(KCPW News) The Utah House of Representatives seems ready to pass a package of five ethics bills, but Republicans in the Senate are still hung up on some of them, including the centerpiece legislation to create an independent ethics commission. But Senate President Michael Waddoups reiterated his commitment Wednesday that the Senate will address ethics this year.
“The Legislature who represents the people recognize it’s a concern in the public and they are working full-speed ahead to get an amendment that the public can judge and vote on,” he said. “And we’re also putting together a structure on how we’re meeting what we hear is a public request for more involvement on ethics by the public.”
Two bills have been proposed regarding an independent legislative ethics commission. The first is a resolution that creates a commission modeled after a judicial review panel. The second is a constitutional amendment that would clear up concerns that such a commission might not be constitutional.
Under the resolution, SJR 3, a complaint made against a lawmaker would not be disclosed unless four of the five commission members agree to forward the complaint to the Senate or House Ethics Committee, which would then investigate it further in public. Senator John Valentine says this makes more sense than the current model, which requires all ethics committee meetings to be closed.
“What we’re doing wrong right now is we’re investigating in public and then having closed-doors hearings. That’s exactly what we did in the Representative Hughes situation,” says Valentine. “We investigated it in the open and then closed the hearings so that the media and the public couldn’t even hear what the hearings were about. That’s backwards.”
Speaker of the House of Representatives David Clark will sponsor the constitutional amendment regarding the ethics commission. It is the only one of the five ethics bills that currently has the support of the Senate Majority caucus.