After months of negotiations with the federal Office of Special Counsel regarding federal funds, that represent less than 1% of the annual Ogden Police Department budget, and trying to find a compliance program, previously decided in recent case law, acceptable to the needs of the office of Special Counsel, and being able to find nothing -- I have been advised by my legal counsel to withdraw my Declaration of Candidacy for the Senate District #18 of the State of Utah for the year 2010. Today, March 31, 2010, I did such at the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s office.
Our founding fathers would probably roll over in their graves at the notion that a part time state or local citizen legislator would be denied his or her 1st amendment rights and all voters would be denied their rights by a 70 year old act of Congress that was originally passed to curb the currying of partisan political favor for federal employees.
This act today, the Hatch Act, not only has the potential for significantly lesser civil penalties for federal employees than state and local workers it doesn’t even require an act of political currying. It only requires that there may exist a potential of partisan political currying for any federal grant or loan anywhere in an organization that accepts federal money, of any amount, as determined by the Office of Special Counsel.
I apologize to the citizens of Ogden City, Utah and to the elected leadership of Ogden City for the embarrassing course this locally, legally misunderstood process has taken over the last four years.
What ethics policy changes did the legislature enact in 2010?
Here's a quick summary:
H.J.R. 15, Joint Resolution on Legislative Ethics Commission- establishes in the Utah Constitution a legislative ethics commission. The legislative ethics commission will have authority to conduct an independent review of complaints against legislators alleging unethical legislative behavior. The purpose of the review is to determine whether the complaint merits further consideration by the house of the member against whom the complaint is made. The commission will make recommendations to the Legislature about how to handle complaints alleging unethical behavior.
As the founders intended, the House and Senate will continue to be accountable for determining whether one of their members has engaged in unethical behavior and, if so, the appropriate sanction.
Under this resolution, the ethics commission will consist of five members, none of which may be a sitting legislator or registered lobbyist.
A complaint may be filed for breach of the Legislative Code of Conduct or a conviction or plea of guilty/no contest to a crime of moral turpitude. The complaint must be filed by two registered voters, one of whom must have first-hand knowledge of the allegation. It can also be filed by two Senators or Representatives with affidavits/evidence attached for each allegation. A list of requested witnesses is attached to the complaint.
A technical review of the complaint by the chairs of the Independent Legislative Ethics Commission would follow. The complaint cannot be filed within 60 days of the respondent standing for election, and cannot re-file a previously heard allegation unless there is new evidence. The respondent will have the chance to file a response.
If the complaint meets the technical filing requirements, the review by the Independent Legislative Ethics Commission would go as follows:
Hearing is closed to the public
Commission must give public notice that they are meeting to review an ethics complaint
Complaint is private (if the complaint or its information is released, the complaint is dismissed, but can be refiled)
Hearing structure is similar to a trial (testimony of witnesses/cross-examination, etc.)
Each allegation that is proved (4 out of 5 vote that the allegation is supported by a preponderance of the evidence) is forwarded to the House or Senate Legislative Ethics Committee for their action. The commission would publicly release a report that included complaint and response on the proved allegations, plus findings which include votes and comments on the proved allegations.
The review by the House or Senate Ethics Committee would go as follows:
Hearing is conducted in public
Hearing structure is similar to the commission’s review
Committee deliberates in private after hearing evidence and testimony
Committee releases findings on all allegations reviewed (the vote on each allegation and comments as well as recommendations to the House or Senate for disciplinary action on proved allegations.
Each allegation that is proved (proof means a majority of the committee votes that the allegation is supported by a standard of clear and convincing evidence) is forwarded to the entire House or Senate. At this point, the House or Senate can vote to Discipline/Censure a legislator (which requires a majority vote) or Expel them from the body (which requires a 2/3 vote).
Senate Joint Resolution 19 - Joint Rules Resolution on Ethics Complaints clarifies SJR 3. To remove possible criticism about the process, this bill requires any new ethics complaints to go directly to the Independent Legislative Ethics Commission rather than going through the Senate or House legislative ethics committees first. In my previous bill, the legislative ethics committee chairs served as the gatekeepers during the filing period. However, I believe we want to make the commission truly independent by giving them the primary authority to investigate ethics complaints against members of the legislature.
Along with the change in the initial filing, this resolution also provides that the chair of the commission will provide notice of a filing of an ethics complaint – confidential, no names or details until publicly disclosed by the commission – to the Speaker of the House or the Senate President as well as the chair and vice-chair of the legislative ethics committee.
As we've learned, there's a dark side of campaign politics - particularly from some who don't feel they can win at the ballot box. The next two bills are associated with SJR3, to help assure frivolous, deceitful or politically opportunistic complaints will not damage the reputations of the innocent. Sorry, ________ (you know who you are) we know that takes some of the fun out of your campaign work.
