There is a body in this state that affects a large part student life, a body that determines everything from how students are taxed to what buildings will be built on campuses statewide, and even confirms members of the Board of Regents, who decide on tuition rates and university presidents.
Unfortunately, the Utah State Legislature has long been riddled with complaints of ethical violations on the part of its legislators; too frequent to detail here. Even more unfortunately the responsibility for disciplining legislative members falls to the legislature itself, which has failed miserably over the past several years to act.
It is time for citizen action, action that is supported by the Constitution giving the voters the right to act where the legislature has failed.
A group called Utahans for Ethical Government has launched a grass-roots campaign for a new ballot initiative. The ballot measure would establish a non-partisan citizen ethics commission and a strict code of conduct to govern the ethical behavior of Utah legislators.
The five-member commission would be composed of names drawn at random from a list of 20 independent-minded citizens who are chosen by unanimous agreement of the president of the Senate, Speaker of the House, and the two minority leaders of the Utah Legislature.
The non-salaried commission would rule on issues of ethics violations and make recommendations to the legislature for disciplinary action based on a code of conduct that that would among others provisions prohibit:
· Gifts from lobbyists and corporations to legislators
· Campaign donations being spent for personal use
· Shifting donations to other campaigns for favors
· Paid lobbyists from serving as legislators
· Using their position to obtain confidential information or otherwise intimidate the courts or the executive branch
The measure would further limit individual contributions – placing caps on donations and imposing a two-year waiting period before a former legislator could act as a paid lobbyist.
While the initiative is opposed by many sitting legislators who want to protect their perks, it is supported by two score former legislators, former Governor Olene Walker, the Utah Citizen’s Counsel and endorsed by the state’s major news organizations.
Utah lags behind the nation when it comes to ethics legislation. Current measures before the Senate and House show that the legislature is not listening to citizens. Instead they are proposing a watered down half-loaf of what needs to be done.
Students at UVU have a vital place in good government and a power base unequaled in this state. As residents of Utah this is your time to shine. Your help is needed as the effort moves forward to gather the 95,000 signatures needed to place the initiative on the 2010 ballot.
We urge all registered Utah voters to sign one of our petitions and support the greater cause.
This article was written by Benjamin Hunter is the UVU Campus Organizer with Utahans for Ethical Government. He is a senior studying psychology and business management.