Utah legislators, bruised and battered after the January-February general session, took March off to heal hurt feelings and catch up on their sleep.
But starting Wednesday they were back at it, meeting once a month to study items for next year's Legislature and prepare bills. It's called interim study day and its 24 hours aren't enough to do what's called for.This year a record 340 items grace the interim study resolution, more than in any previous year.
There's no way that many items can be considered by the 11 interim committees. During a recent Legislative Management Committee meeting, leaders were told by staff members that only 100 or so study items will actually receive committee attention. The rest will die on the vine.
"We should do something about this," said Rep. Beverly White, D-Tooele, complaining about how valuable interim time is taken up by too many dead-end bills and go-nowhere study issues.
"Well," said House Speaker Glen Brown, R-Coalville, "how do you tell someone that what they think is important to study isn't really important?"
It will be left up to individual committees and their GOP chairmen to decide what items will top their lists. Here are some of the most important, and silliest, study items legislators will consider:
-Economic development is big this election year. There are almost two dozen studies requested that promise increased development, including a master plan to study long-range economic development.
-Mountain Bell deregulation and how depositors of the failed thrifts and loans should be repaid, were two of the hottest items in the last session. They weren't acted on and will be studied this coming year.
-Financial credit relating to women will be looked at from two angles: How can women get commercial credit and how can divorced women get their own credit?
-Should school teachers or counselors be given the authority to give tickets to kids who sell or take drugs and alcohol in school? That will be examined.
-Which is better to judge students by: the SAT or the ACT? A committee will try to decide.
-One committee will try to find out why there is a shortage of textbooks in public schools. Perhaps because there isn't enough money to buy textbooks for all the kids?
-Even though the Great Salt Lake is being pumped, and its level dropping, one committee will study if more dikes are needed on the lake. Another committee will study moving the Utah State Fair to Antelope Island, which will become accessible if more dikes are built.
-Should there be a state soil? A question that lawmakers want to study.
-Just what is underground digging and what does it mean to Utahns? Study it.
-What should be done with discarded tires?
-How about a penal colony where criminals and families can live?
All must be studied.
Finally, legislators will study how they can avoid controversial bills that's right, they want fewer bills that cause argument.
And they will study whether the Utah House of Representatives' floor sessions should be televised on public TV. If they approve that, then everyone can see lawmakers debate what they want to study.