Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Weighing the effects of the Republican State Convention

Published: Sunday, May 26 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Thus, it is likely the proposal to increase participation will be taken directly to citizens. It is a very difficult task, but a tiny bit of support does exist — among top business leaders, chambers of commerce, numerous other business associations, city and county leaders, former elected officials at all levels, past GOP leadership, nonprofits, religious leaders, news media editorial boards, all levels of the public education and higher education communities, labor unions and public employees — not to mention a vast majority of Utahns. Not a bad coalition. Would you like peanut butter and honey on your newspaper sandwich, Frank?

What impact will the convention have on Utah politics?

Pignanelli: Although most elected officials harbor concerns about delegates, no effort was made in the last legislative session to affect change. This reluctance to buck the system has now hardened into concrete. Knowing that delegates will determine their political future in 2014 and beyond, lawmakers of both parties must pay deference to these extremists. This will impact the acidity of partisan rhetoric and ultimately the policy deliberations of even sane decision makers.

Webb: Positions taken at conventions by a relative handful of activists have outsized influence on the behavior of elected officials. Conventions are not deliberative bodies. Resolutions at the recent convention on the Utah Compact, Common Core, and Medicaid expansion were discussed for only 10 minutes each and many delegates knew little about the issues. But the emotional, reactionary and hard-right positions taken on those issues, not representative of Utahns in general, will have outsized and long-lasting impact on public policy in this state. It's a lousy way to make public policy, and that's why the process needs to be improved.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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