Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: The last four days of legislative session a final frenzy
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Hang onto your wallet for four more days, and you'll be OK — Utah's 104 citizen lawmakers will return home to their farms, businesses and law firms. Here are some items to watch in the final frenzy:
Will lawmakers succumb to the temptation of big federal dollars and expand Medicaid?
Pignanelli: "One must bear in mind that the expansion of federal activity is a form of eating for politicians." — William F. Buckley, Jr.
This matter has two dynamics: no deadline or consensus. Therefore, this decision will not be made for months.
Webb: This is an excruciating decision and most states are finding it impossible to pass up the cash. I suspect Gov. Gary Herbert will try to wrangle some sort of deal with the feds.
Will an executive branch ethics commission be established?
Pignanelli: Legislators imposed a commission on themselves and I am shocked that the bill has not passed yet.
Webb: Lawmakers are wisely contemplating all the ramifications and are not jumping to conclusions or overreacting.
Will Speaker Becky Lockhart and Gov. Gary Herbert patch up their differences?
Pignanelli: The Speaker is popular with the House Caucus for an open style and demonstrating a spine of steel in defending legislative interests. Exerting such leadership causes waves on Capitol Hill, but there are rumors of a detente between them.
Webb: I'm not sure irritating a popular incumbent governor is the smartest way to prepare for a gubernatorial race. 2016 is a long way away.
Will there be an increase in education funding?
Pignanelli: In December, Gov. Herbert staked a strong position for increased funding and the Legislature will try to out do him — a great position for teachers.
Webb: No one will be happy with actual dollar amounts. The good news is that a consensus is slowly forming around a long-term plan to improve public education and align post-high school training with real workforce needs.
Will the Democrats get anything passed this session?
Pignanelli: Sen. Pat Jones passed Financial Literacy in public education curricula and Rep. Patrice Arent's prohibition of smoking in cars with younger passengers are two measures that will impact Utahns.
Webb: Dominant Republicans are magnanimous — as long as the tiny minority party stays in line. Republicans are so nice that if a Democrat has a good idea, they usually don't even steal it.
Will air-quality problems be solved?
Pignanelli: What pollution? Spring is here and the air is clear.
Webb: A million little acts of everyday living diminish air quality during dreaded inversions, and it will take a million little lifestyle changes to improve it.
Will the state prison be moved?
Pignanelli: They may not hammer out all the details this week, but the big house will be relocated.
Webb: This could be a $1 trillion benefit to Utah's economy and it will happen reasonably soon. Prisoners will enjoy a more bucolic lifestyle.
Will a fuel tax increase be approved?
Pignanelli: Tax is a four letter word for local politicians.
Webb: Pre-session, lots of politicians said this is the year (no election) to do it. But the bravado soon waned.
Will the restaurant Zion Curtain hiding liquor preparation be torn down?