Bryan Schott’s Political BS: The Year in Politics (Part 2)

Oh, yeah! That totally happened this year. It's time to finish our look at the big events in Utah politics for the past year.

You can find part one here.


Former Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff are arrested and charged with multiple felonies. Shurtleff holds a defiant news conference accusing Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill of conducting a “political witch hunt.” Gill questions the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to drop the case against Shurtleff and Swallow in light of the arrests. Later in the month, the two men make their first appearance in court.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz causes a stir by saying he thinks Mitt Romney will mount a third campaign for the White House in 2016, and he will win.

Utah decides to take it’s appeal of the ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage directly to the Supreme Court. A group of same-sex marriage advocates deliver a petition to Governor Herbert asking him to drop the state’s appeal of the ruling. A federal judge denies a permanent stay in Utah’s appeal to keep the state from having to recognize same-sex marriages performed after Amendment 3 was struck down, but the Supreme Court issues an emergency stay while they consider Utah’s appeal.

Gov. Herbert says he wants the state to settle the issues and controversy surrounding Common Core once and for all.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that companies do not have to provide contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Orrin Hatch and a number of Utah religious organizations cheer the ruling.

President Barack Obama announces he plans to use his executive powers to change some parts of the nation’s immigration policies.

Democrat Doug Owens shakes up his campaign by hiring a new campaign manager from out of state. Mia Love posts impressive fundraising numbers while Owens continues to lag behind. Meanwhile an internal poll suggests Owens is closer to Love than many thought.

Gov. Gary Herbert assumes a leadership role with the National Governor’s Association.

A study says Utah’s national parks account for $600 million in economic activity and 9,000 jobs. 14 U.S. Senators send a letter to President Obama urging him to create a new national monument in Utah.

Obama also nominates Robert McDonald to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. McDonald has ties to the University of Utah.

The drama surrounding the Salt Lake Tribune continues as the CEO announces there are no plans to cease publication of the newspaper. Additionally, top executives for the Tribune and Deseret News file sworn statements that they do not intend to shut down the paper. The owners of the two papers also ask a judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging a change to their joint operating agreement.

A study suggests the state will have to spend more than $30 million to keep the Utah State Fairpark running. Real Salt Lake owner Del Loy Hansen proposes building a minor-league soccer stadium at the fairpark as a way to renovate the area.

Former Utah Congressional candidate Lily Eskelsen Garcia is picked to head up the nation’s largest teachers’ union.

The University of Utah announces they plan to make changes to the school’s fight song because it’s sexist.

State officials hold a forum to hear from residents whether they would like to keep or ditch daylight savings time.

Gov. Gary Herbert taps former BYU athletic director Val Hale as the new head of GOED.

It’s revealed that liquor sales in Utah grew by $20 million last year.


Rep. Jason Chaffetz hosts Democrat Elijah Cummings on a visit to Utah to discuss public lands issues. Gov. Gary Herbert invites the 14 U.S. Senators who want President Obama to declare a new national monument in Utah to come visit the state. Sen. Orrin Hatch lashes out at those Senators saying they should “keep their mitts off” Utah.

The first independent poll in Utah’s 4th Congressional District shows Republican Mia Love with a 12-point lead over Democrat Doug Owens.

Attorney General Sean Reyes skips out on a debate with Democrat Charles Stormont sponspred by the Salt Lake City Rotary Club.

Sen. John Valentine announces he will leave the Legislature after 26 years to become the new chairman of the Utah State Tax Commission. Utah Democrats want Valentine to step down in time for his seat to be up for election in 2014.

A poll finds 2/3rd of Utahns support the state’s appeal of Amendment 3 to the Supreme Court even though a majority think the effort to ban same-sex marriage will ultimately fail. A majority also would support an effort to pass a statewide non-discrimination bill that includes sexual preference.

A greeting card celebrating same-sex marriage is found at the BYU bookstore then hastily pulled from the shelves after media attention.

Gov. Gary Herbert says he hopes to wrap up negotiations with the feds over his Healthy Utah alternative to Medicaid expansion sometime in the next month.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart throws her hat in the ring for the state superintendent position.

Former Rep. Jackie Biskupski is doing some public opinion polling that may push her toward a run for Salt Lake City Mayor in 2015.

A new regulation requiring lobbyists at the Utah Capitol to wear nametags goes into effect.