S.B. 138 - Grama Revisions Related to Review of Ethics Complaints - This legislation further depoliticizes the review of ethics complaints by allowing records related to review of specific ethics complaints to be classified as private, but allows any other document to be classified as public by legislative rule. It's worth noting that these documents were already private -- this revision opens it up somewhat.
H.B. 267- Lobbyist Disclosure and Regulation Act Amendments– This bill requires the disclosure of an expenditure greater than $10. A lobbyist, principal or government officer (not a legislator) is prohibited from making an expenditure on behalf of a legislator greater than $10 except for food, a beverage, travel, lodging, or attendance at a meeting or activity (which must be disclosed). This bill also adds definition to many terms, providing clarity.
Candidates for the Legislature, state constitutional offices, and the State Board of Education are required to file the same financial disclosure form at the time they file a declaration of candidacy. Here is an example of the form. With this legislation, the information must be available to the public via the internet.
H.B. 124 - Campaign Funds Expenditure Restrictions- This bill prohibits a candidate or officeholder from spending campaign funds on personal items (that primarily furthers a personal interest of a candidate or officeholder and is NOT connected with the candidacy or office) from campaign contributions. It also provides a list of authorized and prohibited uses of campaign contributions.
This bill authorizes the Lieutenant Governor to enforce this prohibition with a fine equaling 50% of the expenditure and forcing the return of 100% of the expenditure to the candidate’s campaign account.
H.B. 329 – Campaign Finance Amendments – This bill adds to the filing requirements for a candidate during a campaign. It also requires a person sponsoring certain electioneering communications (third party campaigning either supporting or opposing) to file a report. A corporation must disclose a contract with the state in excess of $100,000. This bill also prohibits someone from making a campaign contribution in another person’s name. If one does not file a timely financial statement, removal from the ballot and a fine would be imposed by the Lieutenant Governor’s office.
Senator Hillyard: Getting in shape for the garden season
By Lyle Hillyard Utah State Senator
It was great to spend most of Saturday in my garden and yard but oh how it hurts afterward! I try to get little projects done in the evening when I have some time but a full 8 hours working when I finally get a chance can really cause some pain. I hope that I can over come that with a few more such Saturdays. I need to remember how good it feels when I am done and look back at what has been accomplished. Does anyone have a good recommendation for a good heat rub?
Legislation passed in memory of the 10th Amendment
Holly on the Hill calls it the States' Rights Session of 2010. We disagree - the eventual story of the 2010 session has to include balancing a shrinking budget in a humane smart way, ethics policy reform and a host of other substantive issues.
Senator Bramble's comments in the UVU debate last week:
This year, 10 bills dealing with ethics were passed by the legislature. Their provisions include an independent commission; prohibitions on campaign spending other than on the campaign; conflict of interest amendments; campaign disclosure requirements; open meetings requirements; and no gifts with value greater than $10.
All these things combined represent strong improvements, he said. By contrast, the UEG initiative is “frightening.”
“They give themselves the power of law. They give themselves the power of appropriation. They give themselves the power of subpoena, and to deem someone guilty of a felony,” Bramble said. “And all of that with no judicial review of any of their actions, period. This would be a miscarriage of justice.”
It's time for Utahns for Ethical Government to withdraw its referendum on legislative ethics reform.
The group's flawed effort had the beneficial effect of pushing the Legislature to pass its own reforms, and the Legislature's plan turned out better.
To be sure, the UEG group is making hay of the scandals bookending the just-ended session: former House majority leader Kevin Garn's hot-tubbing with a teen, as well as Senate leader Sheldon Killpack's DUI arrest before the 2010 session.
Such spin underlines the reality that UEG is a political group, regardless of its rhetoric. These scandals should not distract Utahns from the fact that Garn's past has nothing to do with legislative ethics, and Killpack's misdeed -- a DUI -- is only marginally related.
It's true that the Legislature's ethics review and discipline process needed to be strengthened. The question, however, is how best to address the matter.
UEG made its pitch, but in a politically charged and ill-considered ballot initiative. Since last year it has been doing everything it can to qualify that initiative. Its proposed rules, however, are badly crafted, potentially casting a wide net of suspicion on citizen-lawmakers, while hobbling their ability to defend themselves. It likely would deter good people from running for office, while distracting legislators from their real concerns.
It sets up its own sponsors as "czars" to inject themselves into the process under certain circumstances. And it attempts to dodge some of the checks and balances of our political and legal systems.
In short, in trying to find an ideal solution for a perfect world, the ballot initiative would create a flawed system that would function badly in the real world.
The Legislature has now passed its own package of ethics reform. It is a strong one that meets all reasonable criteria for setting and enforcing ethical standards. The Legislature's plan restricts personal use of campaign funds, reforms the campaign funding process, and tightens conflict-of-interest disclosure.
It also would create an independent ethics panel -- with retired judges in the majority -- selected in a fair and balanced process that includes both major political parties. It includes provisions for alerting the public that an ethics probe is under way without slaughtering reputations prematurely.
