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SALT LAKE CITY -- The impaired driving arrest and departure of a top state senator is leaving a question mark on some key issues.
Former Sen. Sheldon Killpack was spending a lot of time on ethics legislation, among other things, before his arrest Friday and subsequent resignation. That means someone else may or may not pick up the slack.
As Senate majority leader, Killpack negotiated, fine-tuned, pushed, even blocked legislation effectively. Ironically, that included tougher DUI penalties last year. Now he will face firsthand the very law he helped create.
The tougher penalties came as part of a package of bills that loosened liquor laws, including eliminating private clubs.
"You try to have your legislation principal-based. That's a very important thing that we do. So yeah, it's just it caught one of our own this time, but that's life," says Senate Majority Whip Scott Jenkins.Jenkins is among those now left to pick up where Killpack left off. This year, Killpack was taking the lead on another tough issue: ethics reform. Since a lot of lawmakers don't like the current ethics initiative, Killpack was among those seeking a legislative fix, a compromise.
"He understood which members had problems with different parts of these bills, so he knew all the deals that needed to be made and how to do it, or was at least getting to that point. Now someone has to start over," says Kirk Jowers, executive director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
But both Jenkins and Sen. Curt Bramble are seeking to take Killpack's leadership position, and they also have a working knowledge of the priority issues this year.
Bramble was majority leader from 2006 to 2008. He told KSL Newsradio's "Doug Wright Show" Monday he learned a lesson in losing his post."It's given me a chance to reflect," Bramble said. "I suspect that I'll approach the responsibilities maybe a little differently, maybe not as aggressively or hard-nosed." Bramble said he has a "very good and effective" working relationship with Senate President Michael Waddoups.
Jenkins also spoke to KSL Newsradio Monday. He told Utah's Morning News Killpack's DUI arrest was a "shocker." He said he's ready to move on and if selected to become majority leader, he will reach out across the aisle.
"You represent your constituents and you bring conservatism to the body, and that's what it's all about," Jenkins said.
In the end, many may miss Killpack personally, but Jenkins says the work will continue as usual.
"There's a lot of ethics legislation that will be run this year," Jenkins says.
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans will meet to decide who will take Killpack's leadership position. Saturday, Davis County Republicans will meet to fill the Senate seat.