UtahPolicy has learned that Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, has been replaced as the House’s chair of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee.
The official legislative committee site shows that Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, is the new House chair of that budget committee.
House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who makes such decisions, Monday gave UtahPolicy a long explanation.
Ivory, who has had his own controversies in his time in the state House, could not immediately be contacted for a response.
Hughes likened his decision to a baseball manager making roster changes as the season progresses.
However, it must be said that in recent legislative history, except for illness or resignation from the body, committee chairs are not replaced during a two-year term of a Legislature.
Hughes says Ivory did nothing wrong, but that considering the heavier workload of all budget chairs this interim timeframe, Hughes thought it best that Ivory is allowed to concentrate on his chairmanship of the Federal Lands Commission, and that someone with a lighter general workload – in this case Christofferson – step in.
Hughes made several other interim committee reassignments at the same time – just over two weeks ago — but Ivory is the only chair to lose his top post.
Hughes took two members of the Health and Human Services budget committee and switched them with two members of Natural Resources.
That move was made, Hughes said, because the Natural Resources committee had too few rural lawmakers on it.
“We needed more of a (geographic) balance,” Hughes said.
In some cases, longer-serving House Republicans were moved to give newer members a chance to serve in the areas of their expertise, said Hughes.
As previously reported by UtahPolicy, Hughes and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, along with their GOP leadership teams in both bodies, decided to shake things up this interim.
In the past, appropriation committee chairs (the budget committees are joint committees, made up of senators and representatives with co-chairs from each body taking turns running the meetings) have been able to ask the Legislative Management Committee for up to two paid meetings each interim, from April through December.
And most approp committees did meet at least one time.
But this interim, budget committees will meet five set times, with additional meetings possible with approval of LMC.
Thus the extra work over the summer for budget committees as they “drill down” on spending priorities, said Hughes.
“We made these changes to put the strongest team” on the field, said Hughes, continuing with his baseball analogy.
“This is not a demotion” for Ivory, said Hughes. “It is a roster change.”
Still, it must be said, Ivory has lost some of his impact within the House GOP caucus as a few of the archconservatives have left the body in recent years and more moderate Republicans have replaced them.
Ivory is known to stand, both in open caucus meetings and on the floor, and give lectures on federalism and the Constitution – his personal passion and private work through various nonprofits.
When he started to give one such speech in a caucus this past session, he was cut off and silenced by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, who was conducting that part of the meeting.
Ivory became angry, stood up and walked out of the caucus.
“Ken is strong on federalism” and will concentrate his work there, said Hughes.
The speaker denied there was any conflicts of interest between Ivory’s former chairmanship of the budget committee and his private consulting work.
But Ivory has been criticized in the past for blending his federalism nonprofit work with his efforts in the Legislature.
At one time he was soliciting and signing up county commissions, who paid him a fee to advise them on federalism and how they could fight the federal government on land and other issues.
A liberal-leaning group asked the Utah Attorney Generals Office to look into that situation, and GOP AG Sean Reyes reported back that Ivory had broken no laws – and counties were free to hire what kind of consultants they wished.
Ivory has since stepped out of that nonprofit.
“This was not an easy thing to do,” said Hughes, who added that because moving a chair was “out of precedence” mid-term it may raise some eyebrows among Capitol Hill watchers.