Legislators should be held to high standards, but so should ethics complaints. This was achieved in the Legislature's reforms. Lawmakers have managed to take politics largely out of the process, which is quite an accomplishment -- and one that is not shared with the politically charged UEG initiative. The poorly conceived UEG initiative would allow virtually anyone to lob a flurry of charges, valid or not, at a politician in the hope something sticks. That's wrong. Worse, the UEG proposal makes the process exempt from judicial review. That's frightening.
While the Legislature's plan seems too cautious to some critics, we believe its measured approach is best. Rash, sweeping legislation like the UEG initiative often ushers in a host of unforeseen complications.
There is a strong case for the principle that when it comes to lawmaking, the legislative process has many advantages over citizen initiatives. It's a little known secret, closely guarded by UEG, that citizen initiatives are at least as vulnerable to the machinations of special interests as legislative measures -- and maybe more so. Just look at California, where various groups have rammed through a great many "citizen" initiatives. The Golden State is virtually dysfunctional today, partly as a result of citizen mandates.
So, be careful what you wish for.
At least the Utah Legislature's efforts are the product of men and women who have been elected to represent the voters -- and they'll have to face voters again soon. That is the most certain check on ethical transgressions or runaway power available in our republic.
The Utah Legislature, for all its follies, has made a strong move on ethics reforms. The process it created is strong, neutral, respectful and transparent. It should be given a chance.
If UEG manages to get its petition on the ballot, voters would see it alongside the Legislature's request for an independent ethics commission under the state Constitution. Such a ballot collision would only muddy the issue. It raises the specter of both measures passing and bringing on a legal nightmare that might thwart reforms. Here's our suggestion: As an American politician once suggested about the Vietnam War, it is time for UEG to declare victory and get out. The group could plausibly claim that it pushed the Legislature to clean up its act. Reformers could take satisfaction in their efforts, congratulate lawmakers on finally seeing the light, proclaim that their work is done and ride off into the sunset.
By Lyle Hillyard Utah State Senator Representing Cache & Rich Counties
As we were driving home Friday morning from Salt Lake after the legislative session ended, we stopped at my daughter’s home in Centerville. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had already planted some of their garden, and especially the growth of the spinach that they had planted late last fall.
Now that the session is over, I feel like spring is in the air so I stopped to look at my garden. I was pleased to see that most of the snow was gone so I will be able to cane the raspberries as we prepare for a new growing year. My raspberries come on about Labor Day and when caned, I must cut all of the branches off at ground level. When I am done, you can’t tell anything is even growing there. The other raspberries we have grown come on in mid summer and the caning there is quite different. You must only cut off the dead wood which is the stalks which have born fruit the past growing season and trim off some of the longer stems. By mid summer, my raspberry stalks will be 3 to 4 feet high and you would think that they had been a patch like that for years.
The carrots we buried in leaves last fall have now are all dug up and are as sweet as I remember them from past years. We are going to try parsnips. I remember them from my youth as also good buried for the winter. My wife has found lots of uses for parsnips this past year.
The other immediate job is to prune the apple trees. We had another good crop last year which leads me to wonder if this may be a resting year where not so many fruit develop. It won’t be long before I can plant some potatoes. The earlier the better for me because I love to dig and eat new potatoes. I feel we are blessed with good land and the freedom to use it well.
"Best evidence that courage still exists in politics: Sen. Dan Liljenquist, who incurred the wrath of thousands by almost single-handedly reforming the public employee retirement system to avert a looming disaster.
"Best performance as Renaissance Man: Sen. Steve Urquhart sponsored legislation to prevent nasty abuse on the Internet and to broaden sex education in public schools. In other words, he is dragging us into the 21st century.
"Best performance without a title: Although no longer a member of legislative leadership, Sen. Curt Bramble remains Senate workhorse, personally guiding 61 pieces of legislation and playing significant roles in crafting most legislative compromises.
"Greatest surprise performance: Some politicos wondered if Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins could fill the shoes of his predecessor. He did it with dignity and style.
"Conscience of the Senate award: Sen. John Valentine distinguished himself in crafting and passing needed ethics legislation that is a legitimate alternative to the ethics initiatives.
"Best performance by newcomers: Although sworn in on the eve of the legislative session, Sens. Ben McAdams and Jerry Stevenson deftly utilized their local government experience and impressed all with their bipartisan approach. Sen. Stuart Adams, a legislative returnee, was also effective."
Everyone knew as the past legislative session began that the budget would be the tough challenge. I did not think as late as Monday, March 1st, that we would make it because the Governor and the Legislature were so far apart. Many people wonder how we can do this in just 45 days and the simple answer is that we have to.
This session was especially difficult because of the continuing cuts that had to be made. Last year, the cuts could be made in committee without really seeing the impact they were having. Those impacts were seen since that session and it made everyone more cautious about what we were doing. At the same time, legislators were seeing what was happening to the private sector. There was no mood to raise the taxes to the level many people dependent on government funding were requesting. It is a very stressful process both mentally and emotionally to try to ensure the proper balance.
