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Executive Summary

Executive Summary of Ballot Initiative for November 2010 General Election

The UEG ballot initiative establishes a non-partisan citizen ethics commission and a strict code of conduct to govern the ethical behavior of Utah legislators. The intent of the initiative is to ensure that legislators apply high standards of ethical conduct and represent the interests of the citizenry rather than catering to narrower special interests. For a variety of reasons, many political, it is difficult for the Utah Legislature to discipline its own members, and UEG believes that it is time for citizens to help the Legislature by creating a fair, non-partisan, and open process for reviewing complaints of ethical violations by legislators. Highlights of the initiative follow.

Non-Partisan Ethics Commission

* A 5-member commission, serving staggered 5-year terms as non-salaried commissioners
* The names of the 5 commission members are drawn at random from a pool of 20 independent-minded citizens who are chosen by unanimous agreement of the president of the Senate, speaker of the House, and the two minority leaders of the Utah Legislature.
* The commission appoints an executive director and appropriate supporting staff.
* The commission receives and investigates complaints of ethics violations lodged by any three persons, as defined in the initiative.
* The commission makes findings and recommends action to the legislature, using the initiative’s Code of Conduct as its standard. The legislature’s response to recommendations will be made public.
* The commission develops mandatory ethics training for the legislature.

Highlights of the Code of Conduct

* Legislators are prohibited from spending campaign funds on non-campaign personal expenses.
* Legislators are prohibited from contributing to one another’s campaigns with money from their own campaign funds.
* Legislators cannot be paid lobbyists during their terms of office or for 2 years thereafter.
* Legislators and their family members cannot accept gifts from paid lobbyists, such as meals, Jazz tickets, and golf fees. Gifts do not include light refreshments of negligible value.
* Legislators, when in doubt, can ask for a written opinion by the Commission that determines in advance whether an action contemplated by the legislator would violate the Code of Conduct.
* Legislators are prohibited from making threats, intimidating, or improperly interfering with or obstructing the duties and decisions of the courts and other employees of state government who are exercising the duties of their offices.
* Legislators are prohibited from accepting donations to their campaigns from corporations, non-profits, partnerships, and unions.
* Contributions to a legislator’s campaign funds are limited to $2500 per individual and $5000 per PAC in any 2-year election cycle.
* Money remaining in a legislator’s campaign account that is not spent within 5 years in a subsequent election campaign by the same legislator is transferred to the State School Fund or a Commission-selected-and-approved charitable organization of the legislator’s choice.
* Legislators must file forms annually (with the Ethics Commission) which disclose financial and business interests that could create potential conflicts of interest. The disclosures will be available to the public. As under current law, legislators must file reports with the Lt. Governor of financial contributions they have received.
* Legislators cannot be members of corporate boards when their position as a legislator is a contributing factor in their board appointment and they receive compensation for serving.

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