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Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Cameron Winn (left) and Christian Winn help their father, Rep. Bradley Winn, R-Ephraim, in the House of Representatives at the opening of the Utah State Legislature, which is meeting in the Capitol for the first time in four years, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 21, 2008. Photo by Tom Smart

With some delays because of heavy snow, the Utah Legislature opened its 2008 general session Monday morning with prayers, singing and speeches.

Monday afternoon Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine Durham will give the State of the Judiciary address, with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. giving his State of the State address Tuesday night in the newly-restored Utah State Capitol.

House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, said that legislators should be patient and honest.

Perhaps in a slight dig at Utahns who voted down a vouches' bill last November, Curtis said that he's read some history of early Utah and back in the early days when the Capitol was new, Gov. William Spry appointed a revenue and taxation commission. The commission had some recommendations, but they couldn't be implemented because citizens rejected several constitutional amendments.

Spry said the citizens rejected changes because of a "public campaign of perversion and misrepresentation by individuals and corporations."

Curtis went on to complain about the biased media, especially columnists who pursue what he called a partisan agenda.

Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, who was stuck in snow- bound traffic and needed Senate ceremonies delayed to accommodate him, said he hoped that senators would be "firm enough to govern well, flexible enough to change." Valentine said his gavel was used in the second session of the Utah Senate, circa 1897 and he had with him the first Senate journal from 1896, the year Utah was admitted as a State.

Meanwhile, Elder Quentin L. Cook, of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve, prayed in the House that debates over these next 45 days "personal respect and, hopefully, unity."

He noted that there are many serious issues facing not only Utah but the nation and world, as well.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Elder Cook gave thanks for all those who have come before who brought Americans and Utahns freedom and civil rights, adding that America's blessings should be bestowed regardless of race, religion and gender.

In the Senate, Elder Robert D. Hales, also a member of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve, gave the opening prayer. He prayed for unity and cooperation in the upcoming session and asked for the recognition of all religious faiths.

"We thank thee, father, for the many blessings we have ... and for the freedoms of this nation: Freedom of speech. Freedom to assemble. Freedom of religion and of the press," Hales said. "And on this special day when we honor human rights, let us honor all other creeds and religions."

The opening day of each general session brings some hope and enthusiasm, but Monday was an especially happy occasion as legislators, staff and technicians hustled around the newly restored House and Senate chambers making sure of last-minute adjustments to what is now called the most technically-advanced Capitol in the United States.

However, the first "present" roll call of the House's 75 members had to be taken the old way — by voice — because the electronic voting board in the House Chambers did not work.

Flat screen TVs in the House and Senate galleries will allow visitors to see the votes as they take place. And the podiums in the House and Senate look like TV control panels with Curtis and Valentine pushing touch-screens to turn on mikes, call for votes and make other selections.

As was the case in the temporary chambers in an office building behind the Capitol, citizens can watch floor action live via TV cameras and listen live to committee debates over the Legislature's web site: www.le.state.ut.us.

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E-mail: [email protected]