January 18, 2011 •

Utah Representative Grover Wants County Political Parties to Report

New Bill To Be Introduced

Representative Keith Grover has prepared HB 32 for introduction, which would amend the current statutory campaign contribution and financial reporting requirements. The bill requires new disclosure reports to be filed, including both annual and interim reports, from county political parties spending at least $50 or receiving at least $750.

Included in the reports would be specific donor and expenditure detail. The bill also includes penalties, fines, and scheduling dates for filing.

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November 4, 2010 •

Utah Voters Approve New Legislative Ethics Commission

Amendment takes effect in 2011

On November 2nd, voters approved Constitutional Amendment D by a vote of 67 percent for to 33 percent against. Amendment D establishes a five-member legislative ethics commission with the authority to conduct an independent review of complaints alleging unethical legislative behavior.

The ultimate decision whether to punish or expel a member of either the House or Senate would remain with the member’s chamber. The amendment also prohibits sitting members of the legislature or registered lobbyists from serving on the new commission.

Amendment D takes effect on January 1, 2011.

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November 3, 2010 •

Utah Lt. Governor Revises Campaign Finance Disclosure Guidance for Parties

A media review of major Utah county political parties recently revealed 71 percent had failed to file the financial disclosure statements supposedly required of them by August 31.

Lt. Governor Greg BellNow, Lt. Governor Greg Bell has informed the county parties they are not required to file. Going forward, only registered political parties will be required to file financial disclosure statements. Under state law, county parties are not required to register with the state. This new guidance runs contrary to previous statements which said all state and county parties were required to file disclosure statements.

The Salt Lake County Democratic Party has indicated it disagrees with the decision by the Lt. Governor’s office and plans to pursue the matter further. At this time, though, its legal options are unclear as the Utah Supreme Court has so far refused to hear their case. For its part, the Lt. Governor’s office plans to ask the legislature this coming January for a change in state law reflecting the new disclosure decision.

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October 11, 2010 •

Utah: Salt Lake County Democrats seek campaign finance disclosure enforcement

The Salt Lake County Democratic Party has filed a petition with the Utah Supreme Court asking it to intervene in the enforcement of state campaign finance law.

Salt Lake CityThe plaintiffs allege the lieutenant governor’s office, which is charged by law to enforce the state’s campaign finance regulations, has taken no enforcement action against the 41 of 58 major county political parties which failed to submit their campaign finance disclosure statements by the recent August 31st deadline. The plaintiffs then turned to the Utah Attorney General asking for enforcement of the disclosure requirements.

The Attorney General’s office did not respond to the plaintiff’s enforcement request but later explained through a spokesman state law authorizes the lieutenant governor to act in matters touching upon campaign finance. For its part, the lieutenant governor’s office advises political parties to submit their financial disclosure statements even though state law does not specifically require them to do so.

According to Mark Thomas, elections director for the lieutenant governor, state law remains ambiguous on the question of the reporting responsibilities of county political parties; a question which will persist until state lawmakers clarify the law. “We would all like to get it better clarified,” Thomas said.

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July 20, 2010 •

New Utah Ethics Commission Meets

The five members of the state’s new independent legislative ethics commission met for the first time on Monday, July 19, 2010.

The commission is open for business even though, at this time, the commission has no staff, no Web site, no e-mail address, and only received a temporary mailing address in the Lt. Governor’s office on Monday evening. For the time being, complaints may be sent to Lt. Governor Bell’s office in confidence to P.O. Box 142525, Salt Lake City, UT 84114. Complaints may also be delivered in person to Bell’s office in Suite 220 at the State Capitol.

The Utah Legislature created the commission this year as part of an effort to reform legislative ethics. Utah voters will be able to vote in November on whether or not to make the new commission a permanent part of the state constitution.

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July 2, 2010 •

Members Named to Utah Legislative Ethics Panel

On July 1, 2010, three retired judges and two former lawmakers were named to the state legislature’s new independent ethics commission.

The new five-member commission, which will handle ethics complaints against lawmakers, was created in response to a grassroots citizens’ initiative for legislative ethics. The panel includes a retired member of the Utah Supreme Court as well as a former lieutenant governor. The commission’s first organizational meeting has yet to be scheduled but it will be open to the public. Utah voters will have the opportunity to decide whether or not to make the new panel a permanent part of the state constitution.

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