Poll: Voters want ethics reform in Utah Legislature


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Upon launching a campaign to put ethics on the ballot through citizen petition, backers argued Utahns want reform on Capitol Hill. A new Dan Jones poll for KSL-TV and the Deseret News suggests they're right.

The poll shows Utahns broadly support a full platter of ethics reform measures that are at the heart of the campaign to put the issues on the ballot next fall.

Of those polled, 85 percent support the creation of a nonpartisan ethics commission to review ethical violations by lawmakers.

Eighty-one percent back a ban on gifts for lawmakers, not including light refreshments. And 80 percent approve of a two-year wait before a lawmaker can become a paid lobbyist.

Seventy-eight percent like the idea of a ban on lawmakers spending campaign funds for non-campaign, personal expenses, and 74 percent say yes to contribution limits to a lawmaker's campaign of $2,500 per individual and $5,000 per political action committee.

Fifty-six percent support a ban on donations to lawmakers from corporations, nonprofits, partnerships and unions; 39 percent oppose that ban.

One GOP lawmaker worries the initiative could have unintended consequences making it harder for average people to serve in the Legislature.

"I would challenge everybody who signs that petition, and everybody who supports it, tell me: Have you read all 20-something pages? Do you feel comfortable with everything in that bill?" asked Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Cache County.

One ethics reform advocate disagrees.

"The whole purpose of this isn't to make it difficult for people to run for office. I don't believe that will happen at all. But it will help keep honest people honest and we think that's a good thing," said David Irvine, with Utahns for Ethical Government.

Kirk Jowers, acting chair of the Governor's Commission on Strengthening Democracy, says just the specter of the measure going to the polls could help determine whether the Legislature tries to be proactive on some of these measures.

"And give the public a little better feeling of: ‘We're comfortable that they've gotten the message and are going to take some steps on some of these issues,'" Jowers said.

If supporters collect the 95,000 signatures necessary, the measure will appear on the ballot next fall. It could be joined by another major reform measure on redrawing political boundaries, which is also the subject of a citizen petition.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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John Daley

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