SB54 is Big Gear to Improve Utah Politics

lavarr policy insightsWhen I worked for Gov. Mike Leavitt as his policy deputy many years ago, he liked to talk about finding the Big Gear – something fundamental that would solve problems and improve public policy.

If you find the right public policy Big Gear and give it a twist, all the little gears spin in positive ways. In many cases, the Big Gear is a structural change that creates natural cycles of improvement.    

The Count My Vote initiative and SB54 together are a Big Gear that, over time, will improve Utah politics, public policy and government. The interesting thing is that improvement will occur naturally and incrementally. By changing the structure of how candidates are nominated, natural cycles of improvement will happen as the system is opened up and more citizens have a say in the political process.

A recent headline in the Deseret News noted that only 15 percent of eligible candidates used the new signature-gathering process. In my opinion, given the uncertainty, opposition and threats by the old Republican Party machine directed at those who considered gathering signatures, 15 percent in the first year is a smashing success. It took a great deal of courage for Republican candidates to use the signature-gathering process in the face of lawsuits, confusion and bullying.

So is the new nomination process making a difference? It certainly is. For proof, read this excellent editorial in the Standard-Examinerabout a fine candidate who wouldn’t be on the ballot except for SB54.

The party insiders, the party machine that has controlled the nomination process, and thus heavily influenced public policy in the Legislature and in Congress, know they are losing power. They will continue to bitterly fight to maintain their monopoly.

But Utah voters will find they like this structural change. If candidates choose to gather signatures, they will be responsible to all party voters, not just to party insiders. All voters will have a say in selecting their party nominees.

The Big Gear has been set in motion, and the little gears are spinning.

Respect for Sen. Orrin Hatch. I know I’m old, establishment and probably out of touch. But I really don’t understand the seemingly visceral dislike of Orrin Hatch, even among his fellow Republicans. I don’t understand why his approval ratings are so bad, and why he attracts so many nasty, crude attacks on social media and in on-line comments. 

The truth is, Hatch has served Utah and our country remarkably well. He’s by far the most effective, most powerful member of Congress Utah has ever had. He has been consistently conservative, upholding constitutional principles. If you want to get something good done in Congress, he’s the guy who can do it.

I know we all hate Washington, and he’s been there forever. I know he’s been making noise about running again, although I doubt he will, especially if we have a Democratic president and a Democratic U.S. Senate. If he asks me, I will advise him to step down, although we would really miss his clout and seniority. Forty-whatever years is long enough. 

Whatever his future, I don’t understand why Republicans can’t show a little respect to the guy who is arguably Utah’s most successful, powerful politician in history.

Powerful Argument for Capital Punishment. Support for the death penalty has been declining. As one who was reminded by recent news stories of a certain serial murderer’s reign of horror in Utah and elsewhere, here’s a two-word rebuttal for the bleeding hearts: Ted Bundy.