limiting gifts, meals and other influence.

This year, however, there are dozens bills suggesting the same kind of reform the president talked about: the so-called "revolving door" and more.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed a similar executive order two years ago, and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson imposed those rules early on in his administration.

This could be the year the Legislature takes on some of those issues, too.

A lot of Utahns are looking hard at what the president is going to do in his first 100 days in office.

In particular, people are anxious about his proposed stimulus package, which would provide money for dozens of projects in Utah.

Voters are also anxious to see results on health care reform; something Utah lawmakers are working on right now.

Immigration is a hot topic for Utahns. President Obama's administration could finally shepherd in some serious changes where they need to happen: at the federal level. If that happens, an important Utah immigration law -- the hotly debated Senate Bill 81 -- may not even be necessary.

On environmental issues, mine safety and, of course, the economy, it's becoming clear that solutions will be better if Utah can partner with the federal government.

In fact, Gov. Jon Huntsman has said he is very optimistic about working with the new administration. Right now, President Obama seems very open to that.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

Richard Piatt

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