Monday, November 30, 2009

WSU Ethics Initiative Debate Report - UPDATED 2X

Your WCF Blogmeister resumes the task of showing up at a public event, taking notes and dutifully reporting

Just got back from the WSU-sponsored debate, where "venerable" State Senator Lyle Hillyard (29 years of service as Cache/Rich County's state senator for life) squared off with Utahns for Ethical Government's (UEG) lawyer Alan Smith in the Shepard Union Wildcat Theater for a vigorous debate on the pending citizens' UEG Legislative Ethics initiative.

(The Debate Moderator, btw: Nolan Karras, who happens to be yet another distinguished Ogden home-boy.)

Just to put it all in perspective, Alan Smith was the lead attorney in drafting the UEG initiative language.

Although the house wasn't exactly packed (I'm guessing there were about fifty folks in attendance), the ratio of state legislators to regular lumpencitizens was fairly high. We counted at least 5 Utah legislators whom we recognised in the audience (including State Senator Greiner) although we do confess there may have been some whom we couldn't pick out of a police lineup, even if we had our spectacles on.

Anyway, in the interest of brevity we''ll avoid posting our copious notes in chronological sequence, and instead distill it all down. Here are a few of the issues which were raised at today's sometimes lively debate, paraphrasing:

1) Gifts to legislators: Senator Hillyard: "WSU Gave me a bottle of water today, which might be interpreted as a "gift" under the initative language."

Alan Smith's response: Nope. A bottle of water from WSU is regarded as "a gift of negligible value under the proposed legislation." Touche.

2) Legislative priorities: Hillyard: Ethics Legislation is a time consuming and "tedious" process, and it should take a back seat to matters such as balancing the budget during these tough economic times. It takes time to craft a perfect legislative ethics bill.

Mr. Smith: If the legislature won't enact serious ethics reform, the lumpencitizens will do so themselves, thus saving time and effort for our legislature for what Senator-For Life Hillyard regards as "the important things."

3) Branding state legislators as "felons." Hillyard: The proposed ethics law would brand a violator like me as a "felon."

Alan Smith: Nonsense. Even if enacted, the new Ethics Commission would only be advisory. The ethics commitee would have NO prosecutorial authority.

There's more to report, including a good mix of questions from startilingly smart WSU students and a couple of WCU instructors.

Please let us know if you'd like to have this fairly sparse story "padded out."

Update 12/1/09 8:10 a.m.: The Standard-Examiner carries a front page story this morning, reporting on yesterday's debate. Read Dan Weist's writeup here:
Utah debates ethics reform
The Salt Lake Tribune's Kathy McKitrick (a Std-Ex alum) is also all over this story too:
Ethics debate roils at forum
Update 12/1/09 9:47 a.m.: For the sake of helping out with the UEG initiative petition drive, we'll highlight this reader comment which appears in the comments section beneath the above linked Std-Ex story:
Public Response to Initiative Lukewarm in Weber County
I am one of the Weber County volunteers for Utahns for Ethical Government. There are only a few of us, and at the rate signatures are being collected now, we may fail to get the number needed to get this initiative on the ballot. We need your help. Since there are 20 signature blocks on each petition form, it would be easy to collect that many from your family and friends during when you see them over the holidays. If you would be willing to collect a few signatures, or to volunteer in this effort in some other capacity, please call me at 801-645-3592. -Rick Bolin, Ogden
All this talk of putting the legislature's feet to the fire will amount to nothing but hot air, if the petition fails to garner at least the requisite 97,000+ Utah citizen signatures.

If you're in favor of this initiative, why not give Mr. Mr. Bolin a ring? Like all grass roots efforts, this one depends on the broad participation of ALL the concerned citizenry. Odds are that any one of our WCF readers could gather 20 signatures from friends and family, we believe.


puzzled said...

Senator Hillyard comes off as pretty lame, even on his "best day."

How is it possible that the headquarters of a major Utah College (Utah State) could tolerate a moron like Hillyard in their midst for oh so many years?

Even given Cache Valley's notable Mormon inbreeding, somehow this doesn't compute.

RudiZink said...

It was great setting foot on the WSU campus again, btw.

Every time I pass by earnest college students, debating concepts they've learned in class, I'm humbled by the mass of knowledge that's stored away in Ogden's ivy-covered "information/knowledge granary."

Ogden Dem said...

