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Legislature opens 45-day session with some sparks
Politics » Lockhart, who might run against Herbert in 2016, accuses the governor of inaction, failure to confront the White House.

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The furor has overshadowed a bill that would outlaw housing and employment discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Utahns. The Tribune poll found 60 percent of Utahns support the measure and the governor said he supported the concept of such legislation.

Lawmakers will also carve up about $13.3 billion in taxpayer dollars, with Herbert and legislative leaders again saying that education will be a top priority.

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Utah’s per-pupil spending remains the lowest in the nation — by far — and dipped during the recent recession. Herbert has proposed boosting that by about $100 per pupil, with $261 million in new spending for public and higher education.

Lockhart, in her speech, also encouraged not only more investment in education, but more use of new technology in classrooms. "Let’s look differently at schools and urge them to think big," she said. "We need nothing less than education renaissance in Utah."

Utah’s Legislature • The Legislature is dominated by Republicans who control both houses by better than four-fifths majorities. Republicans rule the House by a 61-14 margin, and control the Senate 24-5.

Of the 104 legislators, only 17 are women — but they hold some of the highest leadership positions, including the top two in the House with Lockhart as speaker and Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, as the Democratic leader.

Some other women in leadership positions include Senate Minority Whip Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City; Senate Minority Assistant Whip Pat Jones, D-Holladay; Senate Minority Caucus Manager Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City; and House Minority Assistant Whip Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City.

The Legislature includes one member who is openly gay, Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, who is also chairman of the Utah Democratic Party. He was recently married during the 17 days when same-sex marriages were allowed in Utah.

The longest-serving lawmaker is Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who has been in the Legislature since 1981 and in the Senate since 1985. The newest lawmaker is Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, who replaced Rep. Derek Brown earlier this month.

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Utah has a citizen Legislature, where lawmakers take time off from their regular jobs to serve. Among them are 18 attorneys, 16 who say they are business owners or operators, six are doctors or dentists and five are in real estate. Some other occupations include beekeeper, pharmacist, rancher, Highway Patrol officer, veterinarian, banker and teacher.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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