I want to complement the Governor, his staff and the agencies for their willingness to step up and help with the process. I have seen many times when there is no cooperation and the changes the legislature was trying to make were done without the local expertise agencies could have offered.
Second, I can’t say enough good about our staff members who in my mind are the unsung heroes. I know how much time Rep. Bigelow and I spent reviewing budgets and programs to see how to best allocate the money we had but staff was there before we arrived and stayed until after we left. Jonathon Ball, Steve Allred and all of those men and women who serve in the Fiscal Analyst office did a yeoman’s job. I cannot remember a time that a question was asked that they either had an immediate answer or would get us one in minutes.
Third, we tried to involve all legislators in their role as members of appropriations subcommittees and we relied greatly on their recommendations. From the feedback I received, I believe that even the members of the minority party felt a part of the process and their input was given careful attention.
I for one am tired of cutting budgets and hope next year that more people are working and comfortably spending most of their earnings so that we can concentrate on building the programs that are really needed and talk about a tax cut again.
As the 2010 Legislative session comes to a close I wanted to share with you some of the sound bytes from the session that stood out to me. In the final Hesterman Report you'll hear about the budget, State's Rights, and Ethics. Listen here. (MP3)
Today's media briefing included President Waddoups and Senator Jenkins recapping some of the accomplishments of the Senate during this session. Also, Senator Stephenson spoke on SB 2. Watch the full briefing here. Listen to it here. (MP3)
It is important that we bring the escalating confrontations between property owners and recreationists to a close. SB 141 affirms the right for a person to float or fish, while floating in public waters over private property. It also is designed to confirm the constitutional protection for private property owners.
Recreationists should know that they can still gain access to areas of rivers on private property through a program run by the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) called the “Walk-in Access” program.
This is how the Walk-in Access program works: The DWR can lease a tract of private land for hunting, trapping and/or fishing privileges for the use of public recreation. Those who travel on foot, hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers can enter and use the land without obtaining special permission or paying a separate fee. This partnership between the state and private landowners helps maintain important wildlife habitat on private lands and improves public access for wildlife-related recreation on private property.
Fishers should also know that there is still access available on streams that flow through private lands without walk-in access. Where access has historically existed, anglers will be able to walk within three feet of the water on either bank, and are also able to port around obstacles.
This bill is not meant to create dissonance between recreationists and private land owners. This bill is about ensuring that private property owners are receiving the constitutional protection for private properties. Thus making certain private property is not taken or damaged for public use without just compensation. Anglers are still welcome to enjoy the rivers and streams in the state of Utah but are expected to respect the rights that belong to those that own the property on which they use.
To further help open private areas we have passed SB 281 – Public access to Stream Beds, Utah Waterways Task force. This task force will be made up of 12 legislators that will study, during the 2010 interim session, areas of the state which have conflicts between fishermen and landowners. The task force will hold public hearings to allow the landowners and fishermen testify about the conflicts in these areas. This process will help the legislature better understand how the problem may be solved. The task force will also address funding issues in regards to expanding the DWR Walk-in Access program, funding to permanently purchase access rights from landowners, and establishment of cooperative fishing management units (CFMU’S).
Public Hearings for areas being studied will be announced on the Senate Site as they are scheduled. Please be involved.
As the final member of The Circle, Secretary of the Senate Annette Moore was pretty tough to track down for an interview. With illness, session duties and my being stationed in Exile, I count it close to a miracle that we were able to meet up.
Having a long history with the Utah State, Annette is a key player and source of stability. She supervises session staff, certifies the transfer of bills from Senate to the House of Representatives and enforces Parliamentary Procedure (having read and learned the 100 page manual). With this being her 19th Session, she said she is always learning new things about the Legislative process.
"In 19 years I have not missed one day of Session...if you’re sick you just come to work," she said. "But, there’s been a virus going around and I was one of the unfortunate ones and I was just really impressed by the way the staff...just stepped up. I was impressed by the team effort."
To hear more about Annette’s Senate Highlights or her favorite “funny moment” during her 19-years of working for the Legislature, listen to her interview above.
Day 45. The final day of session. The Senate will work on House Bills. The House will work on Senate Bills. We'll concur (or not) with House amendments to Senate Bills. The House will concur (or not) with Senate amendments to House Bills.
Watch for conference committees throughout the day. (A conference committee is the small negotiating team that will resolve differences between House and Senate versions of a bill.) In a bygone era you could find them by listening for the shouting. These last few years - not so much.
Leadership of both bodies will trade priority lists. Senate Leadership will prioritize senate bills for the House to consider. House Leadership will prioritize house bills for the Senate to consider.
Bills are debated and acted on faster than normal. You’ll see hopes rise and fall as the clock hurtles toward midnight.
We might end early this year. We'll see. The state constitution indicates the last possible moment we can vote a bill up or down is the stroke of midnight.
