Utah GOP opposes citizens ethics initiative

Utah GOP opposes citizens ethics initiative



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Republican Party is opposing a citizens initiative that calls for an independent ethics commission and a code of conduct for state lawmakers.

The party's governing committee passed a resolution Saturday saying it supports ethics in government but believes the proposed initiative is constitutionally flawed, although it does not say how.

Under Utah's constitution, state lawmakers are responsible for disciplining themselves for ethical violations, although it rarely happens.

The initiative proposed by Utahns For Ethical Government calls for an independent commission to make recommendations to the Legislature, which would then be required to publicly vote.

"We've felt all along they're misconstruing it, misinterpreting it and giving out false information about the initiative," said Utahns for Ethical Government spokeswoman Dixie Huefner. "We don't understand why they're so afraid of it."

Republican lawmakers contend the initiative's language would scare away many qualified people from running for office.

Among other things, it bans gifts from lobbyists and limits campaign contributions. Utah is one of six states that doesn't place any limits on campaign contributions.

On Tuesday, former Republican Gov. Olene Walker and other former Republican lawmakers are expected to express their support for the initiative during a news conference at the Capitol.

"I just don't think the party office speaks for all the Republicans in the state," Huefner said.

Dave Hansen, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said the ethics initiative would give the independent ethics commission too much power.

"It gives them a great deal in leeway in making that initial determination in whether or not there's a violation of ethics rules," Hansen said.

To get the initiative on the 2010 ballot, 95,000 signatures must be gathered by April from registered voters in 26 of the state's 29 Senate districts.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Brock Vergakis Writer

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