Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: What have Utah's lawmakers wrought in 2013?

Published: Sunday, March 24 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Pignanelli: The media judges a session by controversial legislation or scandals. As someone who spends 12 hours a day at the Capitol during this stressful time, I apply a different determinant of excitement: the amount of high-octane refreshment consumed at the end of the week to restore my sanity (This was an average year). Legislative leadership performed a great service to the state by keeping their flocks in line with little diversions. There were plenty of intense policy debates (water, hotel, Internet tax, guns, etc.) to provide excitement to insiders.

Webb: It was a workman-like, low-key session in which lawmakers took care of the state's basic needs, balanced the budget and got the job done. In contrast to the dysfunctional national Congress, which can only lurch from crisis to crisis, the 2014 session was a model of responsibility, competence and efficiency.

Still, recognizing that legislatures are, by nature, reactive and not prone to long-term planning, I would like to see more vision, more focus on big issues — the game-changers that will take Utah to the next level. I like leaders who have big ideas, who aren't afraid to take on sweeping, tough initiatives. In education, for example, we saw increased funding for mostly the status quo, but no fundamental reform or restructuring to create the 21st century education model. One big idea legislative success was taking steps to move the state prison, making way for a high-tech corridor that could be a $1 trillion economic game-changer for Utah. We need more such visionary efforts.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.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: frankp@xmission.com.

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