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'United' Utah Democrats share vision for 2014 Legislature

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 21 2014 5:41 p.m. MST

State Troopers Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013 at the Utah State Capitol. Members of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses met Tuesday at the state Capitol to share their vision for the 2014 Legislature, which gets underway next week

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic legislators say they are united, focused on the family, mindful of the future and eager for transparency as they head into the 2014 Legislature.

Members of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses met Tuesday at the state Capitol to share their vision for the legislative session that gets underway next week.

"My biggest takeaway from the meeting is that the Democrats are united. We have one common goal, and that’s to represent our constituents," said Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna.

Heading into her sixth legislative session, Duckworth said Democratic state legislators are more cohesive than they were when her husband served 15 years ago. She credits excellent communication and an incredible leadership team.

Leaders of the minority party spoke about their plans to focus on Utah families during the 45-day general session, which runs Jan. 27-March 13.

They said this session is centered on helping Utahns face day-to-day challenges such as education, health care, air quality, safety and economic vitality.

"As we look toward this upcoming session, so often political ideology is a thing that everything is focused on, and we feel sometimes we lose that opportunity to really focus on what we really are about, which is families," said Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City.

Democratic legislators are watching the health of economic success in Utah and looking to improve air quality, Davis said, as well as working to provide health care access, with special attention to the Medicaid expansion issue.

"We’re committed to providing access to affordable health care for all Utahns," he said.

House and Senate Democrats also are focused on improving education in Utah.

"Education is also in the forefront because we know here in Utah that education equals opportunity, and there’s no way around that," Davis said. "It is our responsibility as adults to provide a good education to the children around us."

Democrats in the Republican-controlled Utah Legislature want education in the state to be the best in the world, and they're taking measures to protect funding for elementary schools, programs for preschoolers, and providing parental leave for school activities.

"We need to get beyond just funding the status quo. It not, when? We say the time is now," said House Minority Whip Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray. "We're still the lowest state in the United States in funding education, and all of our students deserve a quality education today."

In addition, state Democratic leaders said they are serious about oversight and return on investment.

"Democrats are calling for deliberative and thoughtful review of previous tax incentives to determine the best and most profitable ways for Utahns to support our economy," said House Minority Leader Jen Seelig, D-Salt Lake City.

The session will see legislation from Democrats on a slew of topics, including finance reform, human trafficking, technology safety and alternative sentencing.

"I'm hoping that we can encourage our colleagues to focus on what we see as these important public policy arenas," said Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City.

Chavez-Houck said she hopes the Legislature doesn't get caught up in discussion related to same-sex marriage, adding that it's something for the courts to decide. She said she wants to focus on policy issues impacting Utahns on a daily basis, not message bills.

"Utah families don't bifurcate their issues," Chavez-Houck said. "We realize the importance of stabilizing and improving all of these factors of Utahns' quality of life — health and public safety, good governance … and education."

Email: madbrown@deseretnews.com

Twitter: madeleine6

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