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Senate's petty payback game with Guv

Published October 20, 2012 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As I predicted last Sunday, State Commerce Director Francine Giani's nomination to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission never came up at the Senate's confirmation hearing Wednesday, and those who wonder why have been offered a smorgasbord of reasons.

There was concern about a cabinet member loyal to Gov. Gary Herbert serving on a commission that is to report to the ABC director, not the governor.

There was concern that a lobbyist for the LDS Church had reservations, even though Giani is a practicing Mormon. But she is a bureaucrat who also has demonstrated a fierce independent streak.

But the governor's office had reached a compromise with two key senators involved in the nominating process because those senators understood that Giani, who spent several months as interim ABC director after the department was riven by scandal, knows first-hand what the problems are and how they can be fixed.

The compromise would have her confirmed on the commission, then she would step down within a year.

That compromise fell through in the days leading up to Wednesday's confirmation hearing because of the unilateral action of Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, whose days in the Legislature are numbered because he didn't seek re-election this year.

Waddoups let it be known to Sen. John Valentine, R-Provo, co-chair of the Interim Business and Labor Committee, that Giani's name would not be sent forward for confirmation.

Speculation is rampant that Waddoups' rejection of Giani was not over the issue of governance, but was payback to Herbert for the nomination and confirmation over Waddoups' objections of Su Chon as a district court judge.

Chon, a Korean-American, was Herbert's first minority judicial nominee, which made the selection high-profile. It became more high-profile when the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee voted to not recommend her confirmation.

Waddoups is a member of that committee and was one of the leading opponents of her nomination. The other opponents were all Waddoups' allies in the Senate, including Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, who is Waddoups' hand-picked choice to be his successor.

The reason given was that Chon had no trial experience as an attorney. But I wrote at the time that a more plausible reason was that Chon had been an attorney in the Office of the Private Property Rights Ombudsman and had fought for the rights of small property owners against big developers and landlords, the very people Waddoups represents in his occupation as property manager.

Herbert, after the committee's rejection, didn't back down and pushed Chon's nomination onto the floor of the full Senate, which voted to confirm her and gave the Senate president a sharp slap in the face.

So we fast-forward to the Giani nomination, and this time Waddoups wouldn't even let her name be considered. Another nominee to the liquor commission, Olivia Vela Agraz, was confirmed by the Senate after leaders decided to bypass the normal hearing in the Interim Business and Labor Committee and send her name straight to the floor.

That unusual move could be seen as a way to avoid any awkwardness over the Giani rejection if a committee member would ask about her nomination during the Agraz hearing.

If all this sounds ridiculously petty, well, welcome to the Utah Legislature.

Another petty action taken this past week was the removal by Waddoups of Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, from the Business and Labor Committee.

Waddoups and Mayne reportedly had a disagreement over a community college issue, so with just two months left in the current Legislature's two-year term, Mayne was kicked off the committee.

The Democrat, who is the widow of the beloved late Sen. Ed Mayne, was seen as a bridge builder between Democrats and Republicans on the committee and a friend to labor who could effectively reach across the aisle and work with pro-business conservatives. —






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