I attended the debate today as well, 'puzzled' let me help you understand how Hillyard has become a perennial for Cache Valley - the intelligence at USU does not typically vote in Cache Valley as they are from elsewhere; the LDS folks have been voting for Hillyard based solely on the R behind his name and probably church membership. Stupid reasons for a vote in my opinion (and I am LDS).
About five months ago a well known businessman and philanthropist in Ogden contacted Hillyard regarding some issues he wanted to discuss with him - the Ogden guy is still waiting for a return call or email or some contact.
I fully agree that the initative is not perfect but doing nothing is worse. Often our legislature passes laws that are less than perfect but nevertheless they pass them.
I was appalled when Hillyard said, "you cannot legislate bad behavior"; so I guess that means no ethics laws should be passed and we can continue to expect bad behavior and unethical legislators. Of course, none of us want to legislate behavior we would all prefer to have elected officials to be honest and forthright and not have greed and ulterior motives for their actions but it ain't that way in Utah so I see this as a step in the right direction.

ozboy said...

Ya Rudi, give us a blow by blow account of the whole magilla. Was there more back and forth between these two that you can thrill us with?

Ray Vaughn said...

Did a fistfight break out? That would be the only reason the S-E would consider reporting on this event.

Machster said...

Yeah, I too would like the "full monty". I have heard Hillyard speak on various issues at the Capital. He always sounded like a lawyer to me. Argumentative and taking an opposite side of just about any subject often to the amazement of those present.

I'm thinking the inbreeding thing may be a possibility. At least intellectual incest from the Ward and his peers in the legislature.

He is another that despirately needs to be shown the door along with Hatch, Bishop, Bennett and many more.

We need turnover and new - fresh perspectives taking a look at legislation. Career and politician should never be used together. Someone said that last night and I agreed with it.

bribes are legal!!!! said...

I guess that whiner Greiner was there and he should be on the job as police chief. did he take time off or does he get to run around with no accountability of his job. He should not be going to any of this stuff while on the job. Oh I forgot he doesn't have to obey the law.

Curmudgeon said...

If the initiative passes and becomes law, I hereby pledge to lobby for a legislative amendment permitting all state legislators to receive one (1) bottle of water per day, free from any source, without violating any ethics provisions of the initiative.

Perhaps if Sen. Hillyard is thus freed from the terrible burden of worrying about where he'll get his water free when he visits WSU, he will sleep better at night, and as well find himself free to support the ethics initiative.

RudiZink said...

LOL, Curm, the "bottled water" repartee was one of the more delightful exchanges between Mssrs. Hillyard and Smith, during yesterday's 1 hour+ debate. Mr. Smith craftily sat back and allowed Sen. Hillyard to refer to the "water bottle as a gift" example several times, giving the Senator plenty of rope, before finally reaching into the initiate, and citing language which exempts "gifts of negligible value" from the operational language of the initiative.

It was fairly obvious that Sen. Hillyard was unfamiliar with the language of the initiative, inasmuch as this basic scenario was repeated several times on other "issues" raised by Sen. Hillyard.

Sen. Hillyard would repeatedly nibble around the edges of the initiative and raise a trivial objection... and then get slapped down by by Mr. Smith with an initiative language citation which would neutralize Hillyard's "point."

Mr. Smith is obviously a skilled lawyer. I'm not sure the same can be said for Senator Hillyard, based on yesterday's evidence.

If Hillyard is to continue as a chief intitiative opposition spokesman, the opposition is in deep trouble, methinks.

Biker Babe said...

or maybe Hillyard was the only one free on that day, not having events or lunches to attend gratis ..



RudiZink said...

Is it just me, or is it evident to others that Hillyard's State Senatorial Seat is also closely tied to his Mayberry USA-style law practice?

Seems to me that Hillyard ought to be the #1 legislator to fall under the eyeball of public scrutiny, with or without the enactment into law of the Citizens' Legislative Ethics initiative.

Cache County Commentator said...

No wonder Hillyard is complaining, Rudi. He's been the lawyer go-to guy for anyone who wanted to do anything positive in Cache County for the past 29 years.

"Pay my fees; get your desired results" has been his law office motto for 29 years.

Lyle Hillyard is the poster boy for what's wrong with the Utah Legislature.

Wimpy said...

Hillyard has been a shill for the Powder Mountain developers for years now.

He is a poster boy for any ethics reform legislation. Just ask him what he thinks of ethics reform, he will tell you he is against it, gee I wonder why?

Fire the Incumbents said...

Does anyone know when Hillyard stands for election again?

Colonel Jessup said...

There is no way that Hillard or any of the good ole boys will lose the election. Why? because they are republicans and that is the way it is. So complain as you will but none of you will do anything to help throw the bums out.

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