Closing budget gaps and cutting spending -- often steeply and painfully -- dominated most Western legislative sessions, except in Wyoming, which is bolstered by oil, gas and mineral taxes. Colorado merged its parks and wildlife agencies; Nevada's new public employees won't enjoy health insurance in retirement; and Washington universities will hike tuition by more than 10 percent. Thanks to a sour economy and the Tea Party surge, anti-environmentalism shrouded many capitols: Four states considered withdrawing from the Western Climate Initiative, with bills drawn up by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, which pushes to undercut environmental laws. But the most drastic environmental rollbacks largely failed. Lawmakers also found time for ritual nuttiness. Salt Lake Weekly calculated Utah lawmakers spent 13 hours, 34 minutes deliberating "message bills" sticking it to the feds. Wyoming considered banning Islamic law, and Arizona voted to require presidential candidates to submit birth certificates -- a bill Gov. Jan Brewer cool-headedly vetoed.
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