- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah lawmakers returned 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 try to find more money for public schools.

Legislators have also proposed requiring doctors to tell women seeking drug-induced abortions that they could be reversed, a claim doctors say there’s little evidence to support.

Another proposal would cut a $2,000 tax credit homeowners can get for installing rooftop solar panels. Legislators say the credit is becoming too expensive because it gave solar-using homeowners about $20 million in 2016 and that money could instead be going to 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.

In his opening address on the floor of the Utah House of Representatives, Speaker Greg Hughes received standing applause from the GOP-dominated chamber as he called on President Donald Trump to rescind the designation of Bears Ears National Monument by Barack Obama in December, calling the federal protections for 1.35 million acres in southern Utah “a great overstep.”

A coalition of American Indian tribes pushed the Obama administration to create the monument for the sacred tribal land known as Bears Ears, but Utah Republican leaders and rural residents say it’s too restrictive and adds another layer of unnecessary federal control. Trump has not publicly commented on the monument.

Hughes, a Republican from Draper, also used his speech to discuss Salt Lake City’s overflowing downtown homeless shelter, saying it’s not just a local problem but a state crisis that the Legislature needs to tackle.

Utah lawmakers already set aside more than $9 million toward four new shelters and programs, and this year advocates are asking the state for $27 million for the effort for 2017 and 2018.

Hughes warned that Utah will not write a blank check and said crime in the area, including drug dealing, goes on in broad daylight and will need to be tackled as well.

In the Senate, President Wayne Niederhauser also decried the Bears Ears designation and said he thought Trump’s inauguration comments about transferring power from Washington, D.C., and “giving it back to you, the people” were encouraging and would give states more authority.

The state legislators’ return to work was met by a march and rally in the afternoon by several thousand women, a spinoff of the weekend’s massive Women’s March on Washington, which was organized by women dismayed at the Trump’s election.

Protesters, organized by Utah Women Unite, flooded in and filled the hallways and atrium of the building with cheers and chants, just outside the area where lawmakers were meeting for first-day speeches.

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

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Associated Press writer Hallie Golden contributed to this report.

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Follow Michelle L. Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice .

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