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Mike Lee pushes states' rights during visit to Legislature

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 22 2012 3:40 p.m. MST

The Utah State Capitol, Jan. 23, 2012.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — As the youngest member of the U.S. Senate, Mike Lee says he has often had trouble getting into Senate chambers.

“Even toward the end of my second year, I get carded,” he told Utah lawmakers Wednesday as he presented his annual report.

His need to sometimes assert himself with congressional staff who don't recognize him, Lee said, is similar to states' need to assert themselves with the federal government.

Once a Senate sergeant-at-arms came up to Lee and asked him not to lean on a senator’s desk, he said. The sergeant-at-arms then grilled him, wanting to know what he was doing in the Senate chamber.

Finally, Lee told the official: “I’m Senator Lee.” The color drained from the man’s face, and he said, “I’m terribly sorry. My name is Steve if you want to report me,” and hurried away.

“I felt badly for him,” Lee added.

Lee ticked off areas that he says require state assertiveness, to protect the right:

• Not to be detained indefinitely by the executive branch

• Not to be told where to go to a doctor and how to pay for it

• Not to have religious institutions “bullied”

• To freely develop Utah's public lands to help build “what I believe will be the greatest school system in the entire U.S.A.”

Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, told Lee he is concerned that there is too much partisanship in Congress.

“Despite what you hear in the media, bipartisanship in Washington is not dead,” Lee said, giving examples of work he's done with Democratic senators.

Lee said he's worked on balanced budget legislation with Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., whom he said he was a “cousin.”

He added, “Unfortunately, my other cousin Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico (a Democrat) doesn’t agree, and we’re working on him."

The three senators are descended from the Udall-Lee Mormon pioneer families who settled in northern Arizona.

Lee also told legislators he also supports a move to make gold and silver coins legal tender, and exempt their sale from capital gains tax.

“This is a part of the economic freedom Americans deserve,” he said.

E-mail: lbrubaker@desnews.com

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