Bryan Schott’s Political BS: The Year in Politics (Part 1)

2014 was a monumental year in Utah politics. Same-sex marriage came to the Beehive State. The investigation into John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff grabbed headlines. We had a midterm election.

But other interesting things happened as well. Some of the stories you probably remember, others you may have forgotten.

Here now is a look back at the first six months of political headlines in Utah for the past year.


Following the decision by a federal court that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, the 10th District Court halted the issuance of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Opponents of same-sex marriage urge Gov. Herbert to ignore the ruling by the federal court. State officials try to figure out the status of those couples who were issued licenses before the court stepped in, while Gov. Herbert announces the state will not recognize their marriages even though the feds say they will recognize those unions. The ACLU sues over the decision to not recognize already performed same-sex marriages. The LDS Church says they won’t get involved in the court battle, but urges both sides to be civil while the court makes its decision. Later in the month, Utah announces they will let legally married same-sex couples file joint state tax returns.

The John Swallow/Mark Shurtleff investigation rolled on as search warrants suggest Swallow’s campaign filed false tax information to skirt IRS rules. Swallow uses more than $230,000 of campaign funds to pay off his legal fees. The pricetag for the House investigation into Swallow moves north of $3 million.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says the legislature should lead or “get out of the way” to let cities address Utah’s poor air quality. Clean air advocates say school-aged children should stay inside on days with even moderate pollution levels. A bipartisan group of lawmakers unveil a package of bills to improve air quality.

Gov. Herbert announces the state will accept some form of Medicaid expansion from the federal government.

Speaker Becky Lockhart blasts Herbert during her speech on the opening day of the Legislature, calling Herbert an “inaction figure” and vowing to not take any money from the government for Medicaid expansion. Lockhart also announces she wants the state to spend between $200 and $300 million to increase technology in Utah’s schools.

Sen. Mike Lee delivers the Tea Party response to the State of the Union Address.

Doug Owens, son of late Democratic Congressman Wayne Owens, announces he will seek the Democratic nomination in Utah’s 4th Congressional District.

The Utah GOP says they will not move forward with a proposed counter-petition to the Count My Vote initiative.

A website posts the personal information of 1.5 million Utah voters from the state voter file. Lawmakers take steps to stop the practice. Someone launches an online petition to impeach Gov. Herbert over the voter breach.

Former Rep. Holly Richardson announces she plans to challenge current Rep. Brian Greene for the GOP nomination in HD 57.

Enid Mickelsen is tapped to head up the committee to select the site of the 2016 Republican National Convention.

The Ogden Standard-Examiner lays off a dozen staffers including cartoonist Cal Grondahl.


A proposed statewide non-discrimination bill gets bottled up in the Senate as legislative leaders call a “cease fire” on gay rights issues while Amendment 3 is before the courts. Supporters leave post-it notes on the doors to the Senate chamber. A group demanding that lawmakers hear the bill are arrested after blocking access to the Governor’s office and a legislative hearing room. Sen. Jim Dabakis lashes out at legislative leaders and Gov. Herbert saying they are “clueless” on the issue.

Utah files its court brief defending the ban on same-sex marriage focusing on the impact on children.

An intern for Senate President Wayne Niederhauser uses his account to post a tweet that many deemed offensive to the LGBT community. As a result the Senate holds mandatory sensitivity training for interns.

Sen. Curt Bramble unveils SB 54 which would effectively neuter the “Count My Vote” initiative. Sen. Scott Jenkins proposes a Constitutional amendment that would allow political parties to nominate candidates in any way they choose without state interference. Mitt Romney throws his support behind the “Count My Vote” initiative. “Count My Vote” organizers announce they’ve gathered more than 100,000 signatures while a group opposed to the effort alleged improprieties with how CMV has been gathering signatures.

Gov. Gary Herbert makes first reference to what will become the Healthy Utah plan as he announces the state will ask for block grants to buy private health coverage for low income people instead of expanding Medicaid.

Lawmakers start lining up behind a plan to help fund a convention hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.

A legislative task force recommends to lawmakers that the state prison be moved away from Draper.

Gov. Herbert renews his call to ban wood-burning stoves and fireplaces to help improve the state’s air quality.

Holladay City officials pass a non-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation.

It is revealed that most of the money allocated by lawmakers to boost per-pupil spending actually went to fund retirement or increases in health care costs. Sen. Pat Jones’ bill capping the number of state personal income-tax exemptions for large families moves out of a Senate committee for the first time.

Rep. Greg Hughes proposes a bill requiring bars to have a breathalyzer on site for patrons.

Rep. Jerry Anderson says the atmosphere needs more, not less, carbon dioxide.

A group of media outlets announce the formation of the Utah Debate Commission.


Lawmakers and organizers of the “Count My Vote” initiative announce a deal establishing a dual-track nominating system. Lawmakers quickly pass the compromise and Gov. Herbert signs the bill into law. “Count My Vote” organizers announce they are officially ending their petition drive following passage of the compromise.

