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‘It’s deja vu all over again’ at Capitol

SHARE ‘It’s deja vu all over again’ at Capitol

Whew! You can release your grip on your pocketbook. The Legislature has concluded another session, leaving some Utahns laughing and others crying. In many ways, the legislative process is a microcosm of life. It throws 104 individuals together for 45 days in an intense, busy, high-pressure, fish-bowl environment that frays nerves and tests patience.

There are moments of joy, tragedy, confusion and enlightenment (rare). Therefore, many of the maxims, cliches and observations taught by philosophers, mothers and wits over centuries are readily applicable to our lawmakers. For example:

"It is good to be king." House Speaker Greg Curtis again demonstrated he is the biggest boy on Capitol Hill by doing deals, deflecting media criticism and garnering benefits for his Sandy constituents.

"Haste makes waste." Don't worry, given the slow slogging through many bills, not much was wasted.

"Actions speak louder than words." This might help explain the girth of some lawmakers.

"If you got it, flaunt it." Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble cleverly used his majority leader position to paint the veneer of statesmanship on his famous intense temperament.

"If you're already in a hole, stop digging." Almost every attempt Sen. Chris Buttars made to explain his words and actions got him deeper in trouble.

"Politics make strange bedfellows." Who would've thought that the forces pushing a prohibition of flavored malt alcoholic beverages in convenience stores would join with those wanting to increase the level of octane in cocktail drinks?

"Brevity is the soul of wit." Strange, but this has no application at all on Capitol Hill.

"Size does matter." As Rep. Greg Hughes reminded us on a regular basis when referring to the diminutive nature of some senators.

"Patience is the greatest of all virtues." As one of the few Utah elected officials who stuck it out with presidential aspirant Sen. John McCain, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s judgment (and potential appointment to a McCain administration) was frequently noted in the Capitol corridors.

"Live and let live." Just so long as it is the way the Eagle Forum wants you to live.

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive." Several moderate Republican lawmakers and their lobbyist friends were exposed in a clumsy attempt to unseat various conservative legislators.

"Don't worry, be happy." State officials are wearing happy public faces when discussing long-range revenue projections, but insiders are scared (there's a reason why there was no tax cut).

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." The mantra of lawmakers attempting any meaningful reform of ethics, immigration, education and health care.

"The meek shall inherit the earth." This is apparently the long-range strategy for legislative Democrats.

"Fear is a great motivator." The whispered rationale behind all the new money focus toward public education: fear of an election-year backlash against the voucher program.

"Do as I say, not as I do." Speeches expressing fear of immigrants is directly proportional to the benefits received from their cheap labor.

"Truth is relative." Philosophy behind many a lobbyist pitch.

"Don't throw good money after bad." Legislators continue to search for bad money and therefore are still throwing good money around.

"Making a mountain out of a molehill." The preferred method to justify most legislation.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time." The preferred rationale behind most apologies for bad legislation introduced.

"A friend of yours is a friend of mine." This is rarely used by legislators, who prefer to say, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

"All is fair in love and war." Thus explaining legislators' willingness to allow concealed-weapon permit holders to openly carry their guns in nearly every public place and also allow domestic partners to register in Salt Lake City.

"All dressed up and nowhere to go." Multitudes of interest groups and lobbyists were counting on spending time with the Immigration Task Force, which didn't get approved in the waning minutes of the session.

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics." Sources used to determine fiscal notes on bills.

"The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away." Funding for the airport TRAX line kept Salt Lake City and Utah Transit Authority lobbyists hopping the whole session as legislators snatched funding from one source, but made it pop up in another.

"As ye sow, so shall ye reap." Utah County Democrats are hoping their time spent recruiting solid candidates will break through the Republican stranglehold on legislative seats.

"Smile. It makes people wonder what you're up to." Frank's philosophy to stay sane throughout the session.

"Wear clean underwear. You never know when you might be in an accident." LaVarr doesn't know how this applies to the Legislature, but somehow it must.

"Stick a fork in it." And so ends another memorable legislative session.


Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Webb was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and a Deseret News managing editor. E-mail: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as House minority leader. Pignanelli's spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a Utah state tax commissioner. E-mail: frankp@xmission.com.