By Aaron Hastings
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah House of Representatives opened up the 2015 session by honoring the memory of former speaker Becky Lockhart.
Lockhart was expected to open the session on Monday, but a rare brain disease took her life on Jan. 17. She was honored at a public memorial in the Capitol the week before the session opened. House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said. “We thank the Lockhart family for being here today. . . Becky Lockhart wasn’t one to support inaction.”
By unanimous vote, members passed a resolution to honor Lockhart. The House Majority Whip, Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, expressed thanks for his friendship with Lockhart.
In his opening remarks, Hughes compared legislative sessions to the “Groundhog Day” paradox displayed in the classic Bill Murray film. “Don’t be subject to a ‘Groundhog Day,’” Hughes said, “Legislative versions of “Groundhog Day” don’t work.”
Hughes spoke about the industry of Utah, and how legislation should reflect the work ethic of Utah’s residents. “The title ‘industry’ on the flag of Utah reminds us of the work ethic that made us who we are,” he said.
Hughes addressed key issues on the 2015 Session agenda, including Medicaid, prison relocation, and education. He specifically addressed healthcare and education. “We want to help those that cannot afford healthcare,” Hughes said. “This body is ready for this challenge. Doing nothing is just no longer an option.”
Hughes said education is interlinked with other issues, such as the economy and land protection. He said that the state was due to double in population in the next 30 years, and that planning for the future now is essential.
“We must harness the passion of Becky Lockhart,” said Hughes, “I’m not afraid of a fight. It is possible to pass legislation, and we can do it.”
H. David Burton, former Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opened up the session with prayer. The Utah National Guard Color Guard presented the flags of the U.S. and Utah, while a choir from Corner Canyon High School sang the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful.”
House representatives, both new and old, raised their hands to the square to take the oath of office, and Hughes took the Speaker of the House chair. Business in the House went according to schedule, with the reading of the titles of all proposed bills and the introduction of interns on the floor.