2. On the far right side, you’ll see the “Quick Links” section. Listed under this section is "Floor Debates." Click on the Senate tab.
3. On this page, fill in the desired Legislative Session year and date.
4. Once you have chosen a specific day, all floor action of that day should show up with options to view each action (or bill debate) either visually or with audio.
Bill Search and Bill Status Page
1. On the right upper corner of the Legislative site, you’ll find the “Quick Bill Search” section. Type in your bill number, name of the sponsor or the subject of the bill into the search box. Easy as pie.
2. Click on your bill.
3. Now you're at the Bill's info page. You'll be able to . . .
Upload and read the actual bill in PDF or HTML format.
Track bill status to see where the bill has been or where it is headed and track the tallied votes it has received.
Listen to debates on the bill, either while it was in committee or on the Senate floor.
On the left side of the Legislative site, mouse over Bills and check out the options.
The Reading Calendar
"What bill are they on now?" Also easy as pie to find out. Go to the Reading Calendar. Put a check in the House or Senate "Display Board" box. Now you know. You can see the vote count here too.
On the left side you can also check boxes to view a live video feed, list of bills to be discussed next and indications as to which bills are circled, and links to the text of all the bills on the calendars.
The Circle (which actually isn't a circle at all but a elongated semi-circle) refers to those sitting in front of the Senate dais right below the Senate President. The three individuals who make up The Circle are known (amongst the Senate staff) as holding the most prestigious clerical positions. It consists of the Secretary of the Senate, Reading Mending Clerk and the Docket Clerk.
Because of illness, availability and the diversity of each of their positions, I’ve decided to interview the two clerks and the Secretary of the Senate separately. Leslie McLean (Reading Mending Clerk) and Paula Tew (Docket Clerk) amend bills, receive communications from the House, manage Senate services, aid the Third House and bring a comedic side to the Senate floor, to name just a few of their responsibilities.
I personally have to admit that interviewing these ladies had to be one of my highlights of this Session. Listen to their interview and see why.
In today's Media Briefing Senator Jenkins gave the latest updates on the positions of the majority caucus and Senator Stephenson spoke on funding related to education. You can watch the full briefing here. Listen to the full briefing here. (MP3)
Senator Stephenson on SB 250: holding U.S. Senators accountable
By Howard Stephenson Senator, District 11
Article I Section 3 Clause 1 of the Constitution states:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
This process was chosen as a part of the Great Compromise in 1787 to ensure that checks and balances exist within our government: by having the state legislature elect senators to the upper house of the national congress this measure balanced the populist tendencies of the direct election of members to the House of Representatives. As officials are most accountable to those bodies that elect them, the intent was to ensure that focus on legislating for the States as whole and sovereign bodies rather than conducting broad and overreaching national programs that intruded upon the rights of the States.
This long-standing method came to end in 1911 with the passage of the Amendment XVII. It amended the Constitution to allow U.S. Senators to be selected by a direct, general election of the public at large. This turned out to be a far reaching shift in the balance of elected offices in the context of federalism. While the passage of Amend. XVII not only had the effect of putting Senators in a more direct, responsive relationship with the average citizen, it also limited the all too often corrupt influence Senators could exercise over the local races in their home state.
These laudable impacts are, however, outweighed by that which was sacrificed in the process: a vital link of cooperation and mutual responsibility between the Federal Government and State Legislatures. Today, rather than national Senators exercising undue influence over the election of state offices, national Senators appear to be too little interested in the needs of their respective States and their governing bodies. The misuse of the TARP and ARRA funds, lined and laced from one end to the other with pork-barrel projects and private Washington gamesmanship, is only the most recent in a “long train of abuses and usurpations.” Many of these projects are either blatantly unnecessary or simply unwanted by the states that they were so graciously “bestowed” upon—namely without their consent. Direct elections, far from making U.S. Senators more responsive to their constituents, appear to have actually distanced them from their duties.
A full scale repeal of the long entrenched Amendment would be inefficient and a reactionary measure at best. Rather than alter a well-established process of elections, why not reexamine giving the people new guards and securities against the responsibilities of their officials? Senate Bill 250 is designed to restore the efficacy of checks and balances between Utah and her federal officials. This bill will allow political parties to consult with their respective members of the Utah House of Representatives and Senate on the job performance of the Senators in Washington. Parties will then be better informed as to how the Federal Delegation is representing the State and that they pursue Federal policies that work in the best interest for the citizens of Utah. We all know that regular reporting by an outside observer—just as in auditing—keeps an agent honest towards his principal, and that is the principle at work in SB 250.
S.B. 250 will allow a political party to establish bylaws . . .
(1) . . . in order to rate and evaluate their elected legislators both in the state and nationally.
(2) . . . whereby members could rate their state senators and state representatives.
(3) . . . in order to rate and evaluate their national senators generally, as well as specifically regarding their performance and position on the state’s rights.
(4) . . . in order to rate candidates for the United States’ Senate races.
