Speculation surrounds 2005 Legislature
|Brad King works with an intern on the house floor during last years legislative session. King will be in his fifth term as a representative starting with the new year.|
In one month, the 2005 Utah Legislature will start the yearly session to enact laws, set policy and divvy out money to various departments within state government.
As with all years, there is a lot of speculation about what will happen, who will get what and which direction the legislative body will take.
There are more unanswered questions than there has been in a long time due to a new governor and leadership changes throughout state government.
"The change in who is heading everything up is a big deal," pointed out Brad King, representative from the Utah House District 69, which encompasses about two-thirds of the population of Carbon County. "We have the first completely new governor's administration in 12 years and, certainly, there will be changes in departments and of department heads in many places in state government."
In the Utah House of Representatives, the speaker will be Greg Curtis and Jeff Alexander will be the majority leader. On the Democratic side of the aisle, Ralph Becker will be the minority leader and King will be the minority whip.
"It will be very interesting this year," stated King. "These leadership switches will probably change the personality of the body quite of bit."
Governor elect John Huntsman is starting to lay out his agenda, which will could make a major difference in the state concerning how things are accomplished.
"Actually, I recently had my first meeting with the new governor," explained King. "I was supposed to meet with him along with the House democratic leadership, but I was early and the governor also came into the room early as well. We just started to talk and I found it very heartening."
"The first thing he said to me was 'Tell me a little about what's going on in Helper.' He wondered about the art community and other things that he had heard about. He had some very supportive words for our county and asked about what could be done to help the economy in the area," added King.
Huntsman, of course, has to deal with the budget that was recently proposed by outgoing Gov. Olene Walker.
"I think that budget will be the biggest issue this year," stated King. "We are now actually experiencing some growth in revenues so that means a lot of the programs that have had funding cut or not increased will be fighting for those extra dollars."
Walker's budget is set up to give the weighted pupil unit in the state a 5 percent increase. However, Huntsman's priorities may take a different direction since he ran an economic development first campaign during his battle for the office with Scott Matheson Jr. Matheson picked up the education gauntlet during the campaign.
Walker's budget proposal also includes a 3 percent increase in compensation for state employees, which could affect all state agencies in Carbon County as well as College of Eastern Utah.
A number of other matters could become major issues in the 2005 Legislature as well, noted King.
One matter involves the recommendations from the transportation task force that was formed two years ago.
"The task force is suggesting we take $90 million out of the general fund next year and put it toward a lot of the special problems we have with transportation in the state," explained King. "Then they say we should do the same thing year after year and even increase that amount as time goes by."
King also said that there is a Water Task Force that was formed some time ago, but they are still in the proposal stage on many of the issues they are working.
"I have the feeling their recommendations will certainly impact Carbon County," he states.
One piece of legislation King sees that could be a large change is a proposal by Senator Chris Buttars to increase funding for drug courts, rehabilitation and education.
"It is basically a bill to find another way to deal with drug offenders than the way it has been done traditionally," he said.
Another issue of great interest to the local area would be any new energy policies that may come down from state government.
"The governor has said one of his priorities is to come up with an energy policy for the state," says King. "Anything about that is couple of years away, but that will certainly affect Carbon County in some way."
King also said that because of the election, many legislators held back on new legislation they may have been planning to introduce to the body.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of new bills showing up in the next few weeks, things we don't know about right now." concluded King.