Utah lawmakers start annual session, women plan protest

FILE PHOTO - The Utah State Capitol is viewed Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Salt Lake City. Utah lawmakers kick off their 45-day legislative session Monday with an endless stream of budget meetings and little bit of pomp and circumstance before diving deep into hundreds of bills. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers return Monday for their 45-day annual session, where they’re expected to take up medical marijuana, a measure to toughen the state’s hate crimes law and attempt to find more money for public schools.

Other proposals aim to lower Utah’s blood-alcohol limit for drivers to .05 percent and allow Utah residents to carry a hidden, unloaded gun without a permit. The governor vetoed a similar gun bill in the past.

The state legislators’ return to work will be met by a march and rally in the afternoon by a group of Utah women. The event is organized by a group called Utah Women Unite and is a spinoff of the massive Women’s March on Washington over the weekend, which was organized by women dismayed at the election of President Trump.

Organizer Kathryn Jones-Porter said the group is concerned about “anti-woman” legislation to restrict abortion rights and wants to promote “pro-woman” policies like closing the pay gap between men and women and ensuring testing of all rape kits containing evidence collected by police after a sexual assault.

They’ll meet around 2 p.m. at City Creek Park near the Capitol. The group plans to march up the capitol hill on State Street and gather inside the building around 3 p.m., where several speakers will encourage the group to watch what their local lawmakers take up and participate in the legislative process.

On Wednesday, Gov. Gary Herbert will lay out his vision for the session and the year beyond in his State of the State address.

The legislative session ends March 9.

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