Utahns for Ethical Government is not opposing the proposed constitutional amendment (Amendment D on the November ballot, formerly referred to as House Joint Resolution 15) that enshrines an independent legislative ethics commission in the Utah State Constitution. The plain language of the proposed amendment merely provides, in broad outline, that such a commission shall be constitutionally required, leaving to future legislative enactments the details respecting the make-up and operation of the commission, as well as the ethical rules which the commission would apply to legislative conduct. This plain language is entirely consistent with UEG’s proposed initiative and, in fact, that initiative easily could be just such a future legislative enactment, the “legislative oil” which would fill this “constitutional vessel.”
Some have accused the legislative leadership of having an ulterior motive in proposing the amendment, a motive to use the amendment to block enactments respecting legislative ethics through a people’s initiative. The proposed amendment may have been born as a political gimmick to forestall signatures on UEG’s petition. Or it might be viewed as superfluous window-dressing, since it does no more or less than can be achieved by legislative rule-making. But the amendment’s plain language belies an ulterior motive permanently to debar ethics legislation through the initiative process and the legislature as a whole voted to approve the amendment based upon this plain language. In any case, the legislature’s collective intent in passing the proposed Amendment D can’t be defined by whatever motives may be obscured or hidden in the minds of a few members of that body. The public also will vote for or against the amendment in light of this plain meaning, and, as noted above, that plain meaning is compatible with UEG’s initiative.