Ethics reform, states' rights stand out during 2010 session

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SALT LAKE CITY -- When it came to the budget, Republicans and Democrats came together well. With so little money, most wanted to follow Gov. Gary Herbert's recommendations as much as possible, but news of an additional $50 million shortfall made that impossible.

"A tight budget year; I would say this was an awful budget year," said House Speaker David Clark, R-Santa Clara.


"I really think, as a legislative body, we've done a tremendous job of addressing as many of the gaps as possible," said House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City.

In spite of resistance to any new tax, a tax increase did pass on tobacco. It's enough to raise $44 million next year -- a saving grace for education, health and human services and many other programs. Still, cuts came just about everywhere.

At the same time, lawmakers took on the state pension system, reforming retirement benefits.

Ethics reform passed, forming an ethics commission, new limits on disclosure, campaign finance rules and more.

"I think we took on some great bills this year," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City. "As a matter of fact, I had a legislator say to me the other day, ‘I think we've taken on weightier bills this year than we have in a while.'"

More than a dozen states' rights bills got hearings and attracted attention this year. As part of an effort across the nation, many resolutions simply send a message; others could spark a legal fight. Some say they are a negative influence at the Capitol.

"The ones that concern me the most are the ones that have a constitutional note. A constitutional note means it will cost a lot of money in court," said Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake City.

In spite of that, most of the 15 or so passed as this year's round of message bills.


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Richard Piatt


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