Senator Valentine on SJR 19: slight but significant change to the Ethics Complaint Process
By John L. Valentine Utah State Senator, District 14 Senate Joint Resolution 19 - Joint Rules Resolution on Ethics Complaints clarifies SJR 3. To remove possible criticism about the process, this bill requires any new ethics complaints to go directly to the Independent Legislative Ethics Commission rather than going through the Senate or House legislative ethics committees first. In my previous bill, the legislative ethics committee chairs served as the gatekeepers during the filing period. However, I believe we want to make the commission truly independent by giving them the primary authority to investigate ethics complaints against members of the legislature.
Along with the change in the initial filing, this resolution also provides that the chair of the commission will provide notice of a filing of an ethics complaint – confidential, no names or details until publicly disclosed by the commission – to the Speaker of the House or the Senate President as well as the chair and vice-chair of the legislative ethics committee.
This bill passed the Senate today unanimously and is headed to the House for their consent.
The much-talked aboutHB 150 passed the Senate this morning. We've heard some valid concern about this bill, mixed with a little healthy paranoia and some outright misunderstanding.
Here are some facts:
HB 150 is designed to give law enforcement a technological tool to investigate not only sex offenses against children but also child kidnapping and stalking activity. Criminals have expanded their criminal activities with technology (text messaging, emails, access to internet) and it is important to expand law enforcement's ability likewise to include electronic communication devices such as cell phones as well as being able to trace email addresses.
HB 150 does not violate the Fourth Amendment. The bill does not go after content. It only covers contact information such as name, phone number, email address, bank account identifiers and location of suspected offenders (of the three listed crimes: sex offenses against a child, kidnapping of a child, and stalking). The electronic sources being used are cell phones, smart phones, PDA's and email addresses.
Additional content can only be obtained only through court orders/warrants.
Other states that have similar laws in place: Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Kentucky, Virginia, and Wyoming.
Most of the major providers of electronic services have service contracts advising customers that the providers will cooperate with law enforcement in criminal investigations.
Every federal court that has addressed this topic has ruled that subscriber information to an internet provider is not protected by the Fourth Amendment. The internet provider is a third party and there is no legitimate expectation of privacy in non-content information
Hope that helps. You can watch the Senate's floor debate to this bill here.
If you’ve listened to past “Staff Highlights” interviews this Session, or if you’ve looked at the colorful pictures published on our Picasa Site, you’ve probably guessed that a big highlight to working with the Senate is the amount of food we share with each other. And who better to prepare and distribute these delicious treats than the Senate Hostesses Evoline Gardner and Katherine Gardner (no relation).
“I don’t think people realize how hard everyone works,” Katherine said. “That’s one of the things that has impressed me in the two years that I’ve been here; the wonderful people that are working very hard to bring all of this about in just 45 days.”
Joking that their highlight for Session this year was the amount of chocolate milk they were able to hand out, they both said they have enjoyed getting to know the Senate staff and are impressed by the help everyone offers for each other.
To listen to their highlights and learn more about their position, click on the audio above.
The Senate Passed SB 250. This bill will allow the delegates who select senate candidates for their political party to become better educated as to how U.S. Senators have served their state - from the perspective of the state legislature. Senator Stephenson discusses the bill in this edition of the Hesterman Report. Listen here. (MP3)
SALT LAKE CITY- (March 8, 2010) The Salt Lake Chamber applauds the State Legislature for modernizing Utah's legislative ethics laws to support transparency and high standards of conduct in government. This legislation comes on the heels of last year's efforts, which established a one-year cooling-off period, strengthened the gift ban, placed limitations on the use of campaign funds after leaving public office and required annual ethics training for legislators and lobbyists. Taken together, the Utah Legislature has enacted the most significant ethics reform legislation in our state's history and dramatically improved transparency and accountability in government.
Ethics legislation 2010
We commend the Legislature for its overwhelming bipartisan support of H.J.R. 15, sponsored by House Speaker David Clark, which will establish an independent ethics commission in the State Constitution.
Other ethics bills supported by the Chamber include:
H.B. 267- Lobbyist Disclosure and Regulation Act Amendments (Rep. Garn), which passed both houses without a single nay vote. This bill bans lobbyist expenditures greater than $10 excepting food, beverage and certain other reasonable expenses. This legislation gives citizens further assurance that gifts are not given to legislators as a quid pro quo.
H.B. 270 - Financial Disclosure and Conflict of Interest Amendments (Rep. Hughes), which passed the House unanimously and passed the Senate with only two dissenting votes. This legislation strengthens financial disclosure rules for elected officials and requires conflict of interest disclosure on any and all potential conflicts. This legislation also provides that this information be available to the public via the internet, thereby improving transparency and increasing accountability of elected officials to their constituents.
H.J.R. 14 - Joint Rules Resolution on Financial Disclosures (Rep. Hughes), which passed the House unanimously and passed the Senate with only two dissenting votes. This bill immediately changes legislative rules to incorporate the changes contained in H.B. 270.
