Monday, February 11, 2008

Ethics reform must proceed in the Utah Legislature.

In a rare joining of hands, Representative Roz McGee and the Sutherland Institute’s Paul Mero agree: Ethics reform must proceed in the Utah Legislature.

SALT LAKE CITY, February 11, 2008 — While Rep. Roz McGee, D-Salt Lake City, wants a complete rewrite of the Legislature’s ethics process and an end to lawmakers investigating themselves and Sutherland’s President Paul Mero wants lawmakers to hold themselves to a higher standard, both advocates agree that ethics reform is a priority issue whose day has arrived.

Rep. McGee’s House Bill 130 would create a commission that would receive ethics complaints regarding legislators and other state elected officials and offices.

“In the current system, both the house and senate have ethics committees, and the committees look at ethical violations of members only after receiving three complaints about the same lawmaker. Complaints must come from legislators, not the public, and Utah legislators historically haven’t been keen on turning each other in,” said McGee.

Public opinion has also shown that ethics reform is wanted and needed. According to a poll released by the Salt Lake Tribune on January 20, 72 percent of residents support creating a commission to investigate complaints against lawmakers. Both Republicans (69%) and Democrats (76%) support the measure.

“It is vital to restore our citizen’s trust in the state government. The committee would work to assure government employees are held accountable to the law,” said McGee.

“The Sutherland Institute supports ethics reform that maintains two key features: individual accountability and the integrity of the institution of the Legislature. A strong internal Ethics Committee that provides both an advisory role as well as an adjudicatory role, modeled after the U.S. Congress, has a proven track record of success” said Mero. “Ethics reform has been the ugly step-sister of the political process in our state for too long.”

Although House Bill 130 was approved by Rep. McGee in January and the fiscal note was made available January 30, the House Rules Committee in the Utah Legislature has refused to send the bill out for public committee hearing.

“I am frustrated that we can’t get this to advance from the rules committee. This legislation absolutely must see the light of day. It is time to get it into committee, in a public forum where lawmakers can debate the issue, so that we may proceed with meaningful ethics reform,” said McGee.

Other lawmakers agree. “We need to proceed with some kind of ethics reform legislation,” said Representative Kevin Garn, R-Layton. “But until we have a burst of public support, the issue probably will not move forward.”

McGee’s proposed ethics commission would be made up of five members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. It would have authority over legislators and state elected officials, including the governor, and could look into alleged violations of lobbying rules in addition to broader ethical complaints.

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Sutherland Institute press inquiries, please contact Katie Christensen at 801-355-1272 or 801-891-5142

3 comments:

CraigJ said...

Way to go Paul! If you or Roz could use any help please let me know. This pilgrim's journey has been going on for FAR too long!

Thanks...Craig.

Richards W. said...

So Kevin Garn thinks if they had a "public burst", then they would pass ethics reform. The fact that there is a poll in favor of ethics reform and the years of press coverage on the lack of ethics in the Utah Legislature, shows how out of touch the Repub dominated Legislature is. Then again, Garn has no clue what ordinary people think. The public burst we need is to vote Garn out.

Richards W. said...

So Kevin Garn thinks if they had a "public burst", then they would pass ethics reform. The fact that there is a poll in favor of ethics reform and the years of press coverage on the lack of ethics in the Utah Legislature, shows how out of touch the Repub dominated Legislature is. Then again, Garn has no clue what ordinary people think. The public burst we need is to vote Garn out.