The Senate derails Speaker Becky Lockhart’s plan to spend $300 million to boost technology in Utah’s classrooms, hijacking a bill to equalize funding between school districts to pay for her proposal. Meanwhile, Gov. Herbert threatens to veto any measure that contains more than $30 million for Lockhart’s proposal. In the end, Lockhart’s idea ended up with no funding the final budget deal negotiated by lawmakers.

The final report from the House investigation into John Swallow is released, concluding Swallow hung a “for sale” sign on the door of the office.

Gov. Herbert suggests it may take a special session for lawmakers to resolve the issue of Medicaid expansion. Meanwhile, Herbert’s team begins negotiating with the feds over his alternative to expansion.

Sen. Ralph Okerlund collapses from heart failure on the second-to-last day of the session. He was saved by quick action from his colleagues and heads home shortly after the session ends.

The legislative session comes to an end after lawmakers consider the most bills ever.

Legislative Democrats are decimated by retirements as Reps. Jen Seelig, Joel Briscoe, Janice Fisher, Tim Cosgrove and Lynn Hemmingway announce they will not be seeking re-election. Sen. Pat Jones also is not seeking re-election.

A report says Utah’s move to open the national parks during last year’s government shutdown paid off big time, bringing in nearly $10 million in tourism dollars.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says the new electronic parking meters are not responsible for an unexpected drop in parking revenue for the city.

State attorneys argue allowing the ruling that Amendment 3 is unconstitutional to stand would be a “judicial wrecking ball.”

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul makes a fundraising trip to Utah.

Utah’s Republicans and Democrats hold their final caucus meetings under the old system. Both parties report attendance was down from the big turnout they saw in 2012.

The LDS Church asks the “Ordain Women” group to move their demonstration off Temple Square during Conference weekend.

Salt Lake County GOP Chairman Chad Bennion resigns suddenly after it’s learned he is facing a number of domestic violence charges stemming from an incident involving his ex wife.

Attorney General Sean Reyes announces a new policy designed to cut down on leaks to the media from his office.

Utah Democratic Party Chair Jim Dabakis announces he will step down due to undisclosed health reasons. Former Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon says he’s thinking about running to replace him.

Enrollment at Utah’s colleges and universities continues to drop following the LDS Church’s decision to lower the age requirements for missionaries.


Search warrants from the criminal investigation into former Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow are delivered to a number of entities, including internet and cell phone companies. A report says the behavior of Shurtleff during the case against convicted fraudster Mark Jenson “defies explanation.”

Some Utah Republican candidates cry foul after getting incomplete delegate lists following March’s caucus meetings. The state party blames the mix up on a computer glitch.

Gov. Gary Herbert vetoes just three bills from the 2014 session. One of those bills came out of the investigation into former Attorney General John Swallow.

Iron County GOP Chair Blake Cozzens sparks some controversy when he decides to challenge Rep. John Westwood for the party’s nomination. Critics said Cozzens should resign his position because he became a candidate, but he refuses to step down.

The state and plaintiffs in the Amendment 3 appeal make their arguments in front of a federal court.

Both Peter Corroon and BYU professor Richard Davis announce their candidacies to replace Jim Dabakis as Democratic Party chair. Corroon eventually wins the race at convention.

The University of Utah mulls making some changes to the school’s fight song because critics say it’s discriminatory. The school makes a new agreement with the Ute Indian Tribe to keep the school’s nickname.

Federal investigators decide to take a closer look at a proposed change to the joint operating agreement between the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune. Meanwhile the Tribune lays off 8 employees and announces the elimination of it’s Saturday stand-alone religion section. Cartoonist Pat Bagley is named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Salt Lake County Republicans kick three incumbents to the curb at their party convention, including Rep. Jim Bird. Salt Lake County Democrats pick Jani Iwamoto as the nominee to replace retiring Sen. Pat Jones. Iwamoto shocks former Sen. Ross Romero who was making a bid to return to Capitol Hill.

Utah County Republicans send Rep. Dana Layton and former Rep. Brad Daw to a primary. Former Rep. Holly Richardson loses her bid for the GOP nomination to Rep. Brian Greene. It’s also revealed that Greg Graves, GOP nominee for Utah County Commission, has several bankruptcies and a theft conviction on his record. This information comes to light only after he wins the nomination and no Democrat files to oppose him.

Mia Love wins the GOP nomination at the state convention, fending off a challenge from Bob Fuehr. Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and Jason Chaffetz also easily win. Republicans also boot Rep. Jerry Anderson.

It’s learned the Utah Transit Authority doubled bonuses for executives last year while, at the same time, seeking a tax hike from the legislature.

Salt Lake City is included on the list of cities invited to bid to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy sparks controversy during a face-off with the feds over unpaid fees for grazing his cattle on public lands. Gov. Gary Herbert says Bundy should not be considered the “face” of the fight over public lands. Rep. Rob Bishop denounces some racist comments made by Bundy.


Rep. David Lifferth causes some controversy after posting a message on Twitter following the NBA’s banning of Los Angeles Clippers Owner Donald Sterling. Lifferth suggested organizations like the NAACP are racist. He later apologized.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz grills members of the Obama administration at a hearing on the Benghazi attacks. He also accuses the White House of hiding documents related to the attack.