H.B. 124 - Campaign Funds Expenditure Restrictions (Rep. Cosgrove), which passed the House and Senate unanimously. This bill prohibits a candidate, judge or an officeholder from using campaign contributions for personal expenditures and provides for enforcement, investigation of complaints and assessment of penalties.
S.B. 136 - Open and Public Meetings Revisions Related to Review of Ethics Complaints (Sen. Valentine), which passed the Senate unanimously and passed the House with one dissenting vote. This legislation depoliticizes the review of ethics complaints by providing a review committee to complete its due diligence prior to publicizing ethics complaints. Providing this fair process protects the integrity of the complaint process.
S.B. 138 - Grama Revisions Related to Review of Ethics Complaints (Sen. Valentine), which passed the Senate unanimously and passed the House with one dissenting vote. This legislation further depoliticizes the review of ethics complaints by allowing only records related to review of specific ethics complaints to be classified as private, but allows any other document to be classified as public by legislative rule.
S.J.R. 3 - Joint Resolution on Ethics Complaint Procedures (Sen. Valentine), which passed unanimously in the Senate and with only two dissenting votes in the House. This legislation creates an independent Legislative Ethics Commission and modifies the rules of the House and Senate in regards to procedure for adjudicating ethics complaints.
These changes enjoy bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.
Initiative on legislative ethics
The Chamber opposes the confusing and over-reaching ethics initiative that is currently circulating throughout the state, but acknowledges its value in making ethics modernization a front and center issue this year. We oppose the petition because it has the potential to restrict businesspersons and community leaders from serving in a citizens' legislature. The Chamber also opposes onerous financial disclosure requirements that violate personal privacy beyond the scope needed for public accountability. We encourage Utah residents to read the initiative, pay special attention to the definitions at the front and refrain from signing the initiative because it limits representation in the Legislature.
The community must be vigilant in demanding the highest standards of ethical conduct in government. We look favorably upon the recommendations agreed to by the Governor's Commission on Strengthening Utah's Democracy and recommend a full vetting of their recommendations over the interim period. We pledge to work with the Legislature to continually improve representative government.
About the Chamber
The Salt Lake Chamber is Utah's largest statewide business association and Utah's Business Leader. With roots that date back to 1887, the Chamber has been standing as the voice of business, supporting its members' success and championing community prosperity for over 100 years. The Chamber represents 6,100 businesses statewide and one in every three jobs in the Utah economy. Chamber strategic partners include the Downtown Alliance and World Trade Center Utah.
Members of the Utah Senate including, President Waddoups, Senator Jenkins, Senator Hillyard, Senator Jones, and Senator Dayton, met with the media prior to afternoon floor time to discuss the latest issues taking place in the Senate. You can watch the full media briefing here. Listen here. (MP3)
SCR 11 is a joint resolution between the Legislature and the Governor’s Office requesting that state and local Utahns have the opportunity to give input before a new national park or monument is created. We know the state and its lands better than those in Washington D.C. and this would allow for us to weigh in and give our opinions on shaping the boundaries.
With about 70% of the State of Utah already owned by the federal government, we consider it a huge impact when any of our federal lands are changed from BLM or US Forest Service to National Park or National Monument. Not only are governing rules changed, but the state is forever banned from multi use to develop industry; effecting potential water development, impacting livestock grazing, and many recreational activities.
This resolution simply states that we should have more input as a state. SCR 11 would also address the Antiquities Act and asks the President of the United States and the United States Congress to refrain from using this act to designate new national monuments of any large land mass. We would amend the Antiquities Act to clarify its actual intent, which is to establish small discrete monuments or memorials as existed in Utah prior to the creation of the 1996 Grand Staircase National Monument.
My hope in structuring this resolution is to have the Resolution signed by the Legislature and the Governor and ready by the time Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visits Utah in April.
Being that they are housed in Exile with myself and the operators, I thought tracking down the Senate Secretaries for a Staff Highlight interview would be easy. Not quite. Little did I know how time consuming the life of a secretary is.
These six individuals help run committee meetings, take minutes, tally votes, make copies of bills, post agendas and hunt down the Senators for their signature on different types of documents. “We post agendas and they have to be on the Capitol Board 24 hours in advance,” Lorna said. “We have to watch the clock and if its getting close to that 24 hour time we have to hustle over.”
Because they travel throughout the offices for various signatures, they all agreed that they wish there was one common area where all of the Senate staff could be situated. “If I was to change anything I would get everybody in one place,” Henry said, joking that he does not like being in Exile.
Listed below are the Senate Secretaries:
Rolayne Day, Secretarial Supervisor Karen C. Allred Karen Allred Ernest Hayes Henry Liu Lorna Wells
Today's Media Briefing included discussion on the Tobacco Tax Amendments being sponsored by Senator Christensen, Senator Hillyard explaining the latest news on the budget, and Senator Jenkins gave a rundown on the Majority's Friday agenda. Watch the briefing here. Listen to it here. (mp3)
The Senate passed legislation this week that will have a major impact on the ethics policies concerning Utah's lawmakers. Ethics Bills sponsors Senator Valentine, Senator Stowell, Senator Mayne, and Senator Niederhauser explained more on their bills. Listen here. (mp3)
We're changing the noon media briefing to 2:00 p.m. Ish.