An effort to draft Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential candidate in 2016 is put on hold when some start to worry it could harm Republican candidates during the 2014 election. Former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman says he does not think Mitt Romney will make a third run for the White House. Romney reiterates he is not running, but that “circumstances can change.”

A legislative audit dings the Utah Transit Authority for questionable business practices. Sen. Todd Weiler calls for a criminal investigation into the UTA, but later backs off.

The LDS Church begins surveying members about the role of women in the church in the wake of the excommunication of Kate Kelly.

A Libertarian group files suit against Utah over adoption of Common Core standards. Meanwhile, a poll finds most Utahns don’t understand what Common Core is or where it came from.

Rep. Chris Stewart proposes naming Utah’s new federal court building in honor of Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Salt Lake City starts cracking down on ridesharing services Lyft and Uber.

Sen. Curt Bramble becomes president-elect of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Paul Mero is ousted as the president of the Sutherland Institute.

The Onion pens a satirical article about tourism in Utah that stresses people are “free to leave” whenever they want. In response, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams issues a humorous press release closing all travel out of the city.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams takes on Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in a demolition derby.

Former Sen. Chris Buttars pens a sci-fi novel.


Former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff asks that the case against him be separated from that of former Attorney General John Swallow. Shurtleff also asks the FBI and Utah Department of Public Safety to hand over all of the information they have on him in the case. Shurtleff also demands that prosecutors provide a specific list of crimes he’s accused of committing, arguing the charges against him are vague.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman says it’s “inevitable” that same-sex marriage will be legalized in Utah.

Republican Mia Love refuses to share a stage with Democrat Doug Owens at an event sponsored by the Salt Lake Chamber.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces plans to step down.

Gov. Gary Herbert says he’s pushing for a requirement that able-bodied recipients of aid through his Healthy Utah plan be working or actively looking for work. Herbert also says he should have a deal worked out with the feds over Healthy Utah within a couple of weeks. A poll finds Utahns don’t know much about Healthy Utah, but they favor it more than straight Medicaid expansion. The same survey finds that when Utahns understand what’s included in the Healthy Utah proposal, they like it very much.

Sen. Mike Lee gets his 2016 re-election bid up and running extremely early by hiring the former national political director of Freedom Works to run his campaign. Lee joins with Sen. Ted Cruz in vowing to block any non-emergency legislation during the lame duck session after the 2014 election.

Utah ends the fiscal year with a $166 million budget surplus.

Utah’s Republican members of Congress send a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to not create a new national monument at Canyonlands National Park. Gov. Herbert says he’s received assurances from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that there will be no new national monument created in Utah for the time being.

A judge rules the way Utah elects State School board members is unconstitutional and orderw the state to place two rejected candidates back on November’s ballot.

The Prison Relocation Commission comes up with a list of 25 possible sites for the new prison.

Sen. John Valentine says goodbye to Utah’s Capitol Hill as he’s officially confirmed as chair of the Utah Tax Commission. Valentine says one of his biggest regrets during his quarter-century legislative career is not requiring all restaurants to have a “Zion Curtain.” A number of Republicans admit they waited to confirm Valentine in order to keep his seat from being filled by a special election in November.

A federal judge allows a lawsuit by former employees of the Salt Lake Tribune that challenges a change in the paper’s joint operating agreement with the Deseret News to go forward.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz slams the Secret Service and White House security after a man jumps the fence and enters the front doors of the building.

Southern Utah University pulls Sen. Harry Reid’s name from a building on campus following a public outcry from local Republicans.

A Taylorsville elementary school teacher shoots herself in the leg while using the bathroom at the school. A poll finds Utahns overwhelmingly support teachers being able to have concealed weapons in the classroom, but think they should have to inform parents of their presence.

Daily Herald political reporter Billy Hesterman accepts a position as vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association.

The legal battle between Talisker and Park City Mountain Resort comes to an end as Vail Resorts agrees to purchase PCMR for $182.5 million. Vail announces plans to build lifts to connect PCMR with the Canyons resort.

Somehow a drunken and bloody man is found inside one of the buildings at the State Capitol complex.

Students at Bingham High School walk out in protest over the school enforcing its dress code at a recent dance.

Former LDS Church Presiding Bishop H. David Burton is named the new chair of the Utah Transit Authority.

Troy Williams is named the new head of Equality Utah.


