Strange things happen when 104 people meet to conduct public business in the cramped confines of special legislative sessions. Sometimes, tradition is threatened by the haphazard nature of such sessions.
Take Monday, for example. Lawmakers started meeting at 8 a.m. Their leaders had started an hour earlier. They finished at midnight, only half of their work finished (the Senate acted, the House didn't, and lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill on Tuesday).It was hard work on Monday, which required much waiting around for the drafting of this or that bill.
At one point, House Republicans tried to adjourn, frustrated. But senators refused to let them. They had to keep haggling.
When lunchtime rolled around there was a crisis.
A great tradition was threatened - the free lunch.
While there is no such thing as a free lunch in many societies, Utah legislators have had free lunches - provided by lobbyists - for years. But, because of the special sessions popping up so often, no lobbyists had come forward to pay for Monday's lunch.
House Speaker Glen Brown, R-Coalville, announced to his colleagues: "You'll have to buy your own lunches that we've had brought in for you. It costs $3.50 each." Panic spread throughout the House. Wallets were quickly checked. Some didn't have $3.50. They'd never had to buy their own lunches before.
A cynical newspaper reporter walked past a lobbyist and said: "The first time in history the legislators have to buy their own lunches. Can you believe it?" The lobbyist couldn't. He walked to the speaker and offered to pay for the lunches.
"Never mind," said Brown. "Someone has come forward. You don't have to buy your own lunches." The representatives smiled.
Later Monday evening, the generous lobbyist who bought the lunches asked to speak to the GOP caucus. He was warmly welcomed.
He wanted $2 million from the special session for his clients - supporters of paving the Burr Trail - so the trail could be finished. House Republicans, their stomachs growling for dinner, remembered that lucky lunch and agreed to ask Gov. Norm Bangerter to put the $2 million request on the agenda. After all, they had always supported paving the trail, hadn't they? So why not finish the job with some extra money lying around in a coal royalty account?
But senators didn't want to consider the $2 million request. Some said it wouldn't be appropriate to consider the request outside of statewide priorities set in a general session. Besides, senators had already had dinner.
Who said there's no such thing as a free lunch.