To better facilitate information flow to the the press, we're going to hold the daily media briefing after caucus instead of before. We'll plan on 2:00 p.m. LST (Legislative Standard Time).
Briefings will be held in the Senate President's office, or you can watch online. Bloggers, reporters, tweeters (the entire FBLT Community*) are welcome.
We'll also be available as news breaks throughout the day. Reporters seeking one-on-one interviews with senators can coordinate with Laura Barlow (801-201-3813), Billy Hesterman (801-633-3663), or Janeen Halverson (801-538-1406).
To be honest, when I first heard the term “Senate Pages,” I thought the reference belonged to some paperwork in the back room. How wrong I was. Not only do Pages help organize all of the Senate Bill’s as they come, they work with the Secretaries to handle Senators signatures, remind Senators when it is their time to speak on the floor and distribute notes and paperwork throughout the Senate offices.
Joking that their official position at the Senate is the “staff gopher,” this group of ten women also organize staff lunches, decorate the office during holidays and bring much needed snacks for grateful individuals (much like myself).
“You see a lighter side (of Senate) and gain a respect for the men and women who are up here,” Deanne Evans said. “They are really good men and women who listen to their constituents and care very much about the constitution.”
Sharing much of these “lighter sides of Senate,” the women laughed as they reencountered their highlights of the Legislative Session (quite entertaining stories that you will not want to miss).
Listed below are this year's Pages:
Gayle Peterson: Pages Supervisor Linda Cornaby: Assistant Supervisor Jewel Doxey Deanne Evans Sue Gaskill Janet Packman Leslie Rice Dianne Richards Mary Russell Shirley Taylor
With the end of the session in sight, the race to pass a budget is on. Senator Liljenquist spoke on the Hesterman Report about the latest on the budget and what his goals for the budget are. Hear the report here. (mp3)
This bill hard caps non-economic damages that may be awarded in a malpractice action at $450,000. Non-economic damages are sometimes referred to as the compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the malpractice. The current cap for non-economic damages ranges from $480,000-$500,000 and above. We also took out the inflationary increases so the total will remain $450,000 throughout the years.
A main purpose of this bill is to stop lawsuits that have no merit. Before a lawsuit is brought forward, a pre-litigation panel decides if the lawsuit has merit. Even if the panel decides the lawsuit has no merit, it can go forward. This bill requires someone to file an affidavit of merit by a healthcare provider in a related field before a non-meritorious action can proceed. If affidavit is fraudulent, the penalty falls on the law firm bringing the lawsuit forward.
People working for the hospital are agents of the hospital. However, there are many employees who are independent agents of the hospital. This bill relieves the liability from the hospital if one of those independent agents is the one who caused the damage.
My hope in running this bill is to stop those non-meritorious claims from being brought forward.
Staff Highlights: System Analyst a.k.a. Computer Geniuses
(click picture for sound)
By Krystle Whitney Intern in Exile
Because of my amazing computer skills (or lack thereof), I have had the privilege of working with Greg Johnson and Richard Block, who are (I’m very confident to say) two men the Senate could not do without.
Working as the Utah Senate technical support team, they move throughout all of the Senate offices to make sure the technical world is at peace, constantly appearing on the Senate floor to help provide better communication with the public. “We’re very motivated to make sure the Senators are happy and that the technology does not get in their way,” Richard said.
Having worked with the Senate for about 12 years, they both joked that they have many funny stories they could tell about the Senate, although nothing that can be recorded. “It’s usually fun,” Greg said. “The Senators and staff are good to work with.”
Today, the Senate honored Cy Young Award Winner, Vernon Law, for the 50th anniversary of his 1960 World Series win with the Pittsburgh Pirates against the heavily favored New York Yankees (players including Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Yogi Berra).
Below, watch him throw out a ceremonial first pitch to Senate President Michael Waddoups.
If you’re among one of many who have found yourself asking for directions outside the Senate Chambers, you’ve probably had the privilege to meet the Men in the Blue Coats, officially known as Security and the Sergeant at Arms.
This group of 12 men are hired to not only provide safety and order but, apparently, for comedic relief as well. Sergeant at Arms Bob Gardner explained that his badge really should be called the “Sergeant of Charms.”
When asked what their official position is, most joked that they are actually just barriers between the Senators and the Lobbyists. “Guard the door, take care of the Senators... keep the lobbyists out,” Jason said.
Listed below are all of the Senate Security. If you get the chance to visit Capitol Hill, make sure you stop by their desks (located in front of the Senate offices) for some taffy and hear stories about what they’ve witnessed over the years at the Senate.