Expect to see a flurry of activity in the final 14 days of this year’s state legislative session, according to a group of state legislatures who gathered Saturday.
Of the 500 bills the legislature passes in a typical year, 100 have been passed, according to Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem.
“What that means is the majority of the work is here to come,” Peterson said.
That upcoming work was the focus on Eggs and Issues on Saturday morning at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, an event designed to bring local state politicians and their constituents together to talk about political topics over breakfast foods.
Those in attendance could submit questions electronically or write them on paper to have them answered by a panel. The group discussed topics ranging from abortion regulations, to the influence The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has on the Legislature, to tax reform, which Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem referred to as the “elephant in the room.”
Daw said a changing economy is leading to a narrower sales tax base and he expects to see something soon regarding broadening the tax base.
“It is still a moving target and I hope you all stay tuned for what is going to happen with tax policy,” Daw said.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said that with 14 days left of the legislative session, no one has seen the tax reform bill yet.
The group was asked about Senate Bill 103, which would add specific protected classes to hate crimes legislation and strengthen the current statues.
Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, voiced support for the bill. She said she believes every crime is a hate crime, but that a hate crime is specifically aimed at a group of people as opposed to an individual.
“I feel it needs to be treated a little differently,” Judkins said.
She proposed the idea of including restorative justice measures like education instead of enhanced penalties for offenders to attempt to change behavior.
Rep. Kevin Stratton, R-Salt Lake City, disagreed with Judkins about the bill.
“A crime is a crime,” he said. “We need to enforce our laws as they are.”
When asked about if the LDS Church should be politically active, the group voiced support of the church being involved and gave warnings about removing specific groups.
“If you take one voice out, which other voices are you going to take out?” Stratton said. “We need all voices involved.”
He said the LDS Church has not lobbied him on a single item in seven years.
Rep. Norman Thurston, R-Provo, said he’s had more input on issues from the Catholic Church than the LDS Church. Thurston said he enjoys having conversations with religious groups and that those conversations helps keep the legislature thinking about things from a moral point of view.
Bramble said that groups that complain about the LDS Church aren’t as effective at having their voice acted on upon as the church.
“The issue isn’t that the church has a voice, their concern is that the church has an effective voice,” Bramble said.
Similar events to Eggs and Issues will continue next month. Bagels and Bills will be held at 7:30 a.m. March 9 at the Nebo School District in Spanish Fork, and Pancakes and Politics will be at 9 a.m. March 9 at American Fork Hospital.