Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: The Legislature is at work, and it's an election year
Webb: Watch the guys running for higher office: Rep. Chris Herrod (U.S. Senate), Rep. Ken Sumsion (governor), Rep. Stephen Sandstrom (Congress). Watch Sen. Stuart Adams on transportation; Sens. Howard Stephenson, Stephen Urquhart and Aaron Osmond on education; and Reps. Ken Ivory, Brad Daw and Sen. Wayne Neiderhauser on federalism. New guy to watch: Sen. Todd Weiler.
Do the Democrats have a role?
Webb: Republicans have the luxury of being magnanimous to the small Democratic minority. Democrats are allowed to be seen on the floor, and even speak in soft voices.
Pignanelli: Democrats are pushing — in a nice public approach — the resources of a recovering economy toward education. While schools will eventually benefit from Gov. Gary Herbert's and Republican legislative actions, it is imperative the minority party maintain its traditional role as "hall monitors." Furthermore, Democrats will want to step up their comic responses to ridiculous or unconstitutional legislation — especially to counter Romney-mania in the fall.
How will the major issues (budget, education, etc.) be resolved?
Webb: With enough money for state growth, but little more, priorities and expectations for this session are quite modest. No grand visions or bold initiatives. Education, rightly, is the top priority. Both public education and higher education need more money, but they also need reform. A number of smart and thoughtful lawmakers have some excellent proposals. I hope they are successful. Utah is lagging in education reform. A number of states are doing bold and exciting things and Utah risks being left behind.
Nothing is more important to the future of our state than having a work force trained for the emerging job market. Doing things the same old way isn't good enough.
Pignanelli: There may be enough money to help with growth in education without raising taxes. Unfortunately, Medicaid continues to expand and lawmakers must pursue reform if they are to free up dollars in the future.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: email@example.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.