Mormon Apostle Dallin H. Oaks urges civility from both sides in the fight over same-sex marriage. A few days later the Supreme Court announces they will not hear Utah’s appeal of a ruling striking down Amendment 3, meaning same-sex marriage is now legal in the state. Sen. Mike Lee slams “unelected” judges for the decision. Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes say they are disappointed in the decision. Utah lawmakers will have to grapple with the decision during the 2015 session, making changes to state law to reflect the change. The state also drops their appeal of a ruling that would force the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in the state. A conservative group urges Gov. Gary Herbert to enforce Amendment 3 even though it’s been struck down. President Barack Obama says the equal protection clause in the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states.

Sen. Steve Urquhart says he plans to reintroduce his legislation establishing a statewide non-discrimination bill during the 2015 session.

Doug Owens releases an internal poll showing he’s down by just 3 points to Republican Mia Love. Love releases a poll showing she’s up by 19 points over Owens. A poll shows Love with a 9-point leave. Love catches some heat for declining an invitation to debate Owens at an event sponsored by the Salt Lake Rotary Club. Owens appears by himself. The final poll prior to the election gives Love a 5-point lead over Owens.

Mitt Romney announces plans to make his home in Utah. An error on his voter registration form lists no party affiliation and includes the wrong address. Romney headlines a rally for Mia Love, helping her raise $100,000 for her campaign.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart is not on a list of four finalists for the Utah State Superintendent position. Ogden Superintendent Brad Smith is eventually selected for the position.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz rips Julia Pierson, head of the Secret Service, for a number of recent security lapses. Pierson later resigns. Chaffetz says Pierson’s decision to step down is the right one.

Chaffetz catches some heat from the White House for suggesting the Surgeon General head up efforts to respond to an outbreak of the Ebola virus. There is no Surgeon General right now as the Senate has refused to confirm President Obama’s appointee to the office.

Former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff asks a judge to throw out the charges against him because prosecutors cannot specify what criminal acts he allegedly committed.

A state audit dings GOED saying the organization is not exercising enough oversight in the tax incentives awarded to companies that move to or expand in Utah.

The state’s budget surplus continues to grow.

Feminist blogger Anita Sarkisian cancels an appearance at Utah State University citing the state’s lax gun laws allowing firearms on campus. Officials had recieved a number of threats promising a mass shooting if she was allowed to speak. Sarkisian urges other speakers to boycott Utah colleges until guns are banned from campus. However, Rep. Curt Oda says he wants to run legislation to allow more open carrying of weapons on Utah’s college campuses. The president of Utah State University defends the school’s reaction to the threats.

All of Salt Lake City’s top planners leave employment with the city with very few explanations as to why.

A group of business and civic leaders unveil a five-year plan to boost Utah’s public education system.

Former gubernatorial candidate Dell “Super Dell” Schanze is facing federal charges for allegedly chasing a barn owl with a paraglider.

Legal scholars at the University of Utah say the state’s quest to take control of public lands from the federal government has no legal basis.


Mia Love defeats Doug Owens to become the first black Republican woman in Congress. In other results from the 2014 midterms, Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart all cruise to re-election. Attorney General Sean Reyes defeats Democrat Charles Stormont in the race to finish the term left vacant when former Attorney General John Swallow resigned. Two of three proposed amendments to the Utah Constitution fail.

Utah’s voter turnout hits a pathetic 29%.

Nationally, Republicans gain seats in the U.S. House and take control of the Senate, meaning Sen. Orrin Hatch will become President Pro Tempore of the Senate, which puts him in line for the presidency. Rep. Jason Chaffetz is named chair of the prestigious House Oversight Committee while Rep. Rob Bishop is tapped to head up the House Natural Resources Committee.

Election night saw a little bit of chaos after the Salt Lake County elections website crashed delaying the posting of results for a few hours.

Locally, Democrats Sim Gill and Jim Winder win another term as Salt Lake County District Attorney and Sheriff respectively. Republicans win enough seats to keep their majority on the Salt Lake County Council for another two years.

Legislative Democrats thought they had picked up a net-gain of one seat in the House, but later ended up losing two after three races they thought they had won went to Republicans after absentee and mail-in ballots were counted. That means the Republican majority on the hill will be the third-biggest in history.

The day following the election, Mia Love gives an interview to CNN that the Washington Post called “baffling.”

