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:
Salt Lake Tribune's Kathy McKitrick (a Std-Ex alum) is also all over this story too:
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 CountyAll 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.
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
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.