Gov. Walker Calls For Special Session

Gov. Walker Calls For Special Session


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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Gov. Olene Walker called a special legislative session for Wednesday to wrap up some loose ends and fix some bills approved last winter.

On the agenda for legislators is making good on a promise to send municipalities more money for drunken-driving enforcement, answer constitutional criticism of a state-sponsored capital-venture fund and reorganize a nominating committee for state school board candidates.

Legislators will make a correction directing a $5 increase in the $150 filing fee for state civil suits to a special court security fund, where the money was supposed to go.

Another piece of legislation would give county clerks more flexibility to establish the size of voter precincts and expand the pool of poll workers by reducing the age limit to 17 from 18 to draw more high school seniors.

Walker signed a proclamation Saturday declaring these matters "require immediate legislative attention." She invoked her powers as governor to call the special session and set the agenda.

Earlier this month former Gov. Mike Leavitt called for the same special session, but he left the agenda open. Then Leavitt left Utah Nov. 6 to take over as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, handing power to Walker, who was his lieutenant governor.

She set an 8-point agenda for Wednesday's session.

Legislators will fix Senate Bill 66, which hiked Utah's beer tax. The bill failed to allocate the increase in the beer tax to local governments for drunken-driving enforcement, as legislators promised to do.

Another bill that State Auditor Auston Johnson says needs fixing created the capital venture fund. The funds is financed by banks, insurance companies and other businesses, but also backed up by a state contingency fund, which would be made available if the fund's reserves were depleted.

Johnson says the contingency fund violates the state Constitution's ban on using taxpayer money for private enterprise.

Amendments to an education omnibus act, Senate Bill 154, also will be on the special session agenda. That bill directed the public school system to emphasize core academics and devise new ways to measure student and teacher performance.

But educators and other critics have complained the bill gave business interests too much influence selecting members for the 15-member State Board of Education. The change would diminish the role of business on a nominating committee.

In another other agenda item, legislators will consider amendments to Senate bill 72, which expands fire protection services. And senators will take up confirmation hearings for some of the new governor's appointees.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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