A conservative group that annually ranks Utah lawmakers on how "correctly" they vote on a number of issues says the 2006 Legislature let Utahns down on at least two dozen so-called traditional family and fiscal matters.
GrassRoots has been putting out its legislative report card since 1992. The 2006 Legislature received one of the worst rankings in recent years with the House voting the "right way" only 39 percent of the time on 24 specific bills. The more conservative Senate voted "correctly" on just 44 percent on bills and fiscal matters deemed important by the organization.
Don Guymon, chairman of GrassRoots and editor of this year's report, said the 2006 session "started with great promise large tax cuts proposed and many conservative issues that died in the past having the chance of passing this year. But that promise went unfulfilled."
GrassRoots passes out its report cards at various Republican Party county and state conventions, and encourages conservatives from all parties to read its report online at: www.UtahGrassRoots.org.
"We had a number of good bills" introduced in the 2006 session, said Guymon, including measures on parental rights, private school tuition tax credits and Second Amendment gun rights.
Most either failed or, if passed, were vetoed by GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
Are Utah conservatives dissatisfied with Huntsman, now in his second year in office? In some areas, yes, said Guymon, who over the years has held various positions in the Utah Republican Party.
"He's disappointed conservatives on a number of issues," Guymon said.
Most specifically, last year Huntsman vetoed a parental rights bill that dealt with medication recommendations for children in public schools. And this year he vetoed HB148, which GrassRoots says would have restored rights of biological parents. (Huntsman said HB148 went too far and was vague.)
GrassRoots gave Huntsman a poor 25 percent rating for the 2006 Legislature. Combined with his higher score last year, for his two years in office Huntsman gets a 40 percent rating still making the wrong decisions more than half the time, the group says.
Huntsman deputy chief of staff Mike Mower said the governor has taken the conservative approach on many issues, including pushing the 2006 Legislature for the removal of half of the state sales tax from food.
"It's the first time since the 1930s" that the food tax has been chopped, Mower said.
Mower added that Huntsman is working on a compromise for HB148 that will be adopted in the 2007 Legislature.
Huntsman's low ratings by GrassRoots stand in stark contrast to the governor's job approval rating as measured by Dan Jones & Associates polls conducted for the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV. A recent Jones poll shows a healthy 83 percent of all Utahns approve of the job Huntsman is doing as governor. Jones found that 89 percent of those who said they are "very conservative" approve of Huntsman.
Guymon said conservatives need to pay greater attention to how their legislators and governor are acting on important matters.
But Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, said GrassRoots' report card "is certainly not reflective of my constituents and they are what's important to me."
Allen, a noted moderate in the House, was forced into a primary Saturday in the Davis County Republican Convention. She got 49 percent of the 114 delegate votes in her House District 19. She faces Mark Jacobs in the June 27 GOP primary.
Allen had the third "worst" voting record in the 2006 Legislature among the 56 House Republicans getting just a 21 percent GrassRoots ranking.
"I'm very comfortable to be in the fine company of our excellent former Republican governors Mike Leavitt, Olene Walker and with Gov. Huntsman, who all had around the same" GrassRoots' rankings as she has received over the years, Allen said.
Her GrassRoots ranking was talked about among some of her delegates, said Allen, "and it may have had a little" to do with her not getting 60 percent of the delegate vote in Saturday's convention and being forced into a primary.
For the second year in a row, Rep. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork, received the highest GrassRoots ranking 81 percent of the time, he voted "correctly" in the 2006 Legislature.In the Senate, not only did Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, tie for the top GrassRoots ranking, he also sponsored a number of the bills GrassRoots wanted passed this year.