What a difference one veto makes.
The conservative Utah Grass Roots, issues a report card every year for the legislators and the governor to measure how well those elected officials stuck to conservative principles, as measured by Grass Roots.
Last year, Gov. Gary Herbert was given a score of 75 percent, the highest score the tea party-leaning group has ever given a governor.
Last year, Grass Roots clearly appreciated Herbert's conservative stands.
This year, not so much.
In what must be one of the most dramatic turnarounds from love to scorn in the history of Utah politics, Grass Roots, for the 2013 legislative session, gave Herbert a score of 27 percent, a drop of 48 points from the previous year's score.
Herbert still is pretty much the same guy he was in 2012. He says most of the right things to appease the Republican base. He supports putting federal land into state jurisdiction, he's been pretty consistent on gun rights laws, a must for any good Utah Republican, and he's a man-made climate change skeptic.
What more do you want?
Well, he vetoed HB 76, which passed the House 51-18 and the Senate 22-7, and would have allowed individuals over 21 years of age to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
Herbert said the current law, which is one of the most pro-weapon holder laws in the country, is working just fine.
But in the eyes of the right wing, the veto is an insult to the Second Amendment and the first step toward taking away our liberties.
Herbert signed some other bills that Grass Roots didn't like, but it was the veto of Utah's effort to emulate 19th century Tombstone, Ariz., that really got under the organization's skin.
All in all, it was a pretty bad year for Grass Roots and its tea-party cronies.
Grass Roots gave the 2013 House an average grade of 46 percent, compared to members' lifetime average of 55 percent. It gave the Senate an average score of 40 percent, compared to members' lifetime average of 55 percent.
Most of the top vote getters from Grass Roots in 2012 are no longer in the Legislature. (Where have you gone, Patrick Henry? The right wing turns its lonely eyes to you, woo, woo, woo).
Rep. Mike Morley did not run for re-election, Rep. Bill Wright was defeated in the primary election, Rep. Craig Frank ran for the Senate and was defeated in the primary, Rep. Brad Daw was defeated in the primary, as was Rep. Merlyn Newbold. Rep. Ken Sumsion ran for governor and lost in the party convention, Rep. Chris Herrod ran for the U.S. Senate and lost in the convention, and Rep. John Dougall was elected state auditor. Of the two top vote getters in the Senate last year, Sen. Casey Anderson lost in the primary, but right-wing fixture Margaret Dayton is still in there sniping about the socialist U.N. agenda of the highly acclaimed International Baccalaureate Program in public schools and the invasion of wolves.
The waft of moderation in the Legislature can be attributed to a shift in the character of the neighborhood caucuses, where delegates are elected, in 2012.
That's because Sen. Orrin Hatch's campaign spent a great deal of time and money to make sure the caucuses were heavily attended by his supporters and not taken over by the same tea-party types that ousted Sen. Bob Bennett in the State GOP convention in 2010.
Which is why Grass Roots founder Don Guymon was one of the leaders at the State Republican Central Committee last week against efforts to reform the way candidates are nominated by their political parties.
Now that Hatch has been re-elected, the right-wing purists should be able to regain control of the neighborhood caucuses and elect true believers, like themselves, as delegates to nominate the most extreme candidates they can find for public office.
As fellow tea-party enthusiasts Peter Cannon said in defense of the status quo, "Our Founding Fathers did not like a democracy and we don't like it either."
I don't know about you, but I've always found it a little creepy when party officers setting policy for the selection of candidates actually carry on conversations with people who have been dead for nearly 200 years.