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Gov. Jon Huntsman is calling for a new focus on democracy and government ethics, this time with a major player in the Utah business world joining the team. He has drafted Jazz owner Larry H. Miller to help him in the goal of bolstering Utah's democracy.
This afternoon, the governor announced the formation of a new, 19-member group called the Governor's Commission on Strengthening Utah's Democracy. Miller, who has been battling health problems, did not attend, but the governor says he'll be a driving force with the group.
Huntsman says he formed the group because he's been troubled by Utah's relatively low voter turnout and because Utah seems to lag behind many states regarding various ethics rules. "When we don't have the turnout that a state as young and as energetic and as public spirited as ours ought to have, there's something wrong," he said.
"We have 50 other states and the District of Columbia that have been making reforms, and the federal government. And we can see what has worked what has not worked, what can be applicable to our state," said Kirk Jowers, vice chair of the new commission.
Commission member Randy Dryer said, "We've seen a resurgence in other states, and nationally, in terms of politics. Hopefully we can inculcate that same excitement here in Utah."
The governor says the formation of the panel is not meant to prod state lawmakers on the ethics issue. Still, this comes in the wake of a series of ethics scandals that plagued Capitol Hill last year.
More than two dozen new ethics bills are already in the works for the next session. According to a new Dan Jones poll for KSL-TV and the Deseret Morning News, the public appetite for reform
We asked more than 400 Utahns if they think some kinds of ethics reforms should be passed this session: 74 percent say yes; just 11 percent say no.
When asked about a ban on gifts to lawmakers, 87 percent support that, and 12 percent oppose. Meanwhile, 83 percent support placing limits on campaign contributions, with 15 percent opposing that idea.
In a nutshell, the poll suggests broad support for ethics reform.