Here are a few predictions from the sage minds of UtahPolicy’s Managing Editor Bryan Schott and Contributing Editor Bob Bernick. Any disagreements on predictions are noted.
BOB BERNICK’S 2013 PREDICTIONS
-- The general session of the Legislature, which begins Jan. 28 and runs for 45 days, will not place the whole state sales tax of 4.75 percent back on to unprepared food.
Several GOP senators are making the argument that setting the food tax at 1.75 percent, as was done half a dozen years ago, is poor taxing policy.
They say the smaller base on such a basic commodity caused the overall state sales tax take to fluctuate too much during the Great Depression, causing non-education program cutbacks more severe than otherwise would have been required.
But led by House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, who opposes such a “tax hike,” as she puts it, it’s unlikely the House GOP caucus can muster 38 votes.
House Democrats stand firmly against harming lower-income Utahns with the tax switch (GOP senators say the 4.75 percent top rate would be lowered slightly, so there would be no overall tax take increase, and poor Utahns would get an earned income tax credit of around $85 a year to offset the food tax hike).
GOP Gov. Gary Herbert is uncommitted either for or against.
But we don’t see the food tax hike bill ever getting to his desk.
-- The U.S. Supreme Court will uphold the ban on same-sex marriage – both through California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Conservative Utahns won’t have to worry that our state and local governments will have to recognize the same rights and privileges for gay and lesbian couples who marry in gay-rights states but live in Utah.
-- On a similar note, the 2013 Legislature will not adopt an employment and housing gay rights bill. The conservative argument that local county, city and town leaders can make that choice as they see fit will stand.
-- State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis will not run for a second, two-year term as party boss next summer. Dabakis will keep his state Senate seat – picked by District 2 delegates just a few weeks ago to replace Sen. Ben McAdams, who will become Salt Lake County’s second straight Democratic mayor the first of the year.
-- In the wake of Newtown’s elementary school slaughter of 20 children and six adults, the Utah Legislature will do nothing on gun control or keeping guns away from people being treated for a mental illness.
-- Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, looking at six years of his final term in office, will become even more partisan and conservative, joining Utah’s junior Sen. Mike Lee in opposing Democratic President Barack Obama’s various appointments and programs.
-- Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love stays hidden after a heartbreaking loss to Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, in the new U.S. House District 4, which most Utahns thought she would win.
-- Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and others will start their 2014 citizen initiative petition, which aims at getting Utahns to pass a new law that would allow an alternative route to party primary ballots.
While most Utahns won’t be paying much attention to this, if successful the Leavitt effort could change Utah politics significantly.
Moderate GOP candidates, from county, legislative, to governor and U.S. Senate and House, could gather a set percent of signatures on a petition and, if reaching that threshold, would be placed on the Republican, Democratic or third party primary ballots.
No longer would popular Republican candidates/officeholders have to get the approval of conservative, sometimes right-wing, county and state party delegates in order to advance to a party primary.
BRYAN SCHOTT’S 2013 PREDICTIONS
-- In the wake of the Newtown massacre, the Utah Legislature will at least consider making it easier for Utahns to carry weapons in public. There may even be an effort to revive the “Constitutional Carry” measure that failed to pass in 2011.
-- Gayle Ruzicka’s influence in the Utah Legislature will continue to wane as the newer lawmakers will likely be more moderate than in the past.
Gov. Gary Herbert vetoing the abstinence only sex-ed bill after last session showed moderates feel emboldened by the more mainstream crop of delegates selected at the Republican mass meetings last March.
That feeling should continue this session as the far right-wing is further marginalized.
-- The Supreme Court will strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Justice Anthony Kennedy is known to be partial to states’ rights arguments, and this case is right in his wheelhouse.
The fate of Prop. 8 is a little less clear. The court could go in one of three ways - uphold Prop. 8, strike it down on a very narrow basis (which would pertain only to California’s law), or strike it down and rule all bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
Justice Kennedy has never ruled against gay and lesbian rights, and this time it should be no different.
I’m guessing the court will strike down Prop. 8 on a limited basis (the same ruling that came out of the 9th Circuit Court). When that happens, there will be a great hue and cry in Utah, but no change as same-sex marriage is already illegal here.
-- Republicans will keep Jim Dabakis in the “penalty box” during his first term in the Utah Senate, not passing any of his bills, although he will get at least one out for debate.
The media will love Dabakis and his outspokenness, running to him for a quote on anything and everything. This will push other Democratic lawmakers even further into the background on the Hill.
Dabakis will then opt to not run for another term as Democratic Party Chair.
-- West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder will run for, and win, another term as the head of that city.
The run will be the last time the “Richard Burwash” incident is litigated in front of voters, which is a good thing for Winder - because I get the feeling he wants to run for a higher office down the road, and getting the Burwash thing out of the way would be a good thing for him.
-- Political junkies are really going to miss the presence of Chris Vanocur on the Hill during the 2013 session. The veteran reporter was laid off from Channel 4 right before Christmas.
Vanocur won’t be on the sidelines too long, though.
-- A number of Republicans will begin to lay the groundwork for a challenge to Rep. Chris Stewart and Sen. Mike Lee.
There are already rumblings that Josh Romney is itching to challenge Lee.
Those rumblings will start to get louder throughout 2013.
-- There will be some serious talk about Jon Huntsman being named to a post in a second Obama administration, but nothing will come of it.
-- One thing is for certain - 2013 won't nearly be as interesting as 2012 was politically for the state.