Legislature debates guns, gay rights as session winds down

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Lawmakers are calling the 2013 Utah legislative session unusually calm, but both sides think that debate may heat up as the session ends on Thursday.

Several gun rights bills and an anti-discrimination law will come up for a vote this week, and some say the measures could lead to controversy on the floor.

Senate Democrat minority leader Gene Davis said cooperation among lawmakers is essential for getting things done, as many of them can have widely different priorities.

“These tensions build as we spend more time in the halls or in our houses at our desk for more periods of time trying to make sure we have our agendas,” he said. “You know, there are 104 legislators and 104 agendas, so you need to work together to be able meet everybody’s needs.”

There are two gun rights related bills up for a vote this week. A bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit generated a lot of debate before it passed in the House of Representatives last week. It goes before the Senate this week.

Another gun rights bill, The Second Amendment Preservation Act, asserts that state gun laws trump federal gun control laws.

Senate Republican majority leader Ralph Okerlund said federal issues are often convoluted.

“The federal issues are always the most difficult because they are the ones we have the least control over," he said. "And not knowing what's going to happen at the federal level on the gun issue was certainly one of the ones that  has spurred a lot of debate especially in the house.”

The Senate could vote as early as Monday on a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing and employment.

Lawmakers said the big focus of this session was the state’s budget.

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