Every year a few legislators become my favorites for the column fodder they provide. This year is no exception.
Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, has established himself as one of the most strident gun-rights lawmakers, using some interesting logic.
Greene may even supplant the Patrick Henry Caucus members, most of whom are gone from the Legislature, who entertained us for a while.
He commented in a Salt Lake Tribune story April 27 that it took a private citizen in the Boston area to discover where the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect was hiding, even though several agencies of law enforcement had been looking for the suspect.
The comment was consistent with the National Rifle Association’s argument that citizens need to arm themselves because government can’t effectively protect them.
Greene was skewered that day on K-TALK’s Utah Political Capitol radio program by hosts Eric Ethington and Curtis Haring. He called into the show and spent more than a half hour defending himself, all the while failing to mention the first thing that private citizen did was call the cops.
Greene already was on my radar screen for sponsoring a bill that would have made it a felony for federal agents to seize guns from Utahns. It later was amended to simply restrict federal agents from imposing firmer federal gun laws in Utah. It passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
He also raised my eyebrows with his argument on the House floor that a bill to elevate the crime of cock fighting from a misdemeanor to a felony should be defeated because those found guilty would lose the right to own guns.
But he first came to my attention last year when he was running for the seat, and I wrote in a column he had violated an election law by raising money for his campaign before he had established a campaign finance committee and a reporting mechanism.
To be fair, he had taken steps to register with the Utah lieutenant governor’s office, and he argued with me later that my interpretation of the law was wrong.
I had received the opinion of elections law officer Mark Thomas that it was a violation. I also pointed out it wasn’t all that egregious and I only mentioned it because he was running for the seat previously held by Rep. Craig Frank, who had to leave the Legislature because he didn’t realize he didn’t live in his district.
Greene contacted my editors for a retraction, so I called Thomas again, who assured me my column was accurate. Greene called later demanding to know why my column had not been corrected. When I told him Thomas said I was accurate, he told me Thomas had agreed with his position. To clear it up, he called Thomas on a three-way connection with me on the line.
Thomas told him that I was right. So Greene attacked Thomas. What law did I violate? Green demanded.
It’s Article 20A-11-301 and 20A-11-601, Thomas said.
But what is the violation, Greene demanded.
It’s 20A-11-301 and 20A-11-601, Thomas repeated.
But what is the violation?