Legislature Opens Monday

Legislature Opens Monday

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Richard Piatt reporting It's a new day, not just for Governor Huntsman, but also the Utah Legislature. The 2005 session of the legislature gets underway Monday with new leadership in the state House and Senate.

But many of the issues are familiar.

Here's one thing that's new for 2005: The place lawmakers will debate and vote on bills. The tight quarters are temporary, while the Capitol building is renovated.

But there is a lot that will be all-too-familiar this year.

Issues of education, transportation, the budget, even Hate Crime legislation is making a reappearance. And, lawmakers may even take a first crack at tax reform.

Sen. Peter Knudson/(R) Senate Majority Leader: "There will be some bills I suspect that will be in response to those recommendations and the fact that the legislature itself has been looking at some of these things."

This year there is also new leadership. In the House, Speaker Greg Curtis says he is aiming for 'transparency' in the process.

Rep. Greg Curtis/(R) Speaker of the House: "I want things to be transparent. I want people to recognize where things are at, where they're moving."

Curtis chats with Representative Dave Ure of Kamas about a task force to study Utah's private club system--what could be a step toward reforming a confusing alcohol laws, Ure says.

But Curtis and other lawmakers are also feeling familiar pressure to boost education funding--perhaps by more than 71 million dollars.

In addition, the issue of Tuition Tax Credits is getting another hearing; this time the Governor is open to it.

Banks are fighting to tax Credit Unions again: A resolution to Congress on the matter could take center stage this week.

Senator Greg Bell is proposing a reciprocal benefits bill to insure property medical rights and for unmarried partners.

And there is a bill to tighten the laws for 'no fault divorce' in the state, with an eye toward keeping couples married.

Governor Huntsman has already outlined priorities for a 370-million dollar surplus this year, that includes raises for teachers and state employees, and for attracting tourists and jobs to the state.

Rep. Jeff Alexander/(R) Majority Leader: "The governor has come out very strongly in supporting public education, which we agree with and also in supporting the state employees."

The relationship between the governor and the legislature is still new, a honeymoon period where differences don't seem to be that big of a deal. The 2005 session promises to test those relationships, the process always does.

Bills have already been filed to deal with ethics reform, and with the hazardous waste issue.

And one other note, Utah's longest-serving lawmaker-- Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich-- had about a third of his left lung removed on Friday after a growth was discovered. It hasn't been determined yet whether the growth is cancerous.

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