Wow. Big week in Utah politics.
— President Donald Trump’s administration will take 45 days to study all national monuments created over the last 20 years by presidents under the 1906 Antiquities Act – with the real possibility that the Obama-created Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah will be downsized or outright repealed by Trump.
— University of Utah President David Pershing and the board of trustees reversed a controversial firing of the Huntsman Cancer Research Institute’s CEO.
Dr. Mary Beckerle is back in her job. And Pershing and Dr. Vivian Lee, U. vice president for Health Services, may soon be out of theirs.
— The Utah Legislature will likely investigate/audit a weird $12 million donation to the U. for cancer research (but it really wasn’t) by a billionaire L.A. doctor, whose medical-product firm then got $10 million of it back in product sales – boosting his business.
— State House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, calls on GOP Gov. Gary Herbert to quickly call a special session so the Legislature can adopt a law detailing how Herbert will deal with a special election, should U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz resign his seat before his current term ends – as many speculate he will.
Herbert says no need for such a special election law – at least not until Utah actually does face an open U.S. House seat.
— A flurry of activity (well, at least name dropping) of potential Republicans looking at the Chaffetz 3rd District seat, and the special election, including Hughes.
My takeaway on all of this?
— Trump will do something on Bears Ears. Most likely he will downsize it from 1.35 million.
If he repeals it entirely, that means one long court case (which may come with the downsizing, as well).
But even if he wins the court case, that means that a future president could repeal any Trump-created national monuments. And does Trump really want anyone second guessing him?
Not in his self-centered world.
— Don’t mess with Jon Huntsman Sr., the Big Dog at the University of Utah cancer-fighting.
A lot of politicos asking what the heck Pershing and Lee were thinking – or were they thinking at all.
And U. Trustee Board Chairman H. David Burton apparently went along with it – at first.
Interesting to see Burton and Pershing standing together at a brief press conference after the closed-door trustee meeting where Beckerle was given back her job.
Burton wasn’t looking at Pershing, and certainly wasn’t praising him. I think Pershing is a lonely man these days.
The only people standing behind him, backing him up, are holding knives.
— There clearly needs to be a law explaining exactly how the governor would hold a special election for a U.S. House vacancy.
Hughes says because of a truncated time frame, candidates shouldn’t be able to signature gather to get their name on the ballot.
Like vacancies for the Legislature, the party delegates for the district should meet, vote on possible replacements.
And then one or two names be sent to the ballot.
No primary election, just the highest vote-getter in the special election goes to the U.S. House – fast, clean and straightforward is the way to go, says Hughes.
We’ll see if Herbert will call a special session (only the governor can do so), and what kind of law will come from it.
— There’s blood in the water concerning the U. on Utah’s Capitol Hill.
Historically, conservative legislators have looked askance at the big-brain, intellectual elitists at the state’s largest higher-learning institution.
Long-time Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, has for years taken care of Utah State University.
Back in the day former Gov. Mike Leavitt, a Cedar City native, took care of Southern Utah University.
Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. – yes, the son – looked after the U. a bit because of the family’s strong interest there.
But the U. hasn’t had a powerful Republican legislative benefactor since the late-Rep. Afton Bradshaw and Sen. Dave Buhler (now the commissioner of higher education), left the Legislature.
It is definitely time for some bridge building from the U. to the Hill.
We’ll see how that plays out.