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Rush of work ends 2011 legislative session
by Becky Ginos
Mar 12, 2011 | 14504 views | 0 0 comments | 429 429 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CAPITOL HILL — In the wee hours of the night on Thursday, the lights were still burning on Capitol Hill. As the 2011 legislative session came to a close, lawmakers were still passing bills.

“We’ve been here for 45 days, yet on the last day here we’re still working on amendments to big things,” said Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake. “There is still a lot of work to be done,” she said Thursday afternoon.

“They say half the work in the session is done the last week,” Edwards said. “We usually end up passing about 400 bills. But with amendments, etc., close to 700 votes are taken during the session.”

Things started out relatively quiet back in January, but gained momentum as the weeks went by. Last week, issues started boiling over as a package of immigration bills was passed. Then a controversial bill, HB477, on changing GRAMA (Government Records Access Management Act), caused major heartburn last Friday and spilled over into this week after the governor requested a recall, then ended up signing it late Tuesday night.

“It’s a terribly bad bill,” said Bountiful resident and chair of Utahns for Ethical Government (UEG) Kim Burningham. “Worse than the bill, I’m offended by the process, as rapidly as it was put through.”

Burningham said even though the governor and Legislature recalled it, he believes they will just “pretend to look at it. It violates open public process.

“This will make it harder for the press and public to get information,” he said. “The cost could make it prohibitive too. I’m concerned that if they protect texting, we may know far less. I find it troubling and disconcerting.”

A group of citizens has filed an application for a referendum on the bill.

“I don’t think the public had enough say,” said Edwards. “We made a mistake on that one. Sometimes policy gets clouded by the process. But now we have a chance to go back and get public input. It will be studied and it’s possible we’ll come up with something different.”

However, Burningham contends the recall was just a “pacifier,” and the process was handled all wrong.

“You should talk before you pass a bill,” he said. “All the Legislature has to say now is ‘we won’t make any changes.’ There should be good, open discussion on it first. They did everything backwards on this bill.”

Overall, a passel of bills were passed and public education received funding this session.

“There are some of my bills I wish they would have spent some more time on,” said Edwards. “It’s a deliberative, slow process and I knew that going in. But it can be frustrating sometimes. My constituents are often surprised by how many hoops you have to jump through.”
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