Legislative Republicans pick Rep. Greg Hughes as the next Speaker of the Utah House. He defeats Rep. Brad Dee on the first ballot. Republican Senators give President Wayne Niederhauser another term. Democrats select Sen. Gene Davis and Rep. Brian King as the minority leaders in the Senate and House.

Gov. Gary Herbert says he plans to unveil his Healthy Utah alternative to Medicaid expansion in early December.

Sen. Orrin Hatch starts making noise about possibly running for another term in 2018.

The Club for Growth endorses Sen. Mike Lee’s 2016 re-election bid.

President Obama announces executive action on immigration to allow up to 5 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. Sen. Mike Lee says there will be no government shutdown to stop President Obama from using his executive action on immigration.

Prosecutors drop a racketeering charge against former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff while they add another felony count to the charges against John Swallow.

A poll finds most Utahns think the state’s liquor laws hurt economic development in the state. Gov. Gary Herbert disagrees.

Rep. Jack Draxler proposes a tax hike to increase funding for public schools.

A legislative panel suggests lengthening the 45-day session in order to reduce the flood of legislation that comes up at the end.

A legislative committee kills a proposal to limit campaign contributions.

The Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice proposes a series of reforms which includes making drug possession a misdemeanor.

Al Jackson wins the race to replace Sen. John Valentine by one vote.

UDOT announces freeway speeds along the Wasatch Front will rise to 70 mph. The Utah Highway Patrol at first opposes the idea, but then backs down vowing to “strictly enforce” the new speed limit.

Rideshare companies Uber, Lyft and Sidecar threaten to cease operations in Salt Lake City if the City Council passes an ordinance to regulate them. The city council and the companies later come to an agreement.

David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama, speaks in Salt Lake City.


The Utah GOP files suit to kill the SB 54 compromise between lawmakers and organizers of the “Count My Vote” initiative. Utah Democrats reverse their position on SB 54, embracing the law after rejecting it under the leadership of Jim Dabakis. A spokesperson for Gov. Gary Herbert tells a meeting of the Utah GOP’s Central Committee he welcomes the lawsuit, but that position is later clarified to say he thinks the law is constitutional. A poll finds most Utahns support the “Count My Vote” effort and oppose the lawsuit against SB 54. Attorney General Sean Reyes recuses himself from the case.

Gov. Gary Herbert unveils his Healthy Utah plan. New numbers show more Utahns would be eligible for the program than originally thought. Later in the month a legislative panel rejects Healthy Utah, instead recommending a modest expansion of Medicaid.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker announces he’s running for a third term in office. Salt Lake City Council member Luke Garrott also announces his candidacy. Former Rep. Jackie Biskupski says she likely will jump into the race. Former Mayor Rocky Anderson briefly flirts with running for the position again, but later says he won’t.

The Prison Relocation Commission announces 6 locations as finalists for the new prison. Opposition rises from residents around many of those sites and a few of them are removed from consideration. A poll finds most Utahns oppose moving the prison.

Gov. Herbert’s budget proposal for next year includes $500 million in new funding for public education.

Final numbers show Utah has a massive budget surplus of $600 million.

During the lame duck session of Congress, a procedural maneuver by Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz backfires, allowing Democrats to confirm a number of President Obama’s nominees for office.

Jon Huntsman Sr. calls Sen. Mike Lee an “embarrassment” to the state and refuses to meet with him.

Mia Love names veteran TV newsman Richard Piatt as her communications director.

A new report says the state could benefit financially from taking control of public lands in the state, but only if oil prices remain high.

Salt Lake City Council members Erin Mendenhall and Kyle LaMalfa acknowledge they are in a romantic relationship. Other members of the council say the relationship is not having an effect on their duties.

Utah announces plans to have all state troopers wear body cameras.

Mia Love raised $5 million for her Congressional campaign, which is a record for a Utah race.

Sen. Mike Lee selects Neil Ashdown as his chief of staff. Ashdown previously served as chief of staff for Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Incoming House Speaker Greg Hughes taps Greg Hartley as his chief of staff.

The Salt Lake City Council considers, then tables a plan to keep the downtown library open around the clock.

Utah Democratic Party executive director Matt Lyon steps down after four years in that position.

Sen. Harry Reid says “right-wing wackos” are responsible for removing his name from a building at Southern Utah University.

Longtime Democratic politico Randy Horiuchi retires.