OUR VIEW: Time to vote for ethics

Aug 17 2009 - 10:22pm

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Avoiding the issue
Avoiding the issue

Count us as strong supporters of an effort by Utahns for Ethical Government to get signatures for a 2010 ballot initiative that will do what the Utah Legislature has failed to do for so long -- enact ethics reform with teeth.

Kim Burningham and David Irvine have experience in the Legislature. They are the leaders of UEG, a bipartisan group founded to improve ethics in Utah. Also supporting the initiative effort is the Fair Boundaries Coalition. The FBC also wants an initiative to take the post-Census redrawing of legislative and congressional districts away from legislators and put it in the hands of an independent commission.

That proposal, which is supported by former U.S. Rep. James Hansen, is long overdue.

Frankly, it's time voters got the chance to impose strong ethics regulations on lawmakers via the initiative process. We have waited for the Legislature to take ethics seriously. But year after year, strong ethics reform, such as a ban on gifts, is rejected. Earlier this year there was some cosmetic ethics reform passed on Capitol Hill, but it isn't nearly enough.

The UEG ballot initiative, if approved, includes:

An independent ethics commission of five. They would be chosen by random chance from 20 names previously OK'd by a bipartisan group of legislators.

* An end to legislator/lobbyists and a two-year wait before ex-legislators could lobby.

* An end to all lobbyists gifts, save for light refreshments of virtually no value.

* And end to legislators donating campaign funds to other legislative campaigns.

* And, every two years, there is a cap of $2,500 for individual campaign donations and a $5,000 cap on political action committee donations.

There's more. To see all the initiative proposals, go to http://www.utahethics.org.

There is a lot to do to get these reforms on the ballott. UEG is required to hold seven public meetings across the state. Initiative organizers will need to gather about 95,000 signatures. We urge Utahns to attend the public hearings, get informed about UEG's initiative -- which the Utah chapter of AARP has endorsed -- and sign the initiative petition when they have the opportunity.

This is too important to sit on the sidelines. Get involved. If we don't, it sends a clear signal to the Utah Legislature that we are enablers of its unethical behavior.

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