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Navigating Capitol not so complex

Patrick Parkinson Of the Record staff

With hundreds of millions of dollars up for grabs during this year’s legislative session, citizens perhaps feel more compelled than ever to visit their lawmakers on Utah’s Capitol Hill to advocate for their favorite programs.

"I’ve seen more interest growing over the years," said Senate President John Valentine, who has served in the Legislature for 18 years. "I see a more intense interest in what we do because it affects people’s lives so directly." Several tax cuts could be debated. But many Utah parents say 2006 is the year the Legislature should boost funding for education.

The general session starts this Monday, Jan. 16. "The biggest thing right now is this budget," said state Sen. Beverly Evans, a Republican who represents western Summit County. "That’s going to be the major issue."

Along with tax reform, she expects her colleagues’ wish lists to include funding for roads, schools and capital facilities. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has proposed spending much of the budget surplus, while many members of the House of Representatives say citizens deserve a roughly $230 million tax cut, Evans said. "The Senate said let’s find out all the facts and find out what’s happening and what our needs are," she added. "I’ve been here before." But Summit County residents who wish to track what their elected officials are doing on the Hill may need to jump some significant parking hurdles to access lawmakers in person. As construction crews continue to renovate the Capitol building, the Legislature will meet in buildings east and west of the dome.

The Capitol complex may appear daunting, however, it’s a short walk from most parking spots to the Senate and House chambers. "We’ve got some interesting logistics right now," Valentine said about the Capitol renovations. "We’ve given alternative ways to get access to the Legislature." The Legislature has beefed up its Internet presence and even those who are not computer savvy can conveniently access audio or video recordings of committee meetings and floor debates on the Web. Copies of legislation are also available at the Legislature’s Web site http://www.le.state.ut.us.

"In America, you get the government that you deserve. If they don’t pay attention, they get bad government," said Ric Cantrell, a spokesman for the state Senate. "If they pay attention, they get involved, they become anxiously engaged, then the democratic process works better."

He encourages citizens to visit a Senate blog at http://www.senatesite.com. Four lawmakers represent Summit County at the Legislature. Here is contact information for the area’s two senators and representatives: Republican Rep. David Ure, who represents most of the county in House District 53, can be reached via e-mail at dure E-mails for Democratic Rep. Ross Romero, who represents portions of the Snyderville Basin in House District 25, can be sent to rossromero Sen. Beverly Evans in District 26 can be sent e-mails at bevevans Republican Sen. Allen Christensen, who represents much of eastern Summit County in Senate District 19, can be e-mailed at achristensen


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