You knew we’d have to weigh in on the Utah Legislature’s liquor changes, what with us being the former Private Eye and all. This paper was born amid private clubs, where visitors had to obtain a membership before imbibing. Over the years, laws have changed, not always for the better. The 2002 Winter Olympics and Jon Huntsman’s 2009 push to end mandatory memberships helped bring Utah into the mainstream. Well, sort of. The state still has the “Zion Curtain,” which hides liquor preparations, and only now has increased the number of restaurant liquor licenses. Still, Utah’s rep is for some of the most complex liquor laws in the nation and earns us headlines in The New York Times like this: “Utah Liquor Laws, as Mixed Up as Some Drinks,” and “Relaxed But Still Peculiar.”
Speaking of complex and confusing, just look at the races for state school board. Not that anyone really knows who’s representing them now, or what district they’re in. The Legislature has taken this race so far from the people that it’s more about the sound of a name or the place on the ballot than it is about credentials. The governor chooses two candidates from a list sent to him from a nominating committee appointed by, ahem, the governor. Last time around, a couple of incumbents were booted from the ballot, for who knows why. The whole thing is suspect, with a member of the committee coming from the public-utility sector. Say what? And then there are the curious choices of voucher proponents and even a former EnergySolutions employee/ current huckster for the Sutherland Institute. Why even involve the public?
Ah, election season! With the Republican primary now behind us, those nasty jabs are but a memory—for now. Super PACs have made super asses of candidates, some of who didn’t really need a super PAC for that purpose. Former County Commissioner Brent Overson served in that capacity for Mike Winder, claiming that Mark Crockett’s finance report was too vague. Dismissed. Then four GOP candidates complained that Chris Stewart’s nomination was fixed. And then there’s Sean Reyes, candidate for attorney general, who decided to sue opponent John Swallow for defamation, even though it was a Super PAC that did the dissing. A different Super PAC hit Swallow, too. In the end, candidates probably don’t expect to get anything from their complaints other than publicity. It’s really about the nature of the political beast—smear and smear back.