Members of the Davis Chamber of Commerce got a crash course in politics Thursday as the chamber's Leadership Institute journeyed to the Capitol in its first of 12 field trips this year.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who met with the institute, told members that Utah has the strongest economy in the United States and that even though the rest of the nation may be sliding toward a recession, job growth and low unemployment in Utah are steady.

"The No. 1 order of business is to keep our economy sound," Huntsman told the group of 25 managers who belong to this year's institute.

The Leadership Institute, which has been a part of the Davis Chamber since it was formed in 2001, is a cadre of managers selected by their employers in Davis County. Each employer pays $695 tuition for the yearlong program. And in turn, the institute's members travel and learn while networking, says John Pitt, Davis Chamber president.

Huntsman addressed health-care reform — what he calls the most complex animal he's tackled as an elected leader — and predicted that Utah will see significant changes to the system within a few years.

Huntsman also praised environmental research into carbon capturing and sequestration at the University of Utah.

Thursday's visit also allowed chamber members to see how local leaders work with Davis County legislators and encourage them to support or oppose specific pieces of legislation.

Nathan Rich, manager of the Wasatch Integrated Waste Management District, wants legislators to oppose SB46, which would remove local government's ability to impose flow controls for landfills.

Those flow controls currently allow Wasatch Integrated Waste, which serves Davis and Morgan counties, to recycle half of the waste that comes to its Layton landfill by incinerating it and using the energy to generate steam, which it sells to Hill Air Force Base.

Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs told legislators she wants them to oppose HB323, sponsored by Rep. Aaron Tilton, R-Salt Lake City.

The bill disallows the use of eminent domain for emergency access. And though the bill may be meant to curb the use of eminent domain for other trails and pathways in other areas of the state, it appears to be excessive, Downs said.

"We hate to have our hands tied for something that's for another area," she said.

Weber State University President Ann Millner asked legislators to support SB103, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, which would enhance higher education with an infusion of money to improve student retention and graduation rates, advance math and science fields and improve faculty quality.


E-mail: [email protected]