Based on the outcome of the 1998 Legislature, it would seem lawmakers are offering organizers of the 2002 Winter Games a gift: enough rope to hang themselves.
"I sense there is a willingness to give us (the Salt Lake Organizing Committee) a little more time to get things under control, things like the budget, but the message is there that time is running out," said one SLOC official. "I think the Legislature will be much more involved next year."That doesn't mean lawmakers weren't tinkering with Olympics-related issues and tweaking the collective noses of Olympic organizers. In fact, a considerable portion of the final hours of the session were spent haggling over the wording of various Olympics-related bills and resolutions.
Earlier in the session, lawmakers were poised to pass a resolution stating that no state or federal funds should be used to construct a road to Snowbasin Ski Resort, where some downhill events will be held. Only polite intervention by U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, prompted lawmakers to back off.
Lawmakers also passed a bill clarifying that ticket sales to Olympic events are subject to the same sales tax as are other sporting events. And they specified that the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety will be the commander of Olympic security officers contributed by police agencies from around the state.
And they passed a resolution calling for SLOC to name a representative of the Utah League of Cities and Towns to the SLOC executive board as a voting member. However, the resolution only "encourages" the change.
Rep. David Ure, R-Kamas, agrees that lawmakers are willing to give SLOC more time to "put its house in order" but added there is a growing uneasiness about how much the Olympics are going to cost the state.
"We know we are going to have to dig into state pockets to provide services during the Games. That's a given," Ure said. "But the more we start asking questions about the Olympics, the more questions there seem to be."
Nevertheless, Ure maintains the majority of lawmakers are avid Olympics supporters, "even more so because they are getting closer." And as the Games draw closer, there is a growing desire that the state have greater oversight of the Games, particularly when it comes to finances and the state's responsibility to provide services during the Games.