I am sickened at the sight of the governor of the Great State of Utah pleading with his Legislature's leadership to cover his butt.
That's what Gov. Gary Herbert did in Tuesday's paper. It made me sad.
In a column in this newspaper, Herbert said he wants the Legislature to meet Friday to repeal HB 477, the odious thing that guts the state's open records law.
The bill makes it harder for newspapers, the Tea Party, the Eagle Forum, the Sierra Club, and you and me to know what Utah's government is up to. In an age when people scream "take our county back," this bill says "Utah's government is none of your business."
It's a huge bill, impossible to read and understand quickly. That's why legislative leadership rammed it through in two days.
Herbert had one shot to fix the deal. Urged by one and all to veto the thing, he accepted promises from legislative leadership that the mess could be fixed and signed it. Now he wishes he hadn't. Everyone is mad at him, even grassroots Republicans.
Herbert needs to learn the role of the governor of Utah.
He is Utah's top administrator, first hand-shaker and ribbon cutter, but his most important job is to be chief check on the Legislature. When lawmakers get out of hand, as they so often do, the governor's job is to slap them down hard.
A firm governor is critical to maintaining the balance of power. Herbert's predecessors stayed strong because they vetoed bad bills and worked to steer lawmakers away from idiotic message bills.
When Herbert declined to veto HB 477, he turned his power over to legislative leadership. Now he wants it back. His column has a pleading tone because he needs lawmakers to do what he didn't have the spine to do.
The House GOP held a closed -- what else? -- caucus Monday. We have no idea what was said, what deals were made. Publicly, they favor repeal.
Senate President Mike Waddoups is being cagey: He wants a replacement bill ready before repealing HB 477, making Friday's session potentially a $30,000 waste of time. Anyway, Waddoups says, he can't find a single Republican senator who will sponsor repeal.
Are GOP senators really so united?
You have to know how powerful the Senate president is.
One example: For a senator to move to have his bill debated or voted on during a floor session, he or she must be recognized. The Senate president literally says "I recognize you," and turns the senator's desk microphone on. No recognition? No bill.
Senate presidents are usually fair about this, but if the president is miffed at the bill's sponsor, or the wrong party sponsored the bill, or some major religion opposes the bill, a funny thing happens: The bill's sponsor becomes invisible.
I've seen senators jump, wave, do everything but set off fireworks. Gaze as he might, the Senate president did not see them.
GOP senators who may dislike HB 477 know this. They're waiting for Waddoups to cut them loose and my guess is -- wouldn't it be nice to know what's really going on? -- Waddoups is waiting for Herbert to make a deal.
For what? That's something else that would be nice to know.
Herbert did this to himself. He didn't stand firm when he had the chance.
The sight of a governor kissing up to the Senate president is sickening. This may be why the Legislature wants to shut off public access to government doings. They're worried we'll be offended.
Too late. I'm offended already, and you should be too.