In determining which lawmakers are effective and which are not, one particular adage comes to mind: Opinions are like belly buttons; everybody's got one.

For example, some will argue that Senate President Lane Beattie and Speaker of the House Mel Brown are legislative gurus when it comes to getting bills passed. Others claim they are politicos whose power - sometimes misused - comes from their titles, not their rational arguments for or against a bill.Opinions, of course, vary depending on which lobbyists, government staffers, political watchdogs and lawmakers themselves you talk to. And while many dis-agree in those opinions, talk to enough people and the same names keep coming up in the "effective" and "ineffective" columns - sometimes the same names in both columns.

You want effective lawmakers? On the House side, four names come up: Reps. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful; Greg Curtis, R-Sandy; Brian Allen, R-Cottonwood Heights; and Susan Koehn, R-Woods Cross. All emerged this year as leaders of the Mainstream Caucus, which proved surprisingly successful at blocking conservatives.

"People pooh-poohed the Mainstream Caucus in the beginning, but in the end the moderates had the last laugh," observed one lobbyist. "They had a decided impact on the Legislature. Key players had to moderate their views."

However, one political observer cautioned that the Allens, Curtis and Koehn have "got to be careful. They can get nailed (by leadership). They are not going to get their speaker in, but if they are content to act as a check on the right wing wackos, their impact will be impressive."

Other names are mentioned frequently. Rep. John Valentine, R-Orem, is seen as a master of technical legislation, particularly tax bills. And with that ability comes a disproportionate amount of power.

Referred to by one colleague as one of the two most capable people in the House, Valentine took plenty of hits this year. As a junior member of House leadership, he was sent out by senior members to articulate positions with which he did not agree.

"He is paying the political price for that with all the jealousies and egos on Capitol Hill," his colleague said. Another added that he was disappointed in Valentine for supporting a tax break for Geneva's pollution control equipment but fighting other tax exemptions. "I guess it just shows even the most knowledgeable (legislator) on tax matters has to play politics," he said.

Others named as effective were Rules Chairman Bill Hickman, R-St. George, who was described as the "glue that holds the Cowboy Caucus and the urban right wing together"; House Whip Kevin Garn, R-Layton, who is widely praised for his evolving maturity as a consensus builder; and Rep. Tom Hatch, R-Panguitch, who has garnered a reputation for uncompromising integrity.

House Minority Leader Dave Jones, D-Salt Lake, was listed as effective in his main political job - criticizing the GOP majority. "He was very articulate, but I didn't think his main focus point - Republicans fouled up freeway construction - held up much," said one observer.

Two GOP freshman are raising eyebrows. According to one lawmaker, Reps. John Swallow, R-Sandy, and David Glad-well, R-Ogden, "collectively raised the IQ of the House significantly."

On the Democrat side of the aisle, two names are particularly prominent. Rep. Judy Ann Buffmire, D-Salt Lake, is beloved by Republicans and Democrats, and even the majority party is reluctant to attack her legislation.

And freshman Rep. Patrice Arent, D-South Cottonwood, is earning reluctant praise from her GOP colleagues as bright, tough and effective. Maybe too effective (she is the only Democrat to make the Deseret News list of most effective lawmakers based on the ratio of bills passed, and she is rumored to be a candidate for attorney general in two years).

"She brings an incredible knowledge of the process, plus she has innate abilities," said one GOP colleague. "She will be a star . . . if she stays."

Rep. Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake, earns praise for his intellect, but he is viewed with suspicion among many in the GOP because of his ties to former Democratic Gov. Scott M. Matheson.

On the Senate side, those interviewed by the Deseret News had a harder time listing anyone who was effective beyond Senate President Lane Beattie and Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, the workhorse of the Senate when it comes to carrying complex bills.

Sen. David Buhler, R-Salt Lake, is seen as a rising star, as is Sen. Al Mansell, R-Sandy. And current Senate Majority Leader Craig Peterson, who is widely believed to be the next co-chairman of the powerful Executive Appropriations Committee, may actually see his power and influence increase after stepping down from leadership and out from Beattie's shad-ow.

