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2016 Utah State Legislature gets under way

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Posted at 1:24 PM, Jan 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-25 15:24:59-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Legislature is under way, with lawmakers figuring out how to spend nearly $14 billion in taxpayer dollars and considering a record number of bills.

The session began Monday with a moment of silence in both the House and the Senate to remember murdered Unified Police Officer Doug Barney.

In remarks to the House chamber, Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, recapped the previous year’s session, which included major bills passing in the area of LGBT nondiscrimination and religious liberties, transportation, prison relocation, criminal justice reforms. He did not explicitly mention the bruising battle over health care coverage that did not pass.

Focusing on the session before them, Hughes said he believed they would tackle big issues like education funding, the fight over public lands with the federal government, water issues and air quality.

On air quality, Hughes told the House that it does not need to be a partisan issue. He also said they can be good stewards of the environment and spur economic growth and industry.

“If you think that this issue does not matter to every single one of us in the state of Utah, then you need to think again,” he said to applause.

Hughes said lawmakers should make it a goal to find ways to make sure the state never has another “red air” day.

The legislature will pass a budget for state programs. The governor has recommended a budget of nearly $14 billion with a larger portion of that money tied to education. Lawmakers are also expected to deal with a record number of bills being proposed. Last year, more than 1,200 pieces of legislation were drafted. Some on Capitol Hill have expected it will be closer to 1,400 this year.