Wednesday, August 19, 2009

LIVEBLOG: The Legislature is talkin about ethics

I'm at the State Capitol this morning attending a hearing about ethics reform. Congressman Bishop is going to be joining us. I'm going to be updating this as we go, so be prepared for spelling and punctuation errors as we go.

9:04 glad to see these things run even less on time in the summer than they do during the session.

9:10 finally starting. skippping minutes and moving on to Rep Bishop.

9:11 RBishop: I think it's funny that you're looking to Wasington for how to do ethics.

Bishop is part of the pool of legislators that could be drawn to sit on investigative subcommittee.

This type of thing needs to be done with compassion and free of political games.

All complaints from members of congress must have personal knowledge, no innuendo. Can't be within 60 days of election.

This is not a new issue. We were studying this since I was speaker.

lobbyists can't take a representative to a baseball game unless he also gets a campaign donation too.

sen jenkins: is dislosure enough?

rep bishop: I'm not sure. It has some merit.

sen mccoy: why should a lobbyist be paying for your lunch?

rep bishop: when i became a lobbyist, didn't pay for meals because i realized many legislators don't have time for meals.

rep king: should discloure come from the legisaltor or the lobbyist?

rep bishop: I have opinion either way.

sen killpack: when legislators do the process, they are accountable to the voters. when an independent comission is appointed, they are beholden to those who elected them.

rep bishop: congress has a habit of "we want a solution, but we don't want to deal with it." so they appoint an unelected comission. do you devolve your athority onto some other group, or do you take it upon yourself?

rep dougall: please tlk more about travel rules.

rep bishop: all travel must be approved, whether it's funded by government or outside entity. More and more people are using the ethics panel to get advice.

rep cosgrove: asking about campaign donation caps. does it put a halt on free speech?

rb: if you move into regulating donations, don't move into saying that some money is good and some is bad. our system in washington is a great incumbent protection system. (i'll have to pull the audio to get full comment).

9:40 moving on to other business.

Utah State Bar Ethics Commission Process

Art Berger, Former Chair, Utah Supreme Court Ethics and Discipline Committee

AB: 34 people on office of professional conduct (ethics committee), 8 are non-lawyers. Complaints that come in and are reviewed before procecuted, and there is an appeals process if denied. Committee has diversity of location, type of lawyer/law firm. both parties can be represented if they desire. rules of evidence do not apply like in a court hearing. office of prof conduct also works to educte lawyers on ethics, including running a hotline and continuing education. all lawyers are required to take ethics class each year.

rep dougall: it's a private process, correct?

ab: it is, until it is clear that disciplinary process.

rep dougall: is it appropriate for attorneys to sit on the panel?

ab: usually, people who come before panel think attorneys will protect their own. Attorneys who come before the panel feel that the panel is out to get them. the members of the public that are there help bring some independance to the committee.

rep dougall: how is opening on the panel filled

ab: publicity to get applications, then ut supreme court gets involved. all members are volunteer. 3 year terms, no more than two consecutive terms. they can serve again after break of one year.

rep cosgrove: open vs closed.

ab: being an attorney isn't a public ffice. being in the legislature is. having an open process can help protect against inapproriate charges against legislators, people people will see what's actually going on in the hearing.

next agenda item:

Constitutionality of Independent Ethics Commissions - Recent Nevada Supreme Court Decision -- John L. Fellows, General Counsel

nevada supreme court held that legislature can't appoint an independent ethics comission over legislators. utah constitution has similar restrictions that nevada used. nevada was executive branch comission, a legislative branch comission could be ok.

next item:

Discussion of Utah Legislative Ethics Committee Membership, Jurisdiction, and Powers
-- John L. Fellows

sen mccoy: every citizen is required to obey every law, including those they don't know about. shouldn't the same apply to a member of the legislator.

sen killpack: we have seen the problems that come from the citizen initiative process. we need to act in a proper manner so that others won't.


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