Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Utahns for Ethical Government?

UEG is a nonpartisan group of concerned citizens, including former legislators from both major political parties and a broad cross-section of Utah citizens.

2. Why do we need an independent ethics commission?

The Legislature, for political reasons, has difficulty regulating and disciplining its own members effectively. Legislators have paid mostly lip service to the need for ethics reform and have defeated most serious attempts at reform. Utah lags behind most other states in addressing ethics reform. Utah should be a leader, not a foot dragger.

3. Is the proposed independent ethics commission constitutional?

Yes, it is established in the initiative as an arm of the legislative branch and its recommendations go to the legislature for action. It does not usurp the ability of the legislature to make final decisions about the behavior of legislators. Yet it will be non-partisan and independent of legislative politics in its investigations and recommendations.

4. Do other states have independent ethics commissions?

Yes, Utah is one of only 10 states without an independent ethics commissions (IECs). The other forty states have commissions with varying levels of authority. Most develop their own disclosure forms and manuals, issue subpoenas, and monitor compliance with ethical standards. Eleven states have commissions that can issue orders that are enforceable in court.

Update: Utahns amended the state constitution in 2010 to establish a legislative IEC. We have critiqued its rules of operation and scope of authority elsewhere on this website, and see it as a weak and restricted IEC. The nine remaining states without an IEC include Arizona, Idaho, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.  (Source: National Council of State Legislatures)

5. How much will the Independent Ethics Commission cost?

UEG estimates that the Independent Ethics Commission will need a budget of approximately $472,000 for such items as salaries and benefits for an executive director and appropriate legal and secretarial staff, document production, computer hardware and software, telephone service, and office space.

6. Who will benefit from this initiative and expenditure of public funds?

The public will benefit from increased confidence in the integrity of its legislators, from reduction in the extent of legislative self-dealing, and from a better decision-making process that protects the interests of the public. Other, more tangible benefits should follow.

7. Is it constitutional to ban corporate gifts to legislative campaign funds?

Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld bans on corporate giving. Utah already bans gifts from unions, so a ban on corporate gifts levels the playing field. The Court has also upheld limits on individual and PAC contributions to campaigns.

8. Do you anticipate opposition to your ballot initiative?

Some special interest groups and some legislators may feel that they have something to lose and may not support our initiative. On the other hand, ethics legislation should be a winner for the public. Citizens have much to gain from the initiative.

9. How many legal signatures are needed to get the initiative on the November 2010 ballot?

The number must total 10% of the votes cast for all candidates for governor in the last gubernatorial election in each of 26 of the 29 Utah Senate districts, and a cumulative total of 10% of all votes cast for those candidates in the whole state. Overall, we need approximately 95,000 verified, legal signatures. We want to obtain 10-15% more signatures to account for signatures that may be disqualified by state officials as duplicate signers, names of non-registered voters, etc.

Update: By August 12, 2010, we obtained more than 110,000 signatures (approximately 20% more signatures than were required in 26 of 29 Senate districts). As of December 31, 2010, we are awaiting the official count from the Lieutenant Governor’s office.

10. Where can I sign the petition?

The petitions were distributed to locations from northern Utah to southern Utah. The list of locations where signature packets can be picked up and/or signed are listed here.

Update: Signatures are no longer being sought.  Our final deadline was August 12, 2010 (one year from the filing date of August 12, 2009).

11. Why doesn’t the UEG initiative address ethics reform within Utah’s executive branch?

Currently, the legislature has the more serious problems, and we wanted to start there. If our initiative passes, perhaps the legislature will pass legislation addressing any parallel problems in the executive branch. The legislature has already established a judicial performance evaluation commission.