Richard Piatt ReportingPolicy-makers from across the nation are converging on Salt Lake City this week. 4,000 people will be here for the annual Conference of State Legislators.
Where Legislators are, lobbyists are never far behind, and that's true at the Salt Palace this week where groups as diverse as nude recreationists to the Humane Society set up to sell their point of view.
Julie Janovsky, Humane Society of U.S.: "We're here to get legislators to start thinking about these issues, and once again to stress that it's a bi-partisan act to think about animal protection issues."
The National Conference of State Legislatures, NCSL, can be a springboard for new ideas about tough problems. It's at conferences like this that lawmakers talk about things like No Child Left Behind, Welfare Reform, Taxing Internet Purchases, Health Care, and Tough Budgets.
Along the way, Salt Lake City hotels, restaurants, bars, taxi-cabs, and others are expected to rake in between four and five million dollars this week.
There are those who are nervous Utah's cultural influence at a Capitol opening reception--no alcohol--might be taken as an 'unfriendly' reception. That's nonsense, according to NCSL's President and Utah house Speaker.
Marty Stephens, NCSL President: "I don't think it's a big deal. We've talked to the leaders of NCSL. We're going to have alcohol at one of the events and at the other we're not."
Conference organizers reluctantly admit: Nightlife is a part of the convention for some. But they're hoping the focus will be more on meaty issues common to all states.
William Pound/NCSL Executive Director: "The problems are fairly common. How they deal with them may differ according to their own political culture, their own traditions."
Attendance at this NCSL is expected to be lower than average---about 4,000. Organizers blame the timing of the election year, not the host state Utah, which struggled to raise the nearly 800-thousand dollars to host the event this year.
This week the conference is expected to host actress Melissa Gilbert speaking on behalf of promoting the film industry. Democrats will host Senator Gary Hart at a luncheon tomorrow. And President Bush's Chief of Staff Andy Card will address the group Friday morning.