Ethics bills advancing in final days of legislative session

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah lawmakers are poised to pass a group of four ethics reform bills. Some say it's the most serious reform in years.

The 2009 Legislature adjourns Wednesday, and ethics reform haven't been as high-profile as anticipated. Still, it's a serious issue that a lot of people care about and is moving forward.

Among the bills that have passed or are poised to pass, a bill that would prohibit the personal use of campaign funds once a lawmaker leaves office. Also, lawmakers have approved a bill that requires disclosure of gifts over $10 and meals of more than $25.

The so-called "revolving door" bill to prevent ex-Legislators from becoming lobbyists right away is also advancing, as is a bill that would require candidates to report campaign contributions within five days.

The measures are widely seen as a move forward and come after last summer's flurry of ethics questions at the Capitol.

"These bills represent a lot of progress and represent concerns, in and out of the Legislature, that address things that have happened in the past and trying to forestall future events," said Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said, "I really like the idea of saying, ‘You know what? You shouldn't use your campaign funds for personal use. You should use it for the purpose it was given to you.'"

There are still some who don't believe these bills go far enough. For example, several lawmakers have pushed to ban gifts completely over the last few years; others don't think a complete ban is realistic since the exchange of trinkets is very common on the Hill.

Ethics is a big deal, but this year a lot of issues, including the budget and liquor law reform, have taken the publicity.


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