Utah citizens are justifiably proud that we are often recognized as the best managed state and for having the most efficient legislative process in the country. The Legislature has also been nationally recognized for its ability to prepare a budget and process legislation with a part-time legislature and relatively short legislative session. The enviable structure and operation of Utah’s three branches of government owes much of its acclaim to those individuals who years ago focused their attention and dedicated their efforts to improve the structures of state and local government. Perhaps the most significant of these is Karl N. Snow, Jr.
Karl did his doctoral dissertation at the University of Southern California on Utah’s fiscal management and legislative staffing structures. Later, as a faculty member at Brigham Young University he was a consultant to the Legislature. As a new faculty member at BYU, his work attracted the attention of key Utah legislators interested in restructuring the budgeting process.
In 1966, Dr. Snow was hired as the first Fiscal Analyst for the Utah Legislature. His work eventually resulted in the Legislature’s current non-partisan professional staffing structure.
I didn’t fully appreciate the three efficient non-partisan legislative staffs – the Offices of Legislative Research and General Council, Legislative Fiscal Analyst and Legislative Auditor General – until as a State Senator, I discussed with other state legislators at national conferences their separate staffs for the House and Senate and sometimes for each political party in each body. I no longer took our efficient staffing structures for granted. I also learned that Utah’s joint legislative interim committees (which meet monthly throughout the year preparing legislation for our short annual 45-day General Sessions) are also not standard among the states.
Many state legislatures don’t meet during the interim at all and don’t have a set number of days the legislature meets. These long and indefinite sessions make it difficult for ordinary citizens to serve in the legislature and still have full time jobs.
Dr. Snow left the Fiscal Analyst position in 1969 to return to BYU as the Director of the Institute of Government. While there, he was recruited by some of the legislators he served while Fiscal Analyst to run for the legislature and was elected to the Utah State Senate from Utah County in 1972 and served through 1984.
His time there included a term as Senate Majority Leader and other leadership posts. One of the first measures he accomplished was modernizing the archaic commission form of city government to council-manager and council-mayor options. He was a major force in the creation and implementation of much of today’s budgetary, fiscal management and operational structure of Utah state government, including vesting the Governor with budgetary authority instead of the cumbersome three member board of examiners.
Because of his deep knowledge of best practices in improving state organizational structures, Democrat Senate President Moroni Jensen appointed Republican Senator Karl Snow to Chair the Utah Constitutional Revision Commission. That body, which included both legislators and prominent citizens throughout the state, comprehensively studied major changes in the Utah Constitution. These projects included modifications in the Legislative Article, Executive Article, Judicial Article, Tax Article and the Education Article. Most importantly, these proposals were adopted by the required two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature and with Senator Snow’s leadership were approved on the ballot by a majority of Utah voters.
Dr. Snow was a mentor to a legion of young people who have effectively managed and worked in state and local government throughout Utah and the entire country. He was the director of BYU’s MPA Graduate program from which I graduated in 1977. He taught the Governmental Finance and Statistics Classes where I got the training which prepared me to go to work for the Utah Taxpayers Association 43 years ago this month.
Karl is still with us at 90 years old. Many of those whose lives he impacted have now either retired or are near that point. This year the Utah Legislature recognized Karl Snow’s lasting legacy through a citation presented on the floors of the House and Senate.