Solving the failed thrift and loan problem in this election year is a political mudhole - no matter what you do, you get dirty, a number of Utah lawmakers believe.
Gov. Norm Bangerter announced a July 5 special legislative session on Wednesday and placed the thrift issue on the agenda. He also asked lawmakers to consider returning $80 million in surplus income tax revenue to taxpayers.House Majority Leader Nolan Karras, R-Roy, voiced the concern of a number of lawmakers when he said he doesn't welcome such a complicated, difficult issue as the thrifts on a special session call.
"I don't like special session. But if something is not fully studied, and no consensus is reached before you go in, they are that much more difficult," Karras said.
Bangerter, in announcing the special session, said most of the debate will be over the thrifts. A task force appointed by Bangerter has recommended that the state issue $67 million in bonds to repay money lost by depositors.
The governor hasn't given his recommendation yet, but he clearly doesn't favor bonding for the whole $67 million. He may well support a smaller bond, but then depositors wouldn't get all of their money back.
The depositors have organized politically, and some lawmakers may be worried about such a voting bloc this election year. But Karras warned they shouldn't overreact.
"I don't see my political future based on this (repaying the depositors' losses). Just the opposite. I think other taxpayers may be more angry at us if we use their tax monies to solve this problem," Karras said. He added that in his opinion the state isn't legally responsible for the failed thrifts - even though the state set up the insolvent savings guarantee fund that failed to insure the deposits. "But we have some moral obligation," he said.
Besides the thrift question and returning the $80 million via a rebate checks sent out sometime this summer, Bangerter has placed the following items on the special session agenda:
-Advice and consent by the Senate on a number of gubernatorial appointments.
-Correct a technical flaw in a procurement preference for domestic contractors' law.
-Change the new political action committee financial reporting law so corporations meet the same requirements as PACs but not stricter requirements.
-Make technical corrections to the Insurance Code amendments.
-Change the new State Land Board law so board members have staggered terms.
-Consider a law, vetoed by Bangerter, that would make the governor present a recommended budget that is in balance with current taxing levels. Rep. Frank Knowlton, R-Layton, wanted to stop governors from including proposed tax increases as part of their budgets. Bangerter objected to that but agrees that such suggested increases should be clearly defined in the proposed budget.
-Make technical changes in the military code of law.
-Correct a mistake in the Employers Reinsurance Fund law passed by the last Legislature.
-Increase the number of school districts that can receive education block grants from five to six.
-Consider clarification language to the proposed bail amendment to the Utah Constitution.
In addition to those official items on the call, Bangerter said he will also consider placing on the call:
-Transferring the auditing responsibility for mental health facilities from counties to the state. This is a reaction to the Timpanogos Mental Health scandal where inadequate audits failed to turn up overspending of $3 million.
-Adopting AIDS legislation, now modified from the measures vetoed by Bangerter. "I will continue to encourage the governor to include discussion of the two AIDS-related bills during the special session," said Dr. Suzanne Dandoy, executive director of the Utah Department of Health.
"There was certainly some legislative concern during the (June) interim session on one of the bills, so the bills are likely to raise some discussion. I can't make any guarantees they won't be controversial because AIDS is a controversial subject," Dandoy said.
-Modify the Outdoor Advertising Act to conform to federal standards.
-Other minor matters, some of them technical changes to new laws adopted by the last Legislature.