Frank R. Pignanelli and LaVarr Webb: Special election squabbles and Dem congressional losses

Utah’s Republican Legislature and Utah’s Republican governor have been squabbling over procedures and legal questions regarding the special election now underway to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz. We explore the ramifications, along with the fallout over the Republican win in the Georgia special election (the most expensive House race in history).

Did the governor overstep his authority by moving ahead with the special election without calling a special session, and by asking the attorney general not to release a formal opinion (sought by the Legislature) on the matter?

Pignanelli: “There is no separation of powers where the lawyers are concerned. There is only a concentration of all government power — in the lawyers.” — Fred Rodell

Warning: These important issues, when brought up in conversations, can cause brain paralysis and fatal symptoms of extreme boredom among sane human beings. Other than weird political types (like me), no one cares — or wants to — about this insider baseball. So, why is there fuss on Capitol Hill?

The special election controversy is opening up old nasty wounds. Who does the attorney general answer to: the chief executive of the state, the legislative body that authorizes his/her budget, the people who elected him/her? Also, the Legislature provides statutory details on other matters of electioneering. Special elections should be included.

As a former lawmaker, I believe the Legislature has the authority and obligation to be engaged in all election matters. Further, legislators have a right to the attorney general’s legal opinion. Until modified by constitutional amendment, they have a client relationship with this state officer. Current legislative frustration is a rationale response.

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