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Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: What politicos are saying and what they really mean

Published: Sunday, Feb. 3 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

The Utah State Legisature in session on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in Salt Lake City.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) The Utah State Legisature in session on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

We've entered that dark, dreary, clammy period of the year. And that's just inside the Capitol. Yes, Utah's 104 citizen lawmakers (and five times that many lobbyists) are grappling with the state's toughest issues. But here's a happy thought: When it's over, spring will be here!

In the meantime, we offer our traditional public service to readers by noting what politicos are saying — and translating it into what they really mean.

Gov. Gary Herbert: "I have never been more optimistic about Utah's future. The state of our state is strong — and continues to grow stronger!" (Hey legislators, we've got a good thing going. Let's not goof it up by passing silly bills.)

Lt. Gov. Greg Bell: "I am deeply humbled by Gov. Herbert's confidence in my abilities." (He dumped health care reform and the budget on me. I hope I survive the session ... )

Senate Pres. Wayne Niederhauser and House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart: "We always appreciate the governor's thoughtful budget recommendations as we deliberate the state's financial needs." (We don't know and don't care what's inside the governor's fat budget document, but it makes a great doorstop.)

House Speaker Lockhart: "We pass too many bills, so the governor needs to veto more frequently." (We need a governor who is tougher — like me.)

Typical Republican lawmaker: "I intend to conduct a careful analysis of the issues surrounding a state health insurance exchange versus the federal program." (I'll vote however Lockhart, Niederhauser or Rep. Jim Dunnigan tell me; they are the only three people who understand this stuff.)

Democratic lawmakers: "We offer important alternatives that will help all Utahns." (We wish someone would take us seriously.)

House Majority Leader Brad Dee: "I anticipate a smooth and productive session." (Now that John Dougall is out of the Legislature and in the Auditor's office, life is so much better."

Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis: "I am demanding and expecting respect for our small but outspoken caucus." (Hopefully, the Republicans will allow me to choose the lunch menu for one of the caucus days.)

Executive Appropriations Committee members: "Due to great budget uncertainty at the federal level, we must hold on to new revenue and may not be able to fund your worthy request." (We are rejecting your silly project in a really sophisticated way that shifts the blame to the feds.)

House Majority Whip Greg Hughes: "In an act of bipartisanship outreach, we will ask some Democrats to offer the invocation for our floor sessions." (I'm just crossing my fingers they won't perform some heathen ritual.)

Utah right-wing advocacy groups: "Act now to stop the liberal socialist Obama movement from shredding the Bill of Rights and enacting Sharia law." (Revenue is declining so we need to goose up the inflammatory rhetoric to boost membership dues.)

Utah left-wing advocacy groups: "Act now to stop the ultraconservatives from shredding the Bill of Rights and enacting an extremist agenda." (We have no power, but enough liberal wealthy people live in Utah to raise some good money.)

House Minority Leader Jen Seelig: "I'm proud to be part of the first legislative session in history in which the leaders of both House caucuses are women." (Next we take over the Senate and the governorship.)

Hospitality institutions (aka liquor license owners): "We are excited about the new atmosphere in which we can freely discuss our role in the economic vitality of the state." (Now that Michael Waddoups is retired, we're going for big changes.)

All legislators: "After serious deliberation, I have concluded that we need to maintain the caucus convention delegate system for candidate nominations." (I waited and waited for a serious effort to change this ridiculous process but nothing happened. It's too late to do anything for 2014, and there's no way I'm going to tick off my delegates.)

Visiting members of Utah's congressional delegation: "I always enjoy the opportunity to talk with my friends in the Legislature, our respected partners in the federal system." (I hate coming to the Capitol to talk to these minor politicians. All I get is a bunch of whining about the federal government and questions about what I'm doing to solve the problems.)

Veteran senators: "Dr. Brian Shiozawa is a kind, decent person who will bring a much needed fresh perspective to the Senate." (It won't take long before the good doctor becomes as jaded and cynical as the rest of us.)

Veteran lobbyists: "We prefer to conduct our business out of the limelight and only visit with lawmakers when truly necessary." (We pretty much hang out all day sipping Diet Coke in the cushy lobbyist lounge.)

Political reporters: "This Legislature has adopted a more moderate, reasonable tone." (Boring! We need to dig up some "message" bills that make these guys look foolish.)

Education groups: "We deeply appreciate what the governor is doing for education." (We didn't hear the words "tax increase" in his proposal, and we'll never be happy until that happens.)

Clean air advocates: "Our leaders must take bold action to clean up Utah's air." (Don't ask me to take public transit or turn off my lights. Someone else needs to sacrifice.)

Tea party activists: "Yes, some of our members got beat thanks to the big turnout at 2012 caucuses." (In the low-key election in 2014 we're going to make a comeback and regain control of Utah politics.)

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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