As the 2013 Legislature begins Monday, firearms and ethics are among the issues looking to get lots of attention this session.
After the Newtown, Conn., tragedy and President Barack Obama's proposals to address assault weapons, gun registration and mental illness, many Utahns have their hackles up.
Expect debate on proposals meant to send a message to the president: Don't mess with our guns. The Newtown effect in Utah more likely will be an inclination to liberalize gun laws, not add restrictions.
The rolling fallout from bribery allegations against new Attorney General John Swallow seems certain to create a strong undercurrent during the session. It was predictable that, in the days after The Salt Lake Tribune revealed Swallow's problems, Democrats called for ethics reform on the Hill. Much more surprising is the fact that Utah's GOP leadership and Gov. Gary Herbert followed suit, albeit weeks later.
Two hot-button issues will return: health-care and immigration reform.
In response to Obama's sweeping health care law, Utah lawmakers will debate whether to provide care for more poor Utahns by expanding Medicaid. They also will decide whether to support a state-run insurance marketplace for small businesses and individuals.
On the immigration front, Utah's new guest-worker law which provides a path for undocumented immigrants to work legally in Utah is supposed to take effect July 1. The state GOP is on record calling for the law's repeal. Going into the session, its fate is unclear.
Year in and year out, no story is bigger for The Tribune than the 45-day Legislature. We will devote more space in print to it than any other story in 2013. We will assign more reporters to cover it, and it will be a constant presence on our online edition's home page until the middle of March.
Our goal is to inform, so that you, in turn, can participate in the process through contact with your senators and representatives. In Sunday's newspaper, and at sltrib.com, we provide you with the names and contact information of your legislators. Every day, we will track the progress of proposed legislation and where lawmakers are in the process. If you want to jump in and make your voice be heard, you will know how to do that.
You can follow the action online, via social media and in print. At sltrib.com/politics, we provide a one-stop shop for legislative coverage and will have an agenda of what bills are being discussed by what committees on any given day.
It is part of a newsroom's role to explain and watchdog the actions of our elected leaders. What happens on the Hill has real consequences for citizens. Much of the energy expended over the next weeks will be on how to administer and fund education, something in which virtually every Utah parent and student and every Utah taxpayer has a stake. It is our job to tell the whats and whys, and the whos, behind it all.
In every legislative session, there are the Great Unknowns, issues that come out of left field. Eliminating sex education. Shooting feral cats. Gutting government-access laws. And the old reliable, tweaks to liquor regulations. It could be anything. We'll be all over those as well.
Terry Orme is a Tribune managing editor. Reach him at email@example.com.
Follow on Twitter during Legislature
Robert Gehrke, politics, @RobertGehrke
Lee Davidson, politics, @LeeHDavidson
David Montero, politics and immigration, @DaveMontero
Lisa Schencker, education, @lschencker
Kirsten Stewart, health care, @kirstendstewart