Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Valentine’s Day

And so as the sun sinks slowly in the West, we say goodbye to one of the longest serving Utah lawmakers as Sen. John Valentine waves a fond farewell.


OK. It won’t be as corny as that.

But there will be some sad hearts on Capitol Hill next month when Valentine, R-Orem, resigns his seat after 26 years in the House and Senate to become chairman of the Utah Tax Commission.

Twenty-six years. That’s a third of a lifetime.

When Valentine first went into the House in 1989 they were using quills and bottle ink to write the bills.

Hey, back then Sen. Lyle Hillyard still had hair on his head.

And Rep. Marc Roberts was in diapers.

It’s kind of strange when your reporting career mirrors a lawmaker’s – you literally grow old together. (Not that either Valentine or I are old, we’re just kind of creaky.)

A few of my remembrances of Valentine:

— While in the House he had a scare – a growth was removed from his upper lip (it was not cancerous), but since he couldn’t shave he grew a really nice moustache. Unfortunately, being the attorney/conservative that he is he cut it off as soon as he could.

— While he was Senate president I called his cell once to get a quote. He answered while on top of a local mountain, where he was overseeing the rescue of an injured hiker.

Valentine is a lieutenant in the Utah County Search and Rescue.

— When I was first told that former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Rep. Greg Hughes and Valentine were going to try to repeal liquor club provisions and basically bring Utah to liquor by the drink, I said No Way. LDS Church leaders would never allow it.

But Valentine et al. worked with church officials and others and got the major liquor reform passed.

I misjudged them all.

— Through poor reporting and a mistake I made in a story on Valentine and other GOP senators, Valentine and I got crossways. While other senators held a grudge, Valentine got past it.

He’s always had an easy personality and been willing to work with about anyone, even pesky reporters.

— For some time Valentine was looking to take a step up, either run for governor or attorney general.

He considered putting his name forward with state GOP delegates late last year for the AG post when former Attorney General John Swallow resigned in shame.

Valentine would have made a good AG. But he said he didn’t want to try to reform and heal the Attorney General’s office while at the same time running for election this year.

So he stayed out of the delegate race.

— Valentine, a tax attorney, told UtahPolicy that he argued his first case before the Utah Tax Commission – which hears tax appeals – probably in the late 1970s.

And he’s been before the commission ever since, arguing hundreds of cases for clients.

— Over his broad-ranging legislative career Valentine has passed 228 bills and resolutions. That’s a big number, with many of the works having major affects on Utahns and their lives.

(Thanks to Shelley Day and Brooke Anderson at the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel for quickly researching Valentine’s bill history.)

It is a record of which he can be proud.

Now Valentine will head the Tax Commission – in his first four-year term.

At 65, who knows how many terms Valentine will serve on the commission, or whether he will seek some other elective office in the future.

We’ll watch what he does with his $110,000 campaign cash balance – one of the largest in the Legislature.

If he keeps it active (he won’t be soliciting any more contributions while on the commission) it will be a tell that he’s looking to get back into elective politics some day.

If he gives it away (campaign reforms passed by the Legislature no longer allow lawmakers to give leftover campaign cash to themselves), it’ll show he’s retiring for campaigning.

In any case, I figure I speak for many when I say “Thanks John” for many years of service. And Happy Trails To You.