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UEG takes positions on ethics related legislation

Feb 19, 2011

Utahns for Ethical Government (UEG) is tracking several bills introduced at the 2011 session of the Legislature, specifically those that relate to legislative ethics.  House Bills (HB) and House Joint Resolution (HJR) measures are listed below, with the sponsoring representative’s name listed beside the bill.  Each bill can be accessed on the legislative website through http://le.utah.gov/session/2011/bills.htm.  UEG takes a position on the following bills:

HB 4 (Arent)

UEG supports.  If it passes, legislators-elect (as certified by the Lieutenant Governor) would be subject to the Legislature’s Official Code of Conduct.  At the moment, only sitting legislators are subject to the Code.

HB 32 Substitute (Grover)

UEG supports.  This current revision extends campaign and financial reporting requirements to county political parties.

HB 60 (Arent)

UEG supports.  This measure prohibits campaign contributions during special sessions that occur after July 1st of an election year.  The measure closes a loophole that currently allows such contributions during special sessions held after that date.

HB 164 (Chavez-Houck)

UEG supported.  This measure established campaign contribution limits on corporations, PACs, and individuals.  The measure followed the limits recommended by the Governor’s Commission on Strengthening Utah’s Democracy but was defeated in the House Ethics Committee.  We continue to support the need for campaign contribution limits and expect to support efforts in subsequent legislative sessions to enact limits.

HJR 6 (Chavez-Houck)

UEG supports.  If it passes, this measure would add to the Joint Legislative Rules a section that enumerates redistricting principles to guide the Legislature when it divides the state into congressional, legislative, and other districts.  Among other things, the measure requires an open and transparent process, with contiguous, reasonably compact districts having substantial equality of population.  It urges “to the degree reasonably achievable” keeping municipalities and townships intact, respecting existing city and county boundaries, maintaining communities of common interest, and promoting meaningful competition between political parties.  It is an excellent statement of principles.

HJR 12 Third Substitute (Harper)

UEG has reservations.  This measure proposes a couple of changes to the Legislative Code of Official Conduct.  UEG has two primary concerns with the 3rd substitute:

  1. The measure will eliminate the requirement, on Senate and House members, that they “not exercise any undue influence on any governmental entity.” Although the “undue influence” language is broad, we do not understand why it is being deleted, when nothing more specific is taking its place.
  2. The Code should also be amended to include statements that legislators shall not violate the financial disclosure provisions, gift prohibitions, and the prohibitions on personal use of campaign contributions that were enacted during the 2010 legislative session.

Including statements in the Code that address these provisions would give credence to the Legislature’s claims that these proposed measures addressed ethical issues.  Failure to include them does the opposite.

HJR 18 (Ray)

UEG does not support.  This measure proposes a constitutional amendment prohibiting a “registered lobbyist” from being a member of the Legislature.  Although we too believe that a legislator should not be a paid lobbyist, we believe this prohibition belongs in statute alongside other restrictions on legislators, not in the Utah Constitution.  Furthermore, the term “registered lobbyist” is a term not found in the Utah Code and putting it in the Constitution could well have unintended consequences.  For instance, what if a lobbyist, defined by statute basically as one who is employed or paid to lobby, fails to “register”?