In her opening address to the 2013 Legislature, Lockhart complained that Gov. Gary Herbert does not veto enough legislation. “There’s got to be more than one or two things he disagrees with, right?”
Lockhart knows better than that...or at least she should. Herbert’s veto power is not, as Lockhart contends, about whether he disagrees with a piece of legislation. It should be about what’s best for the state. He has a larger constituency than legislators and much more to weigh in making his decision.
Imagine two people facing off in a bar fight. One gestures at the other to “take a swing” at them - baiting an adversary to make the first move. After the beatdown, the victor turns to bystanders (or the cops) and says “they started it.”
Lockhart presides over a veto proof majority. If Herbert were to use his veto pen more, there’s a good chance the Republicans in the House and Senate would land a legislative haymaker upside his head with a very public veto override. Why would Herbert invite that kind of conflict unless he had a good reason?
Lockhart’s call for more vetoes was part of a larger appeal to legislators to exercise restraint - “We’ve already got almost 1,000 bills being prepared this session. History says we’ll pass somewhere around 400 of them...which means we’ll add another 200 pages of code on top of the 200 pages we added last year. That’s on top of the thousands of pages added over the decades. Do we really want to keep doing that? Really? Really?”
Putting the onus for limiting legislation on Herbert absolves her from trying to put that restraint on her own caucus. There are 61 Republicans in the House this year- an unwieldy number to be sure. If Lockhart “really” wants to limit the number of pages added to Utah code, that effort “really” starts at the top - with her.
Unless he’s politically naive, Herbert has done the math. In order to sustain a veto, he needs 26 members of the House on his side. Sure, he would likely have the 14 Democrats come to his aid. But, are there 12 Republicans willing to defy Lockhart and do so publicly? The easier thing to do is close ranks and smackdown the Governor rather than risk retribution from legislative leadership.
I’m not suggesting Lockhart has near-dictatorial powers. If members of her caucus are determined to pass something that she disagrees with, they’ll likely do it over her objections. That’s how the process works. But to suggest that Herbert is abdicating his duties by not vetoing more legislation is disingenuous.
A veto override is very different than killing legislation on the floor or in committee. There is endless speculation in the media about which bills Herbert will sign and which he will nix. If he does pull out the veto stamp, it starts a whole new round of reaction from lawmakers and spawns more conjecture about whether there will be a veto override session. Vetoes and overrides are messy.
There’s another dynamic at play here. It’s a not-so-secret secret on the Hill that Lockhart is laying the groundwork for a possible run at Herbert’s office in 2016.
You’ll remember Herbert campaigned in 2012 on Utah being the best-managed state in America. That’s his big weapon. This is only a guess on my part, but it seems Lockhart is trying to throw water on that by sowing discord between the Executive and the Legislative branch. If that relationship turns testy, and it looks like Herbert is starting fights by vetoing bills, she can take the high road and promise more cooperation if she were to become Governor. “I can make government work better and more efficiently” is a potent campaign issue.
Herbert’s best move here is to ignore the lure. It’s a no-win situation.
Legislative Democrats made a smart move on opening day reaching out to Latino members of the media.
However, by branding their outreach as “Latino Media Day, they’re marginalizing the very group they’re trying to court.
It reminds me of the musical “Hairspray.” The all-white “Corny Collins Show” theme song touts the fact that once a month they have “Negro Day” as a nod to a changing demographic.
When I worked in public radio, there were many efforts to develop programming that appealed to minority listeners. Research found that these shows did indeed attract minorities, but those consumers became angered when the shows surrounding them did not speak to their issues and culture.
Having one day highlighting your outreach to minority media simply raises the practical question - what about the other 44 days in the session?
Here’s an idea. How about reaching out to all media, including those outlets that have a primarily Latino audience, without singling out a particular group?
“Behind each breakaway moment is a breakaway demagogue who will set up his breakaway demagogue government.” ~ Frank Zappa