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Front Page » March 8, 2011 » Opinion » Guest column: Last week of the legislature
Published 1,240 days ago

Guest column: Last week of the legislature


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By By CHRISTINE WATKINS
Representative District 69

The 2011 Legislative session will be over on March 10th at midnight. Monday was the last day for the House to debate and vote on House bills. The last three days are for Senate bills on the House floor.

We were in the Capitol until 10 p.m. on Friday evening passing bills and debating SB 116, a new immigration bill. I voted against all of the immigration bills until Friday night. I listened to the debate and decided, on the basis of its constitutionality and the message it sends to Congress, that this was one I could vote for. It is a 57-page bill which we as House members had no opportunity to read and study prior to casting a vote. I agreed with one legislator who complained about the process, noting that we should have had the weekend to study it. All of the immigration bills have constitutional notes, which means that the federal government could challenge the state. This bill allows for petitioning the federal government for waivers. It has three main components; (1) A guest worker provision, (2) In-state tuition for illegal immigrant students if they can prove either they or their parents have paid taxes for the previous three years, and (3) An enforcement component.

I did not vote for HB 477 which deals with GRAMA requests. I was one of 12 on the House floor who did not support the bill. This bill came forward and was passed in both Houses in less than 36 hours. To pass a bill that quickly does look suspicious, and I could not support it. I recognize that some changes may need to be made, however, we have been told that it takes an inordinate amount of time to go through emails and text messages, and many are worried about constituent emails becoming public.

HB 98, Capital Outlay Modifications, is still awaiting passage in the Senate. It is my number one priority bill. I would also like to my Wild Lands Resolution to pass in the Senate.

The state Parks funding is pending. I am concerned that it has been cut even beyond what the committee recommended. There are several of us still working on the funding and questioning why there are more cuts. I do not want funding for our Utah State Parks cut any more than what was agreed to in committee.

I have been asked by several legislators to take them on a tour of rural schools and rural cities. Representative Merlynn Newbold asked me to take her to several rural school districts so she could really understand how some of her legislation affects rural schools. I consider these requests a positive recognition of my hard work in educating urban legislators that one size does not fit all.

If you have questions or comments you can email me at cwatkins@utah.gov.

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