Ironically, the name repeated most often as an effective senator won't be back next year. George Mantes, D-Tooele, chose not to run for re-election, despite bipartisan praise.

"It is remarkable he pulled off the car tax bill (changing the property tax on cars to a flat fee) and he did it as a Democrat," wondered one state executive in amazement. "It was incredible. I hate to see him go."

Those interviewed by the Deseret News were admittedly more reluctant to criticize lawmakers. But some lawmakers are seen as so controversial that their names kept coming up.

On the House side, Rep. Glenn Way, R-Spanish Fork, was singled out by almost everyone as an example of political inexperience run amok. "Maybe a case could be made that you are ineffective if you are invisible up here," said one observer. "But I would argue it is worse to be like Glenn Way."

Others marveled that a freshman representative would have the audacity to take on a governor with an 80 percent public approval rating. Even House Speaker Brown - often at odds with the governor - avoids taking on the governor in floor speeches.

Other House members listed as ineffective were Rep. Tammy Rowan, R-Orem, who is seen as a "Republican in exile" for her ultra-conservatism that put her at odds with even conservatives in the House; retiring House Majority Leader Christine Fox, R-Lehi, who remains soundly criticized for what some see as selling out on the electrical deregulation issue (one said Fox-Finlinson's influence dropped drastically after she announced her retirement with still two weeks left in the session); and Bryan Holladay, R-West Jordan, who has suffered repeatedly from foot-in-mouth disease.

On the Senate side, Sen. Craig Taylor, R-Kaysville, is mentioned most often as ineffective, although that was tempered somewhat by a moderate 1998 session in which Taylor did not carry controversial legislation.

Interestingly, Senate majority Whip Leonard Blackham, R-Moroni, was mentioned as both effective and ineffective. His ef-fec-tive-ness was characterized by his dogged persistence, his ineffectiveness by his willingness to present himself as an expert on matters on which he clearly isn't, like hazardous waste and electrical deregulation.

"Leonard is the Senate bully," said one lobbyist. "Sometimes it works, but you look at his big bills this year and he lost them all."

Others listed by some as ineffective were Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell, who was labeled by one observer as "a sound bite with no substance" (although others praised Howell for his attempts to rein in a very divisive Senate Democratic caucus that had nasty infighting in the 1998 session); Sen. Robert Muhlestein, R-Mapleton, who is seen as an overly zealous conservative ideologue; and Sen. Steve Poulton, R-Holladay, who was labeled by several as mean-spirited.

Then again, those are just opinions.



Most and least effective legislators

1997-98, based on ratio of bills passed to bills introduced


(Minimum 11 bills introduced)

... Passed/Introduced Percent passed

Al Mansell (R) 15 of 16 94%

Steve Poulton (R) 11 of 12 92%

Nathan Tanner (R) 12 of 13 92%

Lane Beattie (R) 10 of 11 91%

Lyle Hillyard (R) 27 of 30 90%


... Passed/Introduced Percent passed

Lorin Jones (R) 2 of 7 29%

Ed Mayne (D) 4 of 13 31%

Craig Taylor (D) 4 of 13 31%

Millie Peterson (D) 4 of 12 33%


(Minimum 11 bills introduced)

... Passed/Introduced Percent passed

Marty Stephens (R) 12 of 12 100%

John Swallow (R) 12 of 13 92%

Patrice Arent (D) 10 of 11 91%

Afton Bradshaw (D) 10 of 11 91%

Keele Johnson (D) 10 of 11 91%


... Passed/Introduced Percent passed

Tammy Rowan (R) 0 of 7 0%

Loretta Baca (D) 0 of 5 0%

Richard Walsh (R) 0 of 3 0%

Duane Bourdeaux (D) 0 of 2 0%

Glenn Way (R) 1 of 9 11%