Education, economy, public safety highlight Democrats' legislative priorities
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Democrats responded to Gov. Gary Herbert's State of the State address Wednesday night by sharing their legislative priorities in education, local economy and public safety.
Following the governor's remarks, House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, spoke on behalf of Democrats in applauding Herbert's push toward efficiencies in government.
But when it comes to economic prosperity, Seelig said the state needs to make sure everyone is benefiting and that the market is regulated.
"We need entrepreneurial ideas," she said. "I don't care if they come from the private sector, the public sector or the nonprofit sector. We need everybody working together to take us into a future where everyone is included."
The opening of the minority party's pre-taped response took the same tone as Herbert's speech, championing education as key to "keeping Utah competitive," calling on the state to better support students and fund education.
"We must do better," Seelig said. "We must work harder to keep our kids in school, on track and graduating."
Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said Democratic lawmakers plan to propose legislation during the 2013 Legislature emphasizing early intervention and pre-K accessibility, adequately funding schools and stocking technology-driven classrooms, promoting adult education, and bringing in quality teachers, counselors and nurses.
Economic bills to be presented will include tax credits for employing the homeless, workforce retraining for veterans, and investing in rural communities, Davis said. Democrats are also proposing safeguards for victims of dating violence and fighting secondhand smoke in vehicles carrying children.
Regarding elections, Democratic proposals seek to improve campaign finance transparency and increase restrictions on campaign fund expenditures.
Weighing in on the nationwide gun debate, Seelig said Utahns must examine what the right to bear arms means in the context of history and other constitutional rights.
"The Fifth Amendment gives us the constitutional right to private property," she said. "Local governments can establish zoning ordinances to determine how that property can be used. We do this to mitigate harm that a particular use of an individual right may cause to another person."
Davis also called on Utah lawmakers to follow the lead of other states that have capitalized on the three-year window to expand Medicaid through federal funding.
"Elected officials of our state's largest county see the fiscal and societal benefits of this expansion, and many of our Western neighbors, like Arizona, realize the importance of keeping all of their citizens, urban and rural alike, healthy and ready to work," he said.
Seelig ended the Democrats' remarks with a call to set partisanship aside and "work on getting things done."
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