Spring has finally arrived — along with pollen and mold infestations. In both weather and politics, good things sometimes come with a little bad, and vice versa. With itchy eyes, we address a few current topics.
Will the legislature override the governor's veto of legislation that would have allowed Utahns to carry concealed weapons without permits?
Pignanelli: "There are times when even the most potent governor must wink at transgression, in order to preserve the laws inviolate for the future." — Herman Melville
Gov. Gary Herbert is morphing into the wise old schoolmarm who deftly handles unruly schoolchildren, with the occasional spanking.
His response to controversial legislation is getting better and better. HB477 (2011) was initially bungled but his GRAMA work group performed well and deserves credit for enhancing government accountability. He seemed distraught over the veto of the sex education bill (2012). But, last week he gave the gun bill a quick review with little consternation, then spanked legislators for misbehavior.
The supposed origin behind HB76 was the arrest of a rancher who inadvertently allowed a winter coat to cover his firearm. There were rumors on Capitol Hill that no such person exists and gun activists have weighed in on either side, limiting political blowback. These are considerations for lawmakers' deliberations in challenging Herbert. Furthermore, legislators will be judging a matter outside a legislative session where sharp elbows and a herd mentality can influence decision-making. Many lawmakers do not want another public debate on the matter and will quietly express their opposition to additional discussions — thereby preventing the veto override.
Webb: Gun rights activists are putting a lot of pressure on legislators, but it's likely the veto will stand. Some lawmakers who voted for the legislation against their better judgment are secretly pleased the governor vetoed it. I own a half dozen guns, although I've never been interested in obtaining a concealed carry permit. At least under current law, if a law-abiding citizen is carrying a concealed weapon, we know that person has had some screening and training via the permitting process.
Certainly, the permit requirement isn't going to prevent criminals from carrying guns. But allowing almost anyone to carry a hidden weapon undoubtedly means more people who shouldn't be packing weapons will do so — young people, borderline criminals, some with semi-serious mental health problems. Having that admittedly low barrier of the permitting process makes it just a little harder for someone who probably shouldn't be carrying a concealed weapon to do so.
Mitt Romney has made a reemergence on the national scene through appearances on talk shows, speeches at conservative conventions and now will be hosting a pricey Republican policy festival at Park City in June. Is there a role for Romney in national politics?
Pignanelli: I could be snotty and answer the question with the following: "It depends on which Mitt Romney shows up." However, this is Easter Sunday, and I will avoid such nastiness. Gov. Romney is an articulate intelligent politician who could impact national discussions if he continually provides a thoughtful detailed plan on how our economy could be revitalized. By illustrating such guidance, a future Republican president could appoint him to a high-profile position.
Webb: Romney suffered a devastating defeat and it made sense for him to let the dust settle and maintain a low profile for several months. But he has a real contribution to make. Sometimes we learn more in defeat than by winning. I hope he will be a voice for mainstream Americans and won't simply use his bully pulpit to bash Democrats and the Obama administration. I hope he will be a voice for laying out what a proper compromise would be to get spending and entitlements under control, along with sensible, pro-growth tax reform. Romney had a terrific plan, developed under the leadership of former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, to address the country's big, tough issues. I hope he will focus on those big issues and not simply come across as a sore loser.
Many Utahns were directly and indirectly involved in the circumstances leading to the United States Supreme Court's hearing on same-sex marriage. Is there a potential impact on the state?
Pignanelli: A number of affluent Utahns donated to the Proposition 8 campaign, while Utah gay rights organizations filed petitions with the Supreme Court. My prediction (WARNING: any legal analysis from me is either dangerous or useless) is the Court strikes the federal Defense of Marriage Act but upholds states' definitions of marriage that do not impede basic rights between individuals. Thus, there will be something for a Utahn to love and hate.
Webb: I'm not going to guess what the court will decide, although most experts believe the court will likely leave the same-sex marriage question to the states. That would be partial victory for both sides. I believe my good friends with same-sex attraction should be protected from discrimination in such areas as housing and employment. But formal marriage between a man and a woman has been the basic foundation of family life and society for millennia. A new social experiment with the potential to further undermine the already severely-distressed traditional family doesn't make sense.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: [email protected]. 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: [email protected]