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Rolly: Happy days return, free tickets for Utah lawmakers
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There was a time Utah legislators were cast out in the wilderness. Pressure from citizens groups and the threat of an ethics initiative on the ballot forced lawmakers to pass their own ethics law a couple of years ago that erased many smiles in the hallowed halls of the State Capitol.

No more free stuff.

But now, the reveling is back. If the song wasn't so tied to the Democratic party, the legislators would be singing "Happy Days are Here Again."

When they passed the earlier ethics law, one provision was that they could no longer accept free tickets to sporting events. No more Jazz tickets. No more football. No more soccer.

But last year, in legislation that went under the radar, Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, sponsored SB181. And it passed.

The key provision in that bill was that government sponsored events were exempted from the sports ticket ban.

And guess what? The BYU-Utah football game was scheduled at the University of Utah this year, which is a state institution. That means the game is a government-sponsored event.

So, woohoo! Free tickets for legislators.

This year, the legislators taking advantage of the new-found freebie were Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, and House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, and Bramble were also given tickets, but chose to pay for theirs.

What a radical concept.

The good old days: Free tickets to Ute football games for legislators used to be as common as ice cream in Utah. A huge block of seats in the south end zone were reserved for lawmakers, who usually occupied 20 to 30 of the prime-location seats.

In 1995, Utah was playing Air Force and the Falcons were dominant. With less than two minutes to go in the game and Air Force holding a two-touchdown lead, Utah fumbled, giving the ball back, and causing a audible groan of dejection in the crowd.

Frustrated, then Rep. Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake, turned around and yelled at his Democratic colleague and devout Mormon Sen. Scott Howell, R-Salt Lake, who now is running for the U.S. Senate against Orrin Hatch: "If Utah wins this game, I'll convert to the Mormon Church."

Numerous legislators, Republican and Democrat alike, heard that promise.

As soon as Pignanelli said it, Air Force fumbled and Utah got the ball back. On the next play, Utah scored on a pass into the end zone. Utah then recovered an on-sides kick and a few plays later, scored again. The Utes then made a two-point conversion and won the game.

Shortly after I wrote about that incident in my column, Pignanelli got a call from his Italian Catholic grandmother who told him: "If you convert to the Mormon Church, I'll disown you."

If the Tea Party ruled: Candace Salima, a right-wing author, K-TALK radio personality and a player in the Tea Party faction of the Utah Republican Party, wrote this on her Facebook page shortly after the murder of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya: "I demand the American president order the carpet bombing of Libya. I don't want a single Libyan left on the face of the earth. "

At least she's consistent. Last year she wrote: "Hey California, you have an inordinate amount of illegals in your prisons. Deport them with the message to both Mexico and the inmates, 'If you return, you'll be shot on sight.' "

prolly@sltrib.com

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