Often, politicos focus with intensity and passion on issues that are mostly ignored by the saner parts of society. Several such issues are generating much controversy within the media, politicians and operatives. But are Utahns paying attention?
The Legislature conducted a special session last week and overrode Gov. Gary Herbert’svetoes of two bills, one defining the process when there is a conflict between governmental clients of the attorney general and the other providing the Legislature the ability to intervene in court actions as a matter of right. Is this a defeat for Herbert? Does this create an imbalance of power? Should Utahns care?
Pignanelli: "I think most Americans don't really care about politicians bickering.” — Ted Cruz
Parking was plentiful at the state Capitol on Wednesday, even though almost everyone impacted by the vetoed bills was at the special session. Politicos describe such situations as “insider baseball."
Veteran observers were surprised that Herbert's intense efforts to prevent the override did not include his usual and effective strategy of sustaining a veto with a promise to develop a better alternative. Such an approach was needed last week.
As a former lawmaker, I have absolute sympathy with legislators’ frustrations requesting legal opinions and how laws are defended. Many in the legal community (our firm represents the Utah State Bar) understood lawmakers' concerns but were apprehensive with specific details of the solutions (e.g. not mandating the attorney general to the same ethical standards as other lawyers).
Our democracy works best with separation of branches, each receiving appropriate support. So legislative angst is legitimate. Whether one agrees or disagrees with their solutions, lawmakers are commended for attempting a resolution. Hopefully, the special session will spur additional legislation and potential constitutional amendments. Clarifying the obligations of the attorney general, and consideration to make the position appointed, will help.
The first inning of this insider baseball game just ended.
Webb: The capacity of my old and feeble mind is quite limited, so I try not to clutter it with political minutiae that is never going to impact my life. That said, the founders set up tension between the branches of government to protect citizens from any individual or entity that wants to become a despot. So these tussles over power are natural, and Herbert need not feel bad about losing this round. He’s won most of his fights, and there will be others.
The war between President Donald Trump and former FBI Director James Comey is titillating, but does it mean anything? Will it make any difference, and should Utahns care?
Pignanelli: Witnessing the former leader of the venerated FBI engaging in horrific dispersions of the president’s hair, hands and moral fiber is a new dark element in politics — especially since Comey is burdened with his own ethical baggage.
Aside from appropriate disgust, Utahns should care about this controversy. The difficult part is the denigration of our government institutions. But the good — and strange — factor is that the kerfuffle emphasizes that no one is above public criticism in America.
Webb: Trump is Trump, and billions of words have been written (with more to come) about his plentiful failings. But Comey isn’t much better. He’s convinced he’s the only honorable person in Washington (maybe in the universe); he’s sanctimonious, pretentious and condescending. It’s outrageous for him to gossip on TV about all sorts of salacious rumors and innuendo and then say he doesn’t know if it’s true — but, you know, it could be.
Both Republicans and Democrats have ample reason to dislike Comey. He usurped the authority of the Obama administration attorney general. The top levels of the FBI were politicized under his leadership. He took notes about his private conversations with the president and promptly leaked it to the press. Through it all, he maintained his superiority and haughtiness — the only righteous swamp rat in the slough.
Four initiative petition campaigns turned in an impressive number of signatures (each exceeding 100,000), to county clerks. The clerks and the lieutenant governor’s office have a month to verify signatures and determine if the proposals qualify for the ballot. Politicos are chattering about these ballot proposals. Should Utahns care?
Pignanelli: These initiative campaigns were able to raise millions of dollars to collect signatures — a clear signal that Utah politics is changing, impacting future elections and legislative deliberations.
Webb: It is rare (as it should be) that voters get to take lawmaking into their own hands. It’s still possible not all of the proposals will make it on the ballot. Efforts to rescind signatures on some of the proposals are already underway.
These are all substantive and impactful issues — Medicaid expansion, Count My Vote, redistricting commission and marijuana liberalization. Multimillion-dollar campaigns will be run for and against them in advance of the November election. All voters should study each proposal very carefully, understand the pros and cons and ramifications and vote accordingly.