A group of legislators — moderate Republicans and Democrats — would like to see lawmakers do something about their own ethics, specifically personal use of campaign funds and taking of lobbyists' gifts.You can either get in ahead of the train, or wait until the train is practically on top of you, because common sense ethics laws are going to come into effect.
Two bill files have already been opened for the 2009 Legislature — one by Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan, and one by Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay.
"I want transparency, both in campaign spending and gift-taking," said Mascaro, who added he didn't run so-called ethics reform bills the past two years after "certain members of (House GOP) leadership asked me not to."
But after the House moved "back to the same old mind-set — where Republican leaders took over the final weeks of the (2008) Legislature and just did what they wanted" with little concern for other GOP members of the 55-person House Republican caucus, "I decided to go ahead this year" with ethics reform, Mascaro said.
Utah has some of the most liberal campaign, conflict-of-interest and lobbyist gift-giving laws in the United States. Legislators and candidates can take any amount of money from anyone, can spend their campaign accounts anyway they wish — even giving themselves cash — can vote on any bill, even those with clear conflicts of interest, and can take any "intangible" gift from a lobbyist.I wouldn't use the word 'liberal' (used here to mean generous) when it comes to ethics laws in Utah, I would use the word 'non-existant.'
But over time lobbyists, who now report their own gift-giving, have found creative ways around the by-name legislative reporting. Each year the 104 lawmakers take around $200,000 worth of gifts from lobbyists, reports show. But less than 20 percent of that money comes with a legislator's name attached.
According to the article, there may be somewhere between 15 and 20 Republicans in the Utah House who are willing to join up with the 17 Democrats in that body to pass some reforms. 38 votes--and having their bills get out of committee and calendared properly--are required to pass any bill.
And here is my favorite line of the whole article:
"There are some good things that are happening up there (in the Legislature). Not all of us are idiots," said Mascaro.