Editor column: Tribune is at the Utah Legislature to keep you informed
Lawmakers, and our reporters, are in the home stretch. Thursday at midnight, or perhaps a little earlier, the gavel will come down on the 2012 Utah Legislature.
Each session is memorable, for different reasons. The last night can be indelible. Two years ago, it was a midnight confession of past indiscretion. Last year, angry Utahns occupied the Capitol Rotunda. Those who lean toward literary hyperbole could have drawn comparisons to the storming of the Bastille.
Thursday holds less promise for such drama, although you need to be careful with that sort of prediction. The Legislature is known for last-hour surprises.
This election-year session has occupied a lower key. Some even have described it as "boring." It is all relative.
Like their counterparts running for president, Utah's GOP officeholders have taken aim at the federal government in general, and the Obama administration in particular. Lawmakers have proposed engaging the U.S. government in a battle to gain ownership of Utah's extensive federal lands as a way to reduce our tax burden and pay to educate our children. They have advocated taking over management of federal health safety nets, arguing local control is better, more efficient, and a vastly superior alternative to anything in the president's health care reform.
The 2012 session also will be known for what it didn't do: Revisit immigration law. Avoiding the hot emotions of that topic seemed a priority as the state's majority party prepares to pick candidates for November.
The hot-button issues this year include a proposal to clarify Utahns' right to openly carry a firearm in public and a bill about how our schools should, or shouldn't, teach students about sex.
Those headline-grabbing issues are sideshows to the real heavy-lifting lawmakers do: deciding how to spend $13 billion. Their real challenge is in prioritizing the needs of Utahns and slicing the pie accordingly. It's neither simple nor sexy. It's painstaking debate, analysis and compromise. But it is the most important thing they do. After all, it is your money.
During the past six weeks, our team of reporters, photographers and editors has worked hard to explain all this, to frame the issues, to accurately portray different political positions and the processes of your elected leaders in action. In particular, our state government team and our education team have been on the Hill from dawn into dark literally to report on the debate. Most desks in our newsroom have sent reporters to the Capitol to write on issues in their coverage areas.
Our Friday newspaper carried 12 stories from the Legislature, two of them on the front page, and two more, including a Paul Rolly column, on the cover of the Utah section. Online at sltrib.com, we had an additional half-dozen or so stories.
That is typical of our coverage. We blanket the Legislature because that is our responsibility to report, explain, analyze, put in context, hold accountable and serve as watchdog. Since January, we have worked hard to be first to let you know what issues are on tap in committee hearings, what votes have taken place. Initial reports have appeared on our website; play-by-play debate on the most important issues have been carried via Twitter. Stories have been developed and fleshed out throughout the day.
If you were to visit sltrib.com throughout the day, you would be up to date on what lawmakers were up to on the Hill. If you were to return at, say, 9 p.m., you would have an extensive and contextualized look at what they accomplished. The next morning, newspaper readers would unfold a complete and concise report.
We are present on Capitol Hill to give you access to the process of making the laws under which you live. It is a privilege to have this responsibility. We are committed to doing it right.
Terry Orme is a managing editor at The Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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