Five GOP senators — including controversial Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan — are being considered for the chairmanship of the Senate Rules Committee, one of the most powerful positions in the Legislature.

"I don't know of a stronger supporter," Senate President-elect Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said Friday of Buttars, who was widely criticized last session for making what was described as a racist comment on the Senate floor.

But Waddoups said he still has to decide whether Buttars would be a distraction as chairman.

"Sen. Buttars didn't do anything wrong," Waddoups said. "He has an image problem with some members of the public. ... Of course I'll take it into consideration because that is a factor. But it's not an overriding factor."

Buttars won reelection despite the controversy over his using the word "black" to negatively describe the "baby" being split by a bill, saying, "This baby is black, I'll tell you. This is a dark and ugly thing."

Waddoups has been critical of the way outgoing Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, handled the incident. Valentine announced Buttars' comment was a breach of decorum, and Buttars apologized, saying he did not intend it as racist.

Last week, Valentine lost his bid for a third, two-year term to Waddoups, who was making his third run for the Senate presidency. On interim day Wednesday, Waddoups plans to name committee chairmen and make committee assignments.

He said besides Buttars, Republican Sens. Mark Madsen of Lehi, Pete Knudson of Brigham City, Margaret Dayton of Orem and outgoing Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble of Provo all requested the Rules Committee chairmanship.

The Rules Committee decides the fate of Senate bills. Waddoups chaired the committee during Valentine's first term, but he was replaced by Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George. Hickman did not seek reelection to the Senate this year.

Waddoups said seniority also will be taken into account in choosing a Rules Committee chairman. Only Knudson has more seniority in the Senate than Buttars. "Seniority always plays into these decisions in the Senate," Waddoups said.

He said it will be a tough choice. "I have good friends in that group," he said. "They've made it hard on me."


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