This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
On the first day of the legislative session, everyone gets along. Democrats and Republicans. Advocates for the poor and penny-pinching lawmakers. Legislators and the news media.
That changes, of course. And quickly.
But as the 2007 Legislature opened Monday, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in keeping with tradition, legislative leaders pledged a more civil 45-day session. After two years of power struggles between houses and branches of government that left some critical legislation hanging, state lawmakers are promising this year will be less contentious. Senate President John Valentine and House Speaker Greg Curtis both put their colleagues, including 21 newly elected members, on notice.
With allusions to rock-climbing, Valentine called senators the "anchors" of state policymaking.
"We need to hold the values that our constituents saw in us. We need to work as a team. We need to continue to be honest. We need to treat those who disagree with us with honesty and dignity," Valentine said. "We are all anchors for each other."
Curtis used a lighter, more practical tone: ''In the immortal words of the poet Mick Jagger, 'You can't always get what you want,' '' he joked.
During the opening prayer in the Senate, even LDS Church General Authority Jeffrey Holland urged lawmakers to avoid partisan bickering by being "true to themselves and their constituents and true to the principle - always rise above party."
The accord is virtually guaranteed to break down. With a projected $1.6 billion surplus looming over the lawmaking session and philosophical disagreement about how to spend it - House members have suggested a $300 million tax cut while senators haven't taken a position - the happy talk will end soon.
"We have learned that prosperity demands a tougher and more visionary decision-making process than poverty," said Valentine.
Curtis told representatives to "look for opportunities to work across the aisle or across the state."
Despite those public pledges to compromise, House Minority Leader Ralph Becker expects lawmakers to scrap over the state budget, taxpayer-financed private school vouchers and immigration legislation.
"I have never seen us go through a session without heated exchanges, without conversations boiling over into arguments," the Salt Lake City Democrat said.
The first of many groups that are expected to clamor for a slice of the state's windfall were on Capitol Hill on Monday. About three dozen advocates for low-income people rallied in the legislative building. Several were in wheelchairs or limping. Most wore stickers that said, ''Basic health care is not a luxury.''
Democratic Salt Lake City Sen. Scott McCoy is sponsoring legislation to amend the Utah Constitution declaring access to health care a right. That bill is scheduled to be debated by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this morning.
"We would like [lawmakers] to agree that Utah has a health care crisis," said Bill Tibbetts, Director of the Anti-Hunger Action Committee. Advocates are lobbying for expansion of CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, funding of Medicaid vision and dental coverage and McCoy's constitutional amendment.
Sister Miriam Joanne, a nurse with Holy Cross Ministries, visits sick and disabled Utahns at home. "It is just tragic. They should make health care a basic right for everyone," she said.
Supreme Court Justice Christine Durham also made a claim for more funding on behalf of Utah's judges - she asked for an 11 percent pay raise during her "State of the Judiciary" speech.
And lawmakers were reminded of one of their more embarrassing moments. During ceremonies recognizing the national civil rights holiday, Weber State University education professor Forrest Crawford told lawmakers they had come a long way from "those reticent, even venomous days" 20 years ago when Coretta Scott King herself pleaded with them to honor her husband's legacy by naming a state holiday named after him. The Legislature's opening day is established in the state Constitution as the third Monday in January and always coincides with the holiday.
In a speech titled, "Who Will Answer Freedom's Call," Crawford told lawmakers they can make the future better.
"People want equality from their government, equal opportunity, parity and access. But above all, they want a sincere voice," Crawford said. "This commemoration is more than just a symbolic visit to Capitol Hill. It is a framework for the road ahead."