It happens twice a year. Some TV reporter announces the circus is in town and we soon see video of Barnum & Bailey performers riding on the backs of pachyderms ambling down Salt Lake City streets. Children usually greet that scene with sheer glee; members of PETA look upon it with outrage.
The second sign the circus is in town is a bit more ominous. Instead of floppy-eared mammals we have waddling legislators with lobbyists riding on their backs whispering sweet nothings in their ears while stuffing money, Utah Jazz tickets, golf tee times and dinner invitations into their pockets. I don’t mean to paint with such a broad brush, as I have friends who happen to be legislators. There are some dedicated and well-meaning members in both houses. Sadly, they seem to be in the minority. It’s the group I’ve described above that gets all the ink this time of year.
Questions emerge such as: How does Sen. Chris Buttars get reelected after his last term so distinguished him for gay bashing? He tried to eliminate the courtapproved gay-straight alliance programs in Utah high schools, even though they have worked just fine for 10 years. Buttars was distinguished by his racist comments on a piece of legislation, his abuse of power trying to influence a judge to rule in favor of a buddy of his in Utah County and his attempt to bring Intelligent Design into classroom evolution discussions.
The man is a loon. Not only does he get re-elected, but after Senate President John Valentine slapped Buttars’ wrist last year by removing him from chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Valentine lost his own leadership post. One of the first orders of business for new Senate President Mike Waddoups was to promptly put Buttars back in charge of Judiciary.
Waddoups thinks the “G” in GOP stands for Guns, God and Gays. He bumped Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s appeals court judge nominee Robert Hilder to the scrap heap because Hilder ruled years back that guns on the University of Utah campus might not be a great idea. Waddoups is on a roll. When Huntsman announced his desire that Utah normalize liquor laws by eliminating private-club memberships, Waddoups upped the ante. He declared that not only should we leave private club laws alone, but that restaurants like Chilis should be revamped to keep the sight of demon rum bottles and the alchemy of mixing a drink from the eyes of children.
After the laughter died down and the collective outrage from the hospitality industry subsided, Waddoups retreated a bit. It is not surprising that Huntsman waited until his second term to seriously push the death of private clubs for the good of all—residents and visitors alike. My blood boils when I hear the likes of Waddoups, MADD, the Sutherland Institute and other prohibitionists wail on about how we are going to unleash rivers of booze on the innocent. The line “think of the children” is bellowed about—as if the governor and like-minded people want our roads filled with drunken drivers and for kids to buy beer from vending machines.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Truth, however, gets trampled whenever the subject of liquor comes up. None of us condone alcohol abuse, and we all want stricter enforcement of DUI laws. We want common sense legislation that will accomplish not only those goals but also stop making Utah the laughing stock of the country.
We had a chance last year when we got rid of the one-ounce metered pour. But the price? The state pulled the 3.2 “alcopops” off the grocery store shelves and put them in DABC stores at double the price.
I dread the thought of what lawmakers will exact as a price for killing the private-club-membership rule. Let’s enforce strict ID checks at bars and require that anybody caught with a phony ID should lose his or her driver license for a year. No state database and no magic boxes to scan IDs. All I want is the state to legalize adulthood in Utah.
Tom Barberi is a member of the Utah Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He was with KALL Radio for 34 years and is currently looking for a microphone to continue entertaining people while giving politicians fits! Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or e-mail Barberi at Barberi5@aol.com.