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My view: One of the most boring legislative sessions in history, and that's good

By Lane Beattie

Published: Sunday, March 11 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

House of Representatives applaud at the closing session of the Utah State Legislature in Salt Lake City Thursday, March 8, 2012.

Deseret News

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The 2012 legislative session may go down as one of the most boring in recent history. And that is a good thing.

In almost every case, legislators kept their noses to the grindstone and focused on the work of the people. They addressed issues that actually matter and worked to make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family. Divisive, polarizing subjects that often plague legislative sessions were largely ignored or tabled before they reached the full body for consideration. And the lack of drama served the people of Utah well.

In education, legislators recognized the economic importance of a skilled, well-trained workforce by supporting innovation and investment in public and higher education. They funded enrollment growth, state of the art assessment, improved teacher evaluations, early intervention and educational excellence at Utah's colleges and universities. I was personally pleased to see salary increases for Utah's remarkable teachers, one of our state's greatest economic assets. With these and other improvements, the Legislature advanced the priorities of 15 chambers of commerce and other leading business associations who have joined to form Prosperity 2020, a movement to improve education in Utah.

In immigration reform, legislators largely ignored the contentious melees of the past and allowed existing laws to stand. No one will argue Utah's guest worker law is perfect, but it is an honest attempt to deal with a challenging issue and multiple federal failures. Improvements need to be made, but we have time to do that. Instead of continuing to tear at old wounds, legislators agreed to see how the courts respond to current laws and resisted the temptation of inflammatory rhetoric and controversial battles. An honest assessment of immigration reform requires that the federal government, not states, address the root cause of illegal immigration — a shortage of hourly and skilled labor and deficient border control. Avoiding unproductive arguments about immigration was a win for the people of Utah.

In health care reform, legislators worked to contain health care costs by wisely rejecting several insurance mandates. Looming deadlines from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act gave this work greater urgency. Our leaders delivered. Utah already has some of the highest-quality, lowest-cost medical care in the country. The work of legislators this year will keep Utah's health care system among the finest in the nation.

This session was not without its problems. It is possible to find isolated decisions that people on both the right and left will complain about. But 2012 lacked the unproductive drama that has sometimes defined Utah's Capitol Hill.

Senate President Michael Waddoups and House Speaker Becky Lockhart, along with legislative leaders from both parties, should be commended for managing the session productively, constructively and with dignity. Gov. Gary Herbert set the standard for fiscal responsibility in his balanced budget recommendation and led the charge for a tax decrease that will further strengthen the Utah economy. The business community thanks the dedicated public servants, from both parties, who worked hard, day-in and day-out to support the betterment of our state. We recognize and salute your all-too-often unheralded efforts.

The people of Utah deserve competent, thoughtful and dignified officials who act in the community's interest to solve urgent problems and address long-term needs. As Utah's business leader, the Salt Lake Chamber encourages all Utahns to actively participate in the political process. Learn about the issues. Attend caucus meetings. And vote for the candidate in the party of your choice. In a democracy, we truly get the leaders we deserve. It is the responsibility of every citizen to ensure our elected leaders make good decisions and help our state to grow in positive ways. We applaud the Legislature for its work this year, and we encourage even more boring sessions in 2013 and beyond.

Lane Beattie is president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, Utah's largest business association and Utah's statewide business leader. Beattie is a former Utah Senate President.

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