Disappointed that the top two items on their wish list went nowhere in the last session of the state Legislature, Davis County elected officials have decided to be better organized for the next session.
Meeting as the Davis Council of Governments, the county's mayors, commissioners and school district representatives Wednesday agreed to set up a special eight-person steering committee to work more closely with the county's senators and representatives.Their plan is to model the county's lobbying effort after Weber County's.
Sen. Haven Barlow, R-Layton, told the council members that when he went to meet with Weber County's legislators he was surprised at the efficient organizational structure they had set up to coordinate with local elected officials.
"We need to do that," Barlow told the mayors and commissioners at the COG annual spring meeting with legislators. "We need to not be as splintered as we have been in the past. We need to meet weekly and get ourselves organized.
"We've come of age. We need to decide what we want for our county, the third largest in the state, and work for it," Barlow advised.
Barlow's realization came when he went to meet with Weber lawmakers to drum up support for reconstruction of the causeway to Antelope Island, one of Davis County's prime projects in the past two legislative sessions.
But funding for the causeway was axed in the final minutes of the session, just as it was in 1990. A negative vote by a Layton legislator, Rep. Kevin Garn, was one of the crucial votes that killed the proposed funding plan.
Garn, R-Layton, said Wednesday that it wasn't the $2 million in causeway construction funds that prompted his "no" vote "but the other $83 million that was included in the bonding bill."
County officials also were rebuffed in their effort to amend the state's Truth in Taxation law that regulates how cities set property tax rates and in efforts to obtain more funding for improvements on U.S. 89 through Davis County.
Rep. Walt Bain, R-Farmington, said he agreed with Barlow's assessment that the county's legislators "didn't do a lousy job but we should have done a better one.
"I don't think we did as well as we did a year ago" in the 1990 session, Bain said.
Sen. Dave Steele, R-West Point, said holding weekly strategy sessions isn't enough. "We need to go beyond that. We need a formal agenda, not an informal approach." he said.
Rep. Nancy Lyon, R-Bountiful, who introduced the causeway funding bill, said the state Legislature is floundering and looking for clear directions.
"The Legislature is questioning where it, and the state, are going. We want to go beyond just putting out brush fires. We need a statewide agenda," Lyon said.
But lawmakers listen to their constituents, said Sen. Lane Beattie, R-Bountiful. "The Legislature is pretty reactive, reacting to public opinion, to court decisions, and to issues in the public media," said Beattie.
"What we need to do, though, is to get more pro-active rather than just reactive," he said.
A freshman Democrat serving his first term, Rep. Vern Borgeson, D-Sunset, said the revamping of the state's property tax law after the court ruling in the Amax case was a highlight of the session. That work, he said, will save the state $43 million a year.
Another issue raised by local officials is equalization of revenue among school districts. That, too, received scant attention in the last session.
Rep. Kim Burningham, R-Bountiful, said funding used to be equalized but exceptions that have been passed in recent years have skewed the program.
Loopholes have been opened that now allow wealthier districts to pay teachers more, reduce class size and spend more money on physical facilities, Burninghman said.
Efforts are being made to restore equalization, he said, but there is fierce opposition from the wealthier school districts in the state.