Lockhart criticizes Gov. on first day of legislative session

Posted at 9:35 PM, Jan 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-28 07:00:33-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The legislative session usually starts quietly and ends with a mad dash to the 45-day finish line.

Speaker of the State House of Representatives Becky Lockhart R-Orem, made the first day anything but quiet.

Lockhart's remarks kicking off the session took sharp aim at Gov. Gary Herbert, suggesting he was poised to surrender some of Utah's sovereignty to the federal government.

"The federal government doesn`t ask, it dictates. It doesn`t inquire, It instructs. And every time a governor gives in the state grows weaker and poorer and less free," Lockhart said.

The sharpest words were about the governor suggesting the state may take money from the federal government in expand Medicaid, providing health insurance for Utahns who are poor.

"So let us all encourage the governor to lead and not just follow, to be innovative and not just reactive.  We need energy in the executive, not an inaction figure in the executive," Lockhart said in the biggest applause line in the speech.

House Democrats were not among those clapping.

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck told Fox 13 she was encouraged when the governor indicated he may take Medicaid money...and her hopes sank when Speaker Lockhart spoke. Chavez-Houck worried Lockhart might be more focused on challenging the governor in 2016 than making health care policy in 2014.

"It would sadden me if this decision is being driven by the political expediencies of the gubernatorial race or 2016. I just don`t think that`s what should be driving this decision," Chavez-Houck said.

Herbert did not appear on camera to respond to the speaker’s remarks, but he issued a written statement:

"I hope we can all set aside politics and political ambition and focus on the work of the people of Utah."