If there's one thing Utah legislators like almost as much as passing laws, it's talking about passing laws.
A lot of talking will be going on over the next nine months as the state's 104 legislators talk about - and study - 283 specific topics. Actually, the list will grow considerably as the year goes on. And in reality, most of those 283-plus items won't be studied at all.One of the great axioms of the Utah Legislature is if you can't get your bill passed, at least get it on the Master Study Resolution so the constituent who asked you to sponsor the bill will get some satisfaction, small though it may be.
Once a month, April through December, the Legislature meets for interim study day at the Capitol. Each lawmaker sits on two committees. In the morning, representatives and senators meet in one of 10 assigned committees. In the afternoon, they meet in another. The lawmakers aren't in official session, they don't hold their meetings in their respective chambers, and they can't pass or defeat bills. They just talk and listen.
Besides the study committees items, lawmakers also formed nine special task forces this year, which will study specific problems and probably suggest legislation for the 1992 Legislature. Task forces meet on other than interim days.
In addition to the 283 formal study items approved at the close of the last general session, a number of study issues will be suggested as the year progresses.
"I figure we'll have somewhere around 350 study items before it's over," said Richard Strong, director of Legislative Research and General Council, "only about half of which will actually be studied."
That is, less than half the items will have some kind of data gathered by Strong's staff and given to legislators. The rest of the study items will be ignored.
Each committee will pick the issues it chooses to study. Thus, if a legislator has his own study item assigned to a committee on which he doesn't sit, the chances are good it won't get much attention.
Here are some of the fascinating study items on this year's agenda:
-Study whether renting R- and X-rated videos to those under 17 years old should be prohibited by law.
-Study whether private telephone conversations by employees can legally be monitored by employers.
-Study whether amusement parks and traveling carnivals should be inspected by the state.
-Study whether Utah's public colleges and universities should have enrollment caps applied.
-Study whether extracurricular activities, like high school football, have a harmful impact on school core programs.
-Study whether working knowledge of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Federalist Papers should be required of high school students.
-Study whether a moment of quietude - instead of public prayer - should be required in schools each day.
-Study whether boating-while-drunk laws should be tightened.
-Study the impacts of deer road kills along state highways.
-Study whether disabled bow hunters should be allowed to use crossbows.
-Study whether doctors should be required to tell patients of any financial interest the doctor may have in laboratory or drug companies.
-Study ways of reducing predictable injuries.
-Study ways to reduce abortions through family life education.
-Study prohibiting festival seating at musical concerts.
Finally, lawmakers will study two things that could come back to haunt them: televising seasons of the Legislature and a voter-recall of elected officials.