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A funny thing happened on the way to the tea party-driven Republican surge in the legislative elections last fall.

The large group of Republican newcomers to the House of Representatives so far have been more interested in common-sense solutions to problems facing the state, quietly going about their work amid the headline-grabbing, chest-thumping noise their more seasoned conservative colleagues have become famous for.

Instead of sponsoring bills to arm white people with automatic weapons, kill all the cats and secede from the union, Republican rookies have put forward relatively mundane legislation that seems more geared to the specific concerns of their constituents than to re-enacting the American Revolution.

"This is a jump-the-shark moment for the Patrick Henry Caucus," said one Republican legislator who welcomes the business-like approach and evenhandedness of the newly elected members of the GOP House caucus.

The impact of the 2010 class of legislators was manifest in the recent vote that killed Rep. Stephen Sandstrom's bill to require hotels to let their patrons bring guns into their rooms.

The bill was defeated on a 48-22 vote, with 12 Republican newcomers voting against it, compared to five voting for it. But more important, say some veteran Republican legislators, the rookies led the argument against the bill in the caucus and persuaded many of their colleagues to join them.

Several Republican veterans who had voted in favor of similar legislation in the past changed their minds and voted against the bill this year. The reason, they say, is the persuasive and traditionally conservative argument made by some of the freshmen that forcing a hotel owner to allow guns against his or her will would be an intrusion on that owner's sacred private property rights.

Oh, that.

To borrow a line from the Eagles' hit, "Hotel California": "We haven't had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine" (or at least 1999, when it comes to property rights vs. armed-to-the-teeth machismo).

Leading that argument was freshman Rep. David Butterfield, R-Logan. But several others in the 2010 class have impressed their Republican caucus brothers and sisters, with at least one veteran lawmaker predicting that one or two of this year's novices will be part of the House leadership within four years.

Some Republican veterans told me they have been uncomfortable with the saber-rattling bills and resolutions in the name of states' rights that have littered the Legislature's agenda the past two years. But they usually vote for those measures anyway in order to secure votes from the saber-rattlers for their bills.

The new tone set by most of the rookies is a welcome change, they say.

For example, newly elected Rep. Jeremy Peterson, R-Ogden, is the House sponsor of Democratic Sen. Luz Robles' comprehensive immigration bill that is an alternative to Rep. Stephen Sandstrom's shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach in his House Bill 70.

Rookie Rep. Derek Brown, R-Sandy, seems more interested in tweaking county election laws to make ballots less cluttered and in clearing up language concerning mobile tracking devices than, say, repealing the 16th Amendment or saving utility customers a 10-cents-per-month fee that helps indigent people stay warm in the winter.

These reasonable first-timers, I am told, have been able to exert an influence in the Republican caucus because new House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, has been a surprise to her critics, who had worried that she would be heavy-handed and intolerant.

Lockhart has been just the opposite, some of her former critics say, allowing all views, including those of the rookies, to be aired in caucus debates.

Contact Paul Rolly at