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Lawmakers give themselves B+ grade for session

Published: Friday, March 11 2011 6:59 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Some key issues divided the Utah Legislature this session, such as immigration and the budget, but one issue members from both parties agree on is the grade they deserve for their work. 

That grade? B+.

Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, and House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, gave the legislative session the same above-average grade as they addressed students Friday at University of Utah's annual legislative debrief. 

Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, aimed a little lower with "a solid B." 

Sponsored by the Hinckley Institute of Politics, the panel discussion also included House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo. While she chose not to give the session a grade, she did say she was "quite pleased" with how the session turned out.

"We didn't want to raise taxes, we wanted to decrease the structural imbalance in the budget, we wanted to fund growth in education and we accomplished all of those things," she said.

After being under public scrutiny for the past 45 days, the lawmakers seemed relaxed and relieved to be done with the main bulk of their work, though Lockhart said as a homemaker, she doesn't know how she is going to spend her newfound free time. 

The four lawmakers also seemed at ease with each other. Romero said the parties work together better than people might think.

"Most of the issues are not partisan," he said. "We agree on the vast majority on how to run the state and how to invest our dollars."

Though, he added, "Sometimes we disagree, maybe a little bit, on the budget."

Both Romero and Litvack said the minority party is not likely to win many debates. 

"Sometimes the role in the minority party is to take a bad bill and to make it less bad," Litvack said. "And that's a victory, and there was a lot of those victories this year."

The Legislature still has challenges to address before the next session convenes, Litvack said, including one he's least looking forward to — redistricting. 

The panelists fielded questions and comments from students, including one on the Legislature's take on immigration. 

"The states are dealing with the consequences of a failed federal policy," Lockhart said. States will continue to address the issue, she said, because the federal government is an "abject failure."

Waddoups said he was "a little uncomfortable" with how HB477, that shields electronic messages from open-records requests, was handled.

"I wish we didn't have to need things like that," he said. "Unfortunately, there was a need."

"Our whole lives don't need to be public."

E-mail: averzello@desnews.com

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