Democratic, Republican party chairmen discuss upcoming legislative session in Utah

Posted at 8:44 PM, Jan 25, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Legislative session begins Monday, and FOX 13 News sat down with the chairmen of the Democratic and Republican parties in Utah to discuss the upcoming session and the items expected to be on the agenda.

The chairmen of both parties agreed that issues like air quality, education and relocating the state prison are among the top priorities this year. Their disagreements begin when it comes to offering solutions to those issues.

The inversion is a cause for concern for many Utahns, and there were 66 red air days along the Wasatch Front last year. Peter Corroon, Utah Democratic Party Chairman, said the government should be more proactive about protecting the environment.

“We can do more with building efficiency, we can do more to make sure our industry is compliant with those regulations we already have on the books in Utah,” he said.

James Evans, Utah Republican Party Chairman, said he believes individual citizens have a responsibility when it comes to cleaner air.

'We drive more effectively, we use more public transportation, and we make choices to become more, I believe, clean air conscious,” he said.

Relocating the Utah State Prison is another issue important to many, as several communities have protested against being a proposed site for the relocation. The three finalists include Salt Lake, Tooele and Utah counties.

Evans said it’s a situation where it’s impossible to please everyone.

'Any kind of decision of this magnitude, there are always going to be those who disagree with it,” he said.

Corroon said he believes there are alternatives that could be explored so the prison won’t need to be relocated.

“Like using the county jails rather than building a new prison, we already have the infrastructure in place for a current system in the counties to house prisoners, and the state can use those to their advantage as well,” he said.

Education is another big issue in the upcoming session. Corroon didn’t mince words when it came to discussing the issue, and he said Republican’s actions have put the state’s education system in a hole.

“In the past several decades, the Republican Party has been defunding our education system so we're in a hole,” he said. “We need to get out of that hole, we need to have smaller class sizes and we need to have training for teachers.”

But Evans said he anticipates an increase in education funding.

"I believe that with the additional monies that are available this year that education will see, I believe, a healthy increase in funding, and that's going to benefit students, teachers and our community as a whole,” he said.

The 2015 session begins Monday, and FOX 13 News will be covering the biggest stories to come out of the State Capitol. Stick with FOX 13 News on air and online for ongoing coverage of the legislative session.