Deseret News
A special session of the Utah State Legislature Oct. 17, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

As the Utah Legislature opens its annual session tomorrow, we wish to acknowledge the sacrifice made by citizen legislators who effectively volunteer 45 days of service each winter along with interim days of service throughout the year.

Structured initially to meet the rhythms and needs of an agricultural economy, this 21st-century citizen legislature continues to bring to the state Capitol the concerns of the constituents they live and work with coupled with the collective wisdom that comes from their own hard work in all walks of life. It doesn't require professional politicians to make Utah among the best-managed states in the union.

Each legislative session brings its own unique set of concerns. Because the session is short and the issues serious, we trust that legislators will avoid the temptation to debate largely symbolic issues that play to narrow interests or garner publicity but don't stand a chance of moving forward. It seems that too often at the beginning of these sessions, some legislator who is justly proud of our state, tries, through some piece of states' rights legislation, to relitigate McCulloch v. Maryland (the case that affirmed the supremacy clause of the Constitution). Such stunts distract from the weighty issues before the Legislature.

For example, efforts are under way from many quarters to refine the path-breaking immigration policies passed by the Legislature last year. Important and legitimate issues have come up as the state attempts to implement those policies, including a lawsuit blocking parts of the legislation.

As legislators propose needed refinements, we trust that they will not undo the basic compromise on the principles that guided last year's efforts to help ferret out criminal elements while helping people of good will without documentation to become square with the law in ways that honor family and respect individual dignity. We trust that through the process of refinement, Utah will once again be held up as a model to the nation.

In the wake of scandal at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, there is appropriate indignation about the need to root out corruption. But in the process, we trust that lawmakers will be wise enough to not misconstrue alcohol regulations as merely an economic issue. Alcohol and its frequent misuse create vital and expensive problems for public health and safety, issues rightly delegated to the state to craft judicious policy.

It would be ironic that at the very moment the nation looks to Utah's effective solutions on these issues, as did the Centers for Disease Control in their most recent study of binge drinking, that Utah lawmakers would deviate from the state's leadership position on these issues.

We trust that this Legislature will continue its tradition of fiscal responsibility by balancing the state's budget while eschewing debt and avoiding new taxes. Such policies have helped Utah carve out a reputation as a great place to start, relocate and expand businesses.

We are encouraged to hear legislators from both sides of the aisle champion the idea that increasing state revenues must be invested into education. Primary, secondary and higher education have weathered the fiscal challenges of the past several years with exceeding patience. We trust, however, that those increased investments will come with meaningful assessment of, and accountability for, student achievement.

As the legislative session unfolds there may be times when the judgment of the Deseret News differs from that of our lawmakers, and in those instances we will air our differences and our reasons for them. But in those instances of disagreement we nonetheless honor and respect our elected public servants for their commitment to our state and federal constitutions and for their willingness to serve in the common interest. We wish them well as they embark on another legislative session.