This last session, Speaker of the Utah House Marty Stevens closely aligned himself with the most controversial bill of the session. You remember, the one requiring that Credit Unions be treated the same as banks when it comes to taxes. The question for watchers of Utah politics is "why?" Sure, Marty is a banker and perhaps it was inevitable that he'd be associated with the bill. Maybe his employer put the screws to him and told him he'd better come through if he wants to continue to justify the long hours away from the job. Whatever the reason, the end result is that one of the people who everyone thought was interested in making a shot at the Governor's Mansion is now wounded. This will be an albatross around his neck next year during the campaign.
As long as we're on the subject, some long time Republicans are making noises that they can't support Leavitt for a fourth term. Of course, these long time Republicans are also some of the same ones who want to run themselves. Personally, I don't see Leavitt running again. There are some important issues that need to be addressed in Utah (like education) and a first term Governor is more likely to have the cooperation of the legislature and public when it comes to solving them. Leavitt would have to expend a lot of political capital and that's something he's not shown himself willing to do. Beside, his administration is tired and moribund. Their chief concern at this point is circling the wagons and protecting the administration from any embarassment. From what I know of Leavitt, he's smart enough to see this himself and realize its time to do something else.
From Dave Fletcher comes word of a blog written by Utah political luminaries Norm Bangerter (former Governor), LaVarr Webb (former Political Deputy to Governor Leavitt), and Bart Barker (former Salt Lake Commissioner). The weblog is called Talking Points.
Today they link to a few papers on technology and politics, including this one on Digital campaigning. Apparently Exoro group (of which these three are principals) is interested in helping candidates make the most of email, the web, and blogs as part of their political consulting practice. They've made an important step by creating a blog of their own. No better way than to learn by doing.
The Internet has made more people than ever before aware of the ease with which data they consider private can be found by others. One of more important principals of democracy is the openness of government records. Now, however, records that were previously open, but effectively closed because of the technology of the day (land records, courts records, and even pet licenses spring to mind) can be readily found and used for multiple purposes.
Dave Fletcher reports on a recent attempt by the Salt Lake County Recorder, who I've met and strikes me as very knowledgeable on IT matters, to introduce a bill in the Utah Legislature that would severely restrict the availability of such data. My personal opinion is that such restrictions could be quite dangerous and should be introduced slowly and only with much forethought. Openness in government is like freedom of speech: it often appears easier to understand and restrict than it really is. There are unseen consequences of even small actions that will be very hard to predict.
Once a year or so, the leading credit agencies review the State's fiscal policies and issue a bond rating. The bond rating is extremely important since it determines the interest rate and, consequently, the payment. If the bond rating drops, the cost of the bonds go up and the State will be in another pickle with regards to its budget.
The State Treasurer, Ed Alter, is a seasoned pro who has been at this game for a long time. So is the Governor's Budget Director, Lynne Ward. One seems worried and the other isn't. Or maybe Ward is worried and the Governor just can't make it, so she has to appear confident. Of course, this is probably the most important thing on the Treasurer's plate. Its important to the Governor, but not the only thing he has to worry about. Even so, the Lt. Governor is filling in and she handles herself well in legislative and budget matters.
On the Governor's race watch for Utah in 2004, we have to keep on eye on Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. The most dangerous place to stand at the Capitol is in between the AG and a camera crew. He's an incessant publicity hound who has jumped from airplanes and tried on every popular issue for size. There's little doubt that the AG would like to run for Governor, but he's still sizing up the race.
Today the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Shurtleff's latest quest for publicity might have backfired. He was introducing a new program to protect seniors from identity theft by placing shredders in senior centers around the State. Only two problems: the senior center where he gave his speech was full of deaf people and the program had been cut by the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's office in the latest round of budget cuts. At one point Shurtleff crescendoed to his sound bite: "Whenever I hear a paper shredder, it sounds like the screams of identity thieves!" Nevermind that most of the folks he was talking to can't hear. Many of them thought he was talking about shredding the thieves. Might not be a bad idea, but probably not politically correct.
The New York Times is apologizing for a reporter who plagiarized over 150 stories over 3 years. We recently had a scandal involving a newspaper here. Two Salt Lake Tribune reporters apparently sold information to the National Enquirer that just simply wasn't true for $20,000. The editor of the Salt Lake Tribune eventually resigned over the deal.
I wonder how these reporters of the news feel about being reported on. I doubt they like it. Sometimes its good to get a dose of your own medicine.