GOP Chair James Evans starts an effort to “draft” Mitt Romney as the party’s nominee in 2016.

The Days of ‘47 Parade says the “Mormons Building Bridges” group will not be allowed to enter a float in the parade because it’s “too controversial.” Members of the Salt Lake City council consider boycotting the parade in protest, but decide not to.

Protesters illegally drive their off-road vehicles into Recapture Canyon, which is off-limits to motorized vehicles.

Rep. Jim Matheson returns more than $130,000 in donations from political action committees since he’s not seeking another term in Congress.

Former staffers at the Salt Lake Tribune allege a conspiracy between the paper’s hedge fund owner and the Deseret News to shut down the paper. The Tribune begins experimenting with sponsored content to boost revenue. Rumors begin to swirl that billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr. is interested in buying the paper.

The Utah Supreme Court halts same-sex adoptions in Utah pending the outcome of the Amendment 3 appeal. Gov. Gary Herbert says Utah has a duty to defend its same-sex marriage ban in court. Sen. Orrin Hatch says it’s inevitable that same-sex marriage will become the law of the land while Sen. Mike Lee disagrees with that assertion.

Rep. Paul Ray says Utah should reinstate the firing squad following a botched execution in Oklahoma.

A judge rules Utah must recognize same-sex marriages performed in the state following the decision that struck down Amendment 3. Utah appeals the ruling.

Mia Love and Doug Owens meet in their first debate, which become quite testy as Owens comes out swinging.

Gov. Gary Herbert announces the state will meet his goal of 100,000 new jobs 5 months earlier than originally projected.

Utah lawmakers spend more than a half-million dollars on a study to determine the costs and benefits of taking control of public lands from the feds.

Gov. Gary Herbert names Justin Harding his new chief of staff.

Several girls at Wasatch High School say the school altered their yearbook photos because they had too much exposed skin.

The DABC warns it may be tougher to get single-event liquor permits.

Former Deseret News movie critic Jeff Vice passes away suddenly.

Sen. Orrin Hatch has to issue an apology for making partisan political comments during a Memorial Day event.


Law enforcement agents execute search warrants on the homes of John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff. Shurtleff decries heavy-handed tactics used by law enforcement during the search of his home. Shurtleff says he expects to be charged and ultimately cleared in the criminal probe. Investigators seize $10,000 cash, computers and other electronic devices from Swallow’s home.

A federal appeals court rules Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, upholding a lower court ruling. Gov. Gary Herbert says the state should appeal the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.

Sen. Evan Vickers and Rep. John Westwood win their primary elections while former Rep. Brad Daw ousts Rep. Dana Layton.

Gov. Herbert tells a group of supporters he plans to run for another term while top GOP strategist Dave Hansen says he will join Jonathan Johnson’s 2016 gubernatorial campaign should he decide to run.

The 11 cities that are part of the UTOPIA fiber optic network have until the end of the month to opt in to a plan from an Australian company that wants to take control of the system. A number of cities vote against the plan.

A couple hundred concerned citizens rally in downtown Salt Lake City in support of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Officials break ground on the new Broadway-style theater in downtown Salt Lake City.

Sen. Orrin Hatch starts to hint about running for an 8th term despite promising the current one would be his last in office. The Senator names Rob Porter as his new chief of staff.

Spencer Eccles steps down as executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to form a private investment firm.

The Salt Lake City council considers closing some municipal golf courses to save money.

Mayor Ralph Becker holds a wedding reception for the same-sex couples he married following the ruling striking down Amendment 3.

Billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr. confirms he is interested in buying the Salt Lake Tribune, but says the sale is on hold while federal regulators investigate changes made to the paper’s joint operating agreement with the Deseret News. A group of former Tribune employees file suit to block the change in the operating agreement. The Utah Attorney General’s office also says they will investigate the changed agreement.

Salt Lake City bows out of the race to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Democrat Doug Owens announces a $300,000 television ad buy in his race against Mia Love.

A new report says Utah’s last-in-the-nation school funding fell even further than thought during the great recession.

Mitt Romney hosts his annual retreat for high-profile Republicans at Deer Valley. Romney again reiterates he’s not running for president in 2016.

Three Salt Lake County Council members announce they will skip the Days of ‘47 parade because a group promoting compromise between LDS faithful and gay-rights groups will not be allowed to enter a float in the parade.

Gov. Gary Herbert announces he hopes to win approval from the feds for his Medicaid expansion alternative within 30 days. He also wants the program implemented by the end of January 2015.

A judge orders Park City Mountain Resort and Talisker Land Holdings into mediation in order to find a solution to their legal dispute.

A federal judge signals he will dismiss the massive fraud case against Rick Koerber because prosecutors failed to comply with the Speedy Trial Act.

Utah’s unemployment rate hits the lowest level since 2008.

The LDS Church excommunicates Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women.

A group of activists fly a blimp over the NSA’s data center in Bluffdale to protest the organizations surveillance activities.