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To say Sen. Mike Lee has not been a supporter of President Barack Obama would be an understatement of monumental proportions.
Utah's freshman Republican senator has been one of the harshest critics of Democratic president's policies and has tried to lead the way in dumping Obamacare. He also was instrumental in 2013's unpopular temporary government shutdown caused by GOP efforts to defund the health-care reform program.
So Lee was surprised to receive a call from Obama. The senator and his family were vacationing in Idaho this past summer, when his cellphone rang and a woman asked him to hold for the president, said Derek Brown, Lee's deputy chief of staff.
Obama wanted to congratulate Lee personally for his work on the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would loosen many of the mandatory punishments now required for federal drug offenses and give judges more discretion.
Lee co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and the two were dubbed "the odd couple" in a Washington Post story earlier this year.
Brown said Obama told the Utah Republican he would give him all the support he needed to pass the bill. He said Lee and the president agree that current sentencing requirements lead to unnecessary and costly long prison terms, burdening the nation's already packed prisons.
Since the mandatory-minimum sentencing law took hold in 1986, the prison population has exploded from around 58,000 in the late 1980s to more than 217,000 in 2012, according to The Post story.
The Congressional Budget Office issued a report a few months ago that showed the Lee-Durbin bill would save about $4 billion in prison costs.
How might this new Obama-Lee friendship fly with Utah County's tea party Republicans?
Bottled up • During this holiday season, when Utah liquor stores fill up with customers preparing for their parties, the shopping trips have been more nightmarish than usual.
The days approaching Christmas and New Year's Eve typically feature long lines at liquor stores. But, thanks to Utah's alcohol policies, this year has been worse than normal.
The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has reverted to its old policy of requiring clerks to ring up each bottle of beer separately rather than hitting the quantity key to count an entire sixpack at once.
Bye Bye Love • Judi Short was a Facebook friend of U.S. Rep.-elect Mia Love until recently.
Shortly after she was elected, Love posted on her page that she wanted to represent all Utahns, not just those who voted for her.
Short commented that she hoped Love would let her keep her affordable medical insurance, funding for her kids' public schools, that the air in the Salt Lake Valley would improve and that she could keep riding public transit.
"These are very real concerns for me," Short told me in an email, "since [Love] has indicated at one point or another in her campaigns that she would eliminate the Affordable Care Act, eliminate funding for the Department of Education, eliminate funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and eliminate funding for public transit."
So what was Love's response to Short's concerns?
Short got defriended.
What happens in Vegas • Retiring Salt Lake County Council member Randy Horiuchi had a pretty good week.
Three days after nearly 200 well-wishers honored him at a tribute luncheon and fundraiser for a Westminster scholarship fund in his name, Horiuchi was in Las Vegas for the University of Utah's bowl game when a stranger approached him in a shopping mall.
"Are you a Horiuchi?" she asked.
When he said he was, she pulled a picture from her purse that she had been carrying around for a while. It was a photo of Horiuchi's mother when she was a young woman of about 20.
Betty Murakami, who also was in Vegas for the football game, said she had gone to college with Horiuchi's mom and had that picture, which she gave to the retiring politician.
May Horiuchi died in 1999.