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Congress may punt again on spending cuts. Herbert touts 'strong' State of the State. Senate witness says Utah gun law 'successful model' for schools.

Happy Thursday. Some 29 days away from the next fiscal cliff, lawmakers are again considering another punt. With yesterday's economic numbers showing a small decrease in the nation's GDP, some on Capitol Hill are arguing this is the wrong time to cut federal spending. March 1 is the new deadline for Congress to act before "sequestration" leads to across-the-board cuts to domestic programs and Defense spending. At least, that's the deadline now. [HuffPost]

Topping the news: Gov. Gary Herbert reiterated his "3 E's" during his State of the State speech, saying that Utah needs to focus on its economy, its energy resources and its education system. [Trib] [DNews]

-> With handwritten notes on a sheet of binder paper, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords spoke steadily and ardently before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on reducing gun violence, urging panel members to, "Be bold. Be courageous." [NYTimes] [APviaTrib] [WaPost] [Politico] [Atlantic]

-> A professor testifying at the hearing says Utah's doing it right when it comes to letting teachers carry concealed weapons at school, adding that "we've never had a single problem" with school gun violence in the state. [Trib]

Tweet of the day: From @AWilksi: "That moment when you think a committee meeting will be boring and the Eagle Forum walks in."

Happy birthday: To state Sen. Pat Jones.

In other news: Using Jeremy Johnson's Lake Powell houseboat may have legal ramifications for embattled Attorney General John Swallow under certain campaign disclosure laws. [Trib]

-> More than half of Utahns say that Swallow acted inappropriately, illegally and unethically in his dealings with businessman Jeremy Johnson — and 49 percent of those people say he should resign. [Trib] [DNews] [ABC4]

-> The Utah Pride Center said they will be filing a brief with the Supreme Court in upcoming challenges to Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. [Trib] [DNews]

-> Peg McEntee says now is the time for the Supreme Court to recognize gay marriage.[Trib]

From the Hill: An attempt by Rep. Patrice Arent to do away with straight-ticket voting was shot down by a single vote in a House committee hearing. [Trib]

-> The Senate unanimously passed a bill yesterday that would lock down information from UTA about when and where people travel according to their electronic farecards. [Trib]

-> Lawmakers want to crack down on cigarette rolling machines, which they say allow tobacco users to shirk Utah's steep tobacco taxes. [Trib]

-> In his State of the State speech, Herbert also gave a shout-out to the chief of the Capitol Preservation Board, who received a heart transplant last year — partially in thanks to a medical device designed in Utah. [Trib]

-> Bob Bernick offers up the items that Herbert didn't address in his speech, like how public education funding is lacking. [UtahPolicy]

-> Gun legislation is causing some jitters on the Hill while the idea of grouping all firearm related bills together is finding resistance. [UtahPolicy]

-> A bill that would make it easier for inmates to sign up as organ donors swept through the House, with lawmakers insisting that the decision would still be voluntary. [Trib]

-> Despite a flurry of legislation, lawmakers have been mum so far on the environment—with no bills aimed at tackling Utah's murky winter air. [Trib]

-> A poll by the Exoro Group and the U.'s Center on Public Policy and Administration shows 50 percent of Utahns favor restoring the sales tax on food in exchange for tax credits for low-income residents. [UtahPolicy]

-> State senators offer their reasons for losing at the Utah League of Cities and Towns' Jeopardy game yesterday. The governor's office won the contest. [SenateSite]

-> A bill being sponsored by Rep. Brian King would give local businesses a tax incentive to hire homeless workers. [Trib] [Fox13]

-> A Utah Highway Patrol Trooper who died helping stranded hikers last sumer was remembered yesterday by lawmakers. [Trib] [DNews]

-> After his wife was the victim of a massive health data breach, Sen. Stuart Reid successfully passed a bill yesterday that would require the state Department of Technology Services to use best industry practices to prevent breaches in the future.[Trib]

-> To ensure that voters get a chance to cast a ballot on tax and bond issues, a lawmaker is proposing moving tax and bond special elections to coincide with traditional November elections. [Trib]

-> Those caught soliciting minors for nefarious purposes online — even if unsuccessful — could be thrown behind bars, thanks to a new bill that passed the House yesterday. [Trib] [Herald] [DNews]

Nationally: Sen. John Kerry said his farewells to the Senate yesterday, as he's leaving to become Secretary of State. Massachussets Gov. Deval Patrick tapped Mo Cowan to temporarily fill Kerry's Senate seat until a special election is held. [WaPost] [Globe]

-> Chinese hackers have attempted to infiltrate The New York Times website and internal systems as the paper investigated the wealth of the country's leaders, The Times says. [NYTimes]

-> As immigration reform finds its way on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama wants to ensure that he has his mark on the legislation as well. [NYTimes]

Where are they?

Gov. Gary Herbert hits a Rotary Cub event, hits a retirement party for budget director Ron Bigelow and meets with Lt. Governor Greg Bell.

Utah AG John Swallow is in Los Angeles for the Conference of Western Attorneys General.

SLC Mayor Ralph Becker has two meetings about a proposed performing arts center and later hits a Hinckley Institute of Politics forum about SkiLink and air quality.

President Barack Obama has no public events.

Got a tip? A birthday, wedding or anniversary to announce? Email us at If you haven't already, sign up for our weekday email and get this sent directly to your inbox. [Trib]

— Thomas Burr and Emily and

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