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Resolution Supporting Ethics

November 25, 2009
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At the most recent meeting of the GOP State Central Committee, discussion about the Utahns for Ethical Government’s ethics reform bill took up at least half of the meeting. David Irvine, drafter of the UEG bill, presented his reasons for this bill. He said that some of their goals were to promote accountability, impartiality and transparency.  Quoting from the state GOP platform, he said “we demand accountability.  Those of us who prepared this had this standard in mind.”  He stated that the 5-member panel is merely merely advisory – they can not impose any penalty.

A member of the audience stood and read straight from the bill, countering Irvine’s claims.  Irvine said simply he disagrees and that the commenter is misinterpreting the bill.

However, according to Senator Lyle Hillyard, who spoke as an attorney and member of the Utah legislature, the interpretation is correct. He went on to talk about the many constitutional problems with this bill, including no due process, guilty until proven innocent, no checks and balances for the members of the commission, AND the “signatories” of the bill as well. He talked about how his law partners have already told him that if this bill passes, he either must resign as a legislator or a member of the firm – the reporting requirements violate any right to privacy a client of a legislator should have. There are many other problems as well.

Todd Weiler, former party vice-chair and one of the current legal advisors for the state GOP stood and said he 100% supports ethics and he supports ethics reform, but this initiative scares the living daylights out of him. The problems are numerous. Irvine admitted the proposal “has problems“, but said the people should pass it via referendum so the legislature can “fix it”, knowing that is extremely difficult and highly politically charged.  It does make one wonder if the originators of the bill “know it’s flawed”, why would they not fix those problems? Could it be they simply don’t want to?

Weiler proposed a resolution for the state central committee to vote on opposing this initiative and after some amending, it passed with one dissenting vote. The resolution is as follows:

Resolution Supporting Ethics in Government and Opposing the Utah for ethical government (UEG) initiative

WHEREAS, the Utah Republican Party Platform states: “We demand honesty, integrity, morality, and accountability of our public officials” and further states: “We will work to expose and stop corruption.”;

WHEREAS, the Utah Republican Party supports our republican form of government “by, through, and of the people” through elected representatives who are answerable to the people and who are empowered only by the consent of the governed;

WHEREAS, Utahns for Ethical Government (“UEG”) is collecting signatures in an attempt to place an initiative entitled “Government Ethics Reform” on the ballot;

WHEREAS, among other things, the UEG initiative removes responsibility for ethics in government from the people and their elected representatives, and places it in the hands of an unelected, unaccountable commission;

WHEREAS, the power to judge “the election and qualifications of its members, and [to] punish them for disorderly conduct” is a plenary power that is constitutionally vested in and reserved to each house of the Legislature;

WHEREAS, the Utah Legislature has recently passed House Bill 345 (Lobby Restrictions), House Bill 346 (Campaign Report Amendments), Senate Bill 156 (Gift/Meal Provisions for Public Officials), Senate Bill 162 (Campaign Fund Use), House Joint Resolution 14 (Ethics Training), Senate Joint Resolution 6 (Legislator Communication with Judiciary) and created an Ethics Standing Committee to address ethics reform in Utah; and

WHEREAS, the Utah Legislature shall consider a number of additional bills during the upcoming 2010 legislative session addressing ethical, transparent, and open responsive government.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Utah Republican State Central Committee demands ethical government and supports legislation to improve ethical, transparent, and open responsive government, but opposes the constitutionally flawed UEG initiative entitled “Government Ethics Reform.”

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