This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The incredibly callous remarks by Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups, first dismissing the acute need of the many people who are suffering long-term unemployment and then doubling down on his heartlessness when called out by those who know better, are just the latest example of why the Legislature's upper chamber is poorly served by its leadership.
At every point in the recent legislative session when wise leadership was called for, Waddoups chose the wrong path.
He was not alone in championing the passage of HB477, the bill designed to cut the heart out of the state's open records law. But, after the wholly justified public outcry moved Gov. Gary Herbert, House Speaker Becky Lockhart and the majority of his fellow senators to repeal the bill, Waddoups was unconvinced and unrepentant.
Waddoups, a Republican from Taylorsville, never let go of the various red herrings that were behind HB477 from the get-go, claims that the Government Records Access and Management Act somehow constituted an invasion of privacy and blaming the press for nonexistent misrepresentations.
The Senate's presiding officer also deserves much of the blame for the Legislature's absurd drive to close several state liquor stores, despite the fact that they are both profitable for the state and popular with their customers and neighboring businesses. When the closures proved to be almost as unpopular as HB477, Waddoups' suggestion was that the already extortionate markups imposed by the system be increased.
The liquor store actions were also another example of how Waddoups' leadership has been marked by heartlessness, as no concern at all was expressed for the more than 100 workers in those stores who would be out of work, through no fault of their own, if the plan went through.
Thousands of Utahns will not receive a federally funded extension of their unemployment benefits because the Legislature failed to act in time. Waddoups dismissed the cold-hearted move as something that was needed to push some imagined corps of lazy good-for-nothings off their couches and into jobs. His refusal to apologize for that uninformed and uncaring remark, even reinforcing it through the kind of anecdote that seems to drive much policy-making in Utah, did nothing to help the situation, or to inspire public confidence in our lawmakers.
It is that cluelessness about those in circumstances less favorable than his own that should clue other members of the Senate majority that they might be well-advised to put out a help wanted sign for a new president.