Friday, March 08, 2013

2013 Legislative Update: Utahns For Ethical Government Needs Your Help Now - Updated

An Urgent Utahns For Ethical Government (UEG) Call to Citizen Action

For the benefit of those Weber County Forum readers who'd like to participate in a little last minute political action as the 2013 Utah legislative regular session draws to a close, we're delighted to incorporate some useful material received yesterday evening from our friends at Utahns For Ethical Government, who've identified some still-pending bills which we'll urge you to either actively support or oppose. In this connection we've taken the liberty of adding  a couple of links to our own WCF article concerning one of these below-mentioned bills, i.e., Senator Stuart Reid's SB 66, which we briefly discussed yesterday.

Roll up your sleeves and gear up for action, O Gentle Ones, inasmuch as the "critters" up on Utah's Capital Hill are sitting on the edges of their seats even now, eagerly awaiting our readers' ever-savvy two cents' worth.

Here's the full  text of the UEG's March 7, 2013 Call to Action, folks, which we now furnish (in slightly edited form) without any further ado:


The Welcome and Unwelcome Bills

The Legislature is in its final 6 days, and a few ethics-related bills deserve your immediate support. Another bill, SB 66, deserves your opposition. Please contact your legislator now; otherwise it will be too late. Each is described below.

Urge Support of House Bill 78 (Republican Kraig Powell's bill) to improve disclosure 

Please ask your House legislator to support HB 78, which reduces the secrecy of legislative bills that are in process of development. HB 78 would require that when a request for legislation is made to the Office of Legislative Research, the legislator's name, the date, and a short title for the bill would be public information even if the content remains protected because it is in process and may change significantly. Such disclosure would provide more openness/transparency to the bill-making process and decrease the odds that citizens will be caught completely off guard by a bill that is introduced without warning in the final days of a legislative session.

Encourage Passage of Senate Bill 86 (Republican John Valentine's Bill for Review of Ethics Complaints) 
 Tell your state senator that you support SB 86, creating an Executive Branch Independent Ethics Commission. It is patterned on the Legislative Branch Independent Ethics Commission, so it is weak and will need amendments in the future, but it's a step in the right direction. It is a reaction to the potential ethical problems that have arisen with both Attorney General Swallow and Lieutenant Governor Bell.
Urge Release of House Bills on Campaign Contribution Limits
HB 311, introduced by Brian King (Democrat) and limiting the size of financial contributions to candidates, has been waiting in the House Rules Committee for HB 174, a similar measure by Rep. Kraig Powell (Republican), so that the bills can be merged into a bipartisan bill. Ask the House Rules Committee Chair and members to release these bills now--in time for action before the end of the session.

Ask Your House Member to Oppose SB 66 Tightening Referendum Requirements
SB 66, which tightens county and municipal referendum requirements, deserves your opposition. SB 66 has been passed by the Senate and has been maneuvered to bypass a House Committee hearing altogether, so it will move to the House floor for a vote without the benefit of the Committee debate and public input. We expect the bill to have a 2nd substitute introduced on the House floor that will try to reinstitute some of the worst provisions that were eliminated in the Senate. For instance, the 2nd substitute mandates that the required percentage of signatures be obtained in every geographic precinct (smallest unit of local government).

All versions of the bill make it more difficult for citizens to successfully place a referendum on the ballot to try to overturn a county or local ordinance. The bill requires a fiscal and legal analysis of the anticipated consequences of any referendum, which then can be placed in the voter information pamphlet without any corresponding right of rebuttal from the referendum sponsors. Such a requirement is missing from statewide referendum provisions. Although sponsors can appeal the accuracy of the analysis to the Utah Supreme Court, they must rebut the presumption of accuracy by "clear and convincing evidence"-an extraordinarily high standard for such a lawsuit.

The bill is being supported by the League of Cities and Towns and backed by pro-development groups who do not want to see their favorable land use and zoning changes subjected to challenge by voters.

PLEASE contact your House legislator immediately to convey your opposition to this bill in any of its various forms. All of them undermine the chance that citizens can successfully place a referendum on the ballot in county and municipal elections.
If you do not know the name of your own senator and representative, go to the bottom of the Legislature's home page and enter your street address and zip code, and hit Find. Next, you can find the phone numbers, email, and home addresses of your senator and representative by clicking, respectively, on Senate and then Roster and House and then Roster, both on the same home page. 
Thank you for being interested in your state government and for considering making your voices heard at this important time.

Kim Burningham, UEG Chair, and Dixie Huefner, UEG Communications Chair

Update 3/8/13 7:49 a.m.:  We've just now received by email, in the form of a 3/7/13 press release, more dire warnings from former Utah Republican National Committeewoman Nancy Lord's Utah lumpencitizen-friendly group, Save, urging opposition to Senator Reid's Utah referendum-gutting SB 66 (as amended), which document we've now lodged in our WCF Archives:
Please read up, folks, and contact your legislators before Utah League of Cities and Towns lapdog Stuart Reid manages to sneak this bill to final passage in the Utah House of Representatives... without even so much as one single word of public comment.

We can' overemphasize the importance of your taking immediate action to Kill this Bill!

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