(KCPW News) Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell has given the green light for organizers to start gathering signatures to get a legislative ethics initiative on the 2010 ballot. Utahns for Ethical Government Chairman Kim Burningham says the group was surprised by what seemed to be a last minute constitutional review from Bell’s office that threatened to delay the group’s signature gathering.
“We were indeed surprised because we had been led to believe that as soon as we turned in the tapes of all the public hearings, the next automatic, rather automatic, step would be that we would move to the petition printing and we were all prepared to do that,” Burningham says. “Suddenly, we discovered that there were questions about it and the permission might not be granted.”
Burningham says Bell’s concerns with the initiative were satisfied after meeting with UEG members Monday evening. But he says the delay meant the group had one less day to gather signatures.
Paul Neuenschwander, Lt. Governor Bell’s chief of staff, says the meeting didn’t happen sooner because Bell was just confirmed last month, and because his office mistakenly believed the group wasn’t ready to start gathering signatures yet.
“And it just basically escalated to the point where they sent out a press release saying that he was not doing it. And he was doing it in, I thought, very good time,” Neuenschwander says. “Because statutorily he’s responsible to make sure that it isn’t patently unconstitutional.”
Utahns for Ethical Government must gather about 95,000 signatures before April 15th to get the initiative on the November 2010 ballot. It would create an independent legislative ethics commission and enact campaign finance limits.