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Bipartisan Clean Air Caucus previews upcoming legislation

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SALT LAKE CITY -- As the state's unhealthy air quality continues, Utah's bipartisan Clean Air Caucus gathered at the State Capitol Wednesday to talk about upcoming legislation to address the problem.

Utah Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-District 64 and Speaker of the House of Representatives, said, cooperation is key.

"We are not Congress,” she said. “Let me say that again. We are not Congress. We actually work together."

Republicans and Democrats, Utah representatives from both sides of the political aisle, have set their differences aside and agree that Utah's air quality is a priority this legislative session.

"None of us want our air to look like it does today,” said Rep. Patrice Arent, D-District 36. “We don't want our cities to be listed among those that have the worst air in the nation."

With more than a dozen bills expected to hit the House floor this session, we can expect them to address public transportation, tax credits and incentives to get commuters using mass transit, clean vehicles and cleaner fuels.

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-District 25, said, "I'm sponsoring a bill to lift slightly the cap on sales tax in those counties that have approved a transit tax in order to fund more transit."

Rep. Marie Poulson, D-District 46, said she has legislation in the works as well.

"My bill, HB55, offers tax credits to individuals who ride public transit to purchase a monthly public transit pass during the months of worst inversion: January, February, and July,” she said.

Rep. Stephen Handy, R-District 16, spoke about yet another clean air bill.

"House Bill 41 - clean fuel school buses and infrastructure - this is a bill that has come out of the education community,” he said.

Leaders said frustration over personal health and the state's economic growth fueled them to take action.

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-District 24 and the Minority Assistant Whip, said, "We're listening to what people are saying about how it's impacting their quality of life and their work life as well as their ability to enjoy leisure activities and public health - all of those facets."

Though Utah's air quality problems won't be fixed in one year, or over one legislative session, representatives said Utahns have spoken up, they've been heard, and this is a good start and foundation moving forward.

"They have the attention of the Governor, they have the attention of Republican and Democratic legislators, and I would say we're being responsive,” Briscoe said.

The 2014 legislative session starts Monday, January 27.