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Rolly: Most legislators don't want to talk about ethics

Published October 4, 2012 3:49 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utahns for Ethical Government has become used to the Utah Legislature throwing up barriers every time the UEG attempts to make lawmakers, well, more ethical.

When UEG tried to get an initiative on the ballot to pass a voter-approved ethics law, the Legislature made it harder to reach the necessary number of signatures for ballot approval.

When the UEG petition prompted the Legislature to pass its own ethics reform law as a pre-emptive strike, it turned out the lawmakers had a number of loopholes in the bill so they wouldn't have to become, well, too ethical.

So now, when UEG sent a questionnaire to legislative candidates asking them to answer specific questions on ethics issues, most of the lawmakers responded with the metaphorical middle finger.

The questionnaire asked the candidates three yes-or-no questions:

1. If you are elected, will you support legislation to prohibit a Utah legislator from simultaneously serving as a paid lobbyist?

2. If you are elected, will you support legislation to establish a two-year waiting period before a legislator can become a paid lobbyist after leaving the Legislature?

3. If you are elected, will you support legislation closing two major loopholes in the 2010 lobbying reform act that (1) allow lobbyists to pay for meals for groups of legislators and (2) require no disclosure of that fact?

About 50 percent of the nearly 200 legislative candidates responded to the questions, but most of the respondents are challengers, and most of those are Democrats.

There are 75 House races and 16 of the 29 Senate races up for grabs this year. Republicans hold 13 of the 16 Senate seats in play and 58 of the 75 House seats. Eleven Democratic incumbents answered the questions while 14 Republican incumbents responded.

Notable non-responders were Republican Sens. Mark Madsen, John Valentine, Curt Bramble, Allen Christensen, Lyle Hillyard, David Hinkins, Steve Urquhart and Reps. Wayne Harper and Evan Vickers, who are House members running for open Senate seats.

The Republican senators who did respond were Aaron Osmond and Todd Weiler, who answered yes to all three, and Scott Jenkins, who answered yes to the first question and no to the others.

The only Democratic senator on the ballot, Luz Robles, answered "yes" to all three questions.

On the House side, most of the Democratic incumbents answered the questionnaire, while a relative few Republican incumbents bothered. Notably, House Speaker Becky Lockhart and Majority Whip Greg Hughes did not respond, while Majority Leader Brad Dee answered "yes" to all three questions.

Yer outta here • While the entire Utah crowd got a 15-yard penalty for storming the field at the end of the Ute-BYU game three weeks ago, a smaller bunch of Ute fans received a much harsher penalty.

I wrote about fans in one of the exclusive suites storming into the Zions Bank suite to confront some BYU fans and provoke them to fight, although no punches were thrown. Two legislators were in the Zions Bank suite, and the Ute invaders were reportedly drunk.

At the time, I was told, it could not be proven that alcohol was involved, so no punishment was rendered.

But upon further review, the initial call has been reversed.

U. of U. spokeswoman Barb Smith now confirms that the ongoing investigation revealed there was booze in the suite, a violation of the rules, so the offenders have lost their right to the suite and their contract has been canceled.

prolly@sltrib.com