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Among the reasons for the mellow tone, Bramble said, was because there was a cloud over the Capitol due to the ethics scandal and ongoing federal investigation into the conduct of Attorney General John Swallow.
Swallow • Because of questions raised about Swallow’s conduct, Bramble said, legislators were more conscientious of their behavior.
Indeed, the session opened with discussion of whether lawmakers would have to impeach the attorney general, who at that point had been on the job for just a few weeks. Legislative attorneys were asked to prepare a memo outlining the process that would be followed.
By the end of the session, that talk had faded, but several bills had made their way through the Legislature to address gaps in state law spotlighted by Swallow’s situation.
Legislators prohibited the type of outside consulting that Swallow was doing, without knowledge of Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. Another bill creates an ethics commission to investigate complaints against the state’s elected officials — the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor and treasurer — an entity that did not exist before.
And Late in the session, lawmakers rushed through a change that would allow the appointment of a special counsel to investigate election law complaints against the attorney general, rather than turning them over to the attorney general, himself.
"I think it has made us far more sensitive to conflicts. You haven’t seen the fights, people trying to steamroll special interests through," Bramble said. "I think there’s been a conscious move to be more statesmanlike."
If there was a topic that created a crossfire, it was attempts to liberalize Utah’s already permissive gun laws — with bills doing away with Utah’s concealed-weapons permit system for residents and another that initially would have allowed the arrest of federal law enforcement officers that try to enforce new federal gun laws.
The latter bill was watered down and the former is awaiting action by Herbert, who has expressed reservations about it.
"President Obama has probably been the biggest guns and ammunition salesman in America," said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who says the bills brought to the Legislature were a reaction to the threat of federal erosion of gun rights.
Rep. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray, also called the bills reactionary, and said what is really needed is "a serious discussion about guns," asking if Utahns want people carrying guns "in trolley square or temple square."
"Do we want to live in a world where everyone is carrying a gun?" Cosgrove asked.
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