Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
» View our Utah politics blog, with live updates and analysis of the 2012 legislative sessions.
SALT LAKE CITY — With the pleasantries out of the way, state lawmakers will get down to business starting Tuesday.
"Here we go again," said Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, in convening 2012 session Monday, which was mostly ceremonial with prayers, patriotic songs and speeches.
"Be bold. Be brave. Be able to say when this session is over that you did your very best," House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, told her colleagues in the 75-member body.
Lockhart reminded House members that the 45-day session will be both fulfilling and frustrating, but to remember that they are responsible to their constituents.
"You in this room will make hard choices, just like others have before you," she said.
Public education, liquor laws and illegal immigration top the list of issues the Republican-controlled legislature will tackle.
Senate Minority Caucus Manager Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake, said the session began on a positive note, especially when it comes to education. Republicans have already said they intend to fund growth in student populations.
"We are of like mind that that's an issue of high concern," he said. But he said he hopes it goes beyond just funding growth. "I don't think that's enough."
The first of several illegal immigration bills could emerge as early as Tuesday. Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, wants to replace last year's HB116, a controversial measure that includes a guest worker prorgram.
Lockhart said it's hard to tell what will ultimately happen on illegal immigration.
"It's probably simmering," she said. "Whether or not it comes to a boil is yet to be determined."
In her speech to the House, the speaker called on legislators to craft creative solutions to problems, protect residents without trampling on civil rights and meet people's needs without overburdening them with taxes.
Lawmakers, Lockhart said, need to be cautious with taxpayers' money and understand the proper role of government.
Freedom, God-given rights and the Constitution are often discussed in the Legislature, she said. "And for good reason. These are ideals worth fighting for and worth dying for."
Proceedings in the Senate got under way with prayer, then music from the Osmond family, including one song written by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Waddoups sounded an optimistic note in his opening remarks, saying recent economic trends that suggest Utah has weathered the nation's economic downturn in much better stead than many other states.
When meeting with legislative peers from other states, he said, they often ask, "What's going on in Utah? Can you give us some hints? Help us out here."
Utah still has money in its Rainy Day Fund and the state is "now paying ongoing money for ongoing projects." This is a result of good planning and strategic management, he said.
Waddoups noted that seven states recently declared they are optimistic about the future. "We are one of those."
The Utah Senate could take lessons from bees, he said, considering the bee is Utah's symbol of industry and is displayed prominently on the state flag, seal and Senate seal.
“The beehive is a colony where a group works together for the benefit of all. Again, I think the parallel is there for us," he said. To punctuate the point, Waddoups gave each of his Senate colleagues a bee lapel pin as a personal gift.
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