As our Utah legislature moves within five days of the end of its 2009 General Legislative Session, we'll devote a little electronic ink to a couple of areas of legislation which have been favorite topics of discussion here at Weber County Forum. Contrary to the skeptical predictions of at least one of our gentle readers, the 2009 legislature has so far made at least made some slight progress in the area of legislative ethics reform. Yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune story provides the gist:
House members approved two Senate ethics bills Wednesday, with some saying they fell short and others praising their passage as a landmark for Utah's Legislature. SB156, sponsored by Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, requires disclosure of gifts over $10 and meals of more than $25, with the exception of events in which an entire caucus, task force, committee or legislative body is invited to dine.There's no doubt in our minds at all that Rep. Litvack has it right. Utahns don't like the idea of having their legislators mooching free meals and gifts from lobbyists. Most of the state legislature still obviously doesn't "get it." Mere disclosure is not enough. In our belief, the legislature should have enacted an across the board gift ban, such as has been regularly advocated here on Weber County Forum: "I will accept no gifts from any lobbyists for any reason. Not so much as a cup of coffee." Maybe Utah voters will have better luck in the 2010 session, we hope.
"This is a good disclosure bill," said Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City. "However, I don't think we're going far enough in terms of what the public wants" -- namely a gift ban. Litvack said he hoped for further progress in the future.
More from yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune story:
In addition, the House unanimously passed SB162, which defines how candidates can spend residual campaign funds when they leave office. SB162, sponsored by Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, prohibits personal use of the money. If state officeholders retire and intend to use those dollars to run for federal office, they first must declare the money as personal income, pay taxes on it and move it to the federal campaign account.Whether either of these above bills constitute "meaningful" ethics reform is in the in the eye of the beholder, we guess. At the very least however, we believe it's fair to label these bills "baby steps".
And there also seems to be some genuine progress on the wacky Utah liquor law front. This morning's Salt Lake Tribune story reports that an informal blue ribbon panel composed of "stakeholders" (including lobbyists from the LDS "mother church,") is on the verge of reaching a compromise which would make private clubs and Zion's curtains quaint relics of Utah's "peculiar past":
Utah could see its most sweeping liquor reform in years, including doing away with private clubs and dismantling the so-called Zion Curtain under a deal that is on the verge of approval by negotiators.Like most compromise bills, the current liquor law makeover has reportedly involved plenty of horse trading. Our Utah legislative teetotallers naturally want some trade-offs:
"It's not my favorite solution at this point," said Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, among the most strident anti-alcohol senators. But it is one that he expects he will be able to live with.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, who was one of the negotiators, said a deal is close.
"I'm hoping tomorrow we can have it nailed down," he said Wednesday evening.
Representatives of the House, the Senate, bar owners, restaurants, the governor's office and the LDS Church hammered out the framework during intense closed-door negotiations this week.
"The thing I'm hearing most from my constituents is they don't want us to look quirky and they want harsh punishment for DUI," Waddoups said.In this connection, we'll shamelessly insert a comment gleaned from this morning's SLTrib article comments section:
Dear Senator Waddoups. The best way to not appear quirky is to just stop being so god damned quirky!!!With respect to the liquor issue, we're still wondering why this whole matter is being made to appear to be so danged complicated. Why not simply pass a law making it illegal for anyone under 21 to drink, and for anyone to drive whilst drunk, we ask? It goes far beyond the meager mind of the lumpen blogmeister, we suppose.
The floor is yours, O Gentle Ones. The blogosphere awaits your own ever-quirky comments, as per usual.