Republican Sponsors Legislative Reform

Republican Sponsors Legislative Reform

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A legislative package of bills being proposed for the 2006 session is being sponsored by a Republican.

Past reform efforts were sponsored by Democrats and failed.

But this package is by Republican Sen. Greg Bell of Fruit Heights, and he says he has considerable support from the Senate GOP leadership.

One bill would require disclosure of legislative gifts from lobbyists valued at $10 or more. Currently, gifts worth $50 or more are supposed to be disclosed.

The others would increase legislative pay by $45 a day, change the hotel per diem and give the independent Legislative Compensation Commission more authority in overseeing legislative compensation.

All legislators get $79 a day for hotel expenses during the 45-day general session, whether they stay in a hotel or not.

Under Bell's proposal, legislators who actually stay in a hotel would still get the $79 per diem, but the many Wasatch Front legislators who stay in their own homes would no longer get the $79.

Democrats still plan their own legislative reform package.

As in past years, it includes limits on legislators spending their campaign war chests on non-campaign items, including giving themselves cash; turning over to an independent commission the power to redraw legislative district lines every decade; banning most gifts to elected officials; and increasing campaign disclosures.

Rep. Dave Hogue, R-Riverton, plans his own bill aimed at disclosing special-interest spending on legislative and local races that is now hidden or difficult to identify.

Hogue, a moderate Republican who has been targeted the past several elections by members of his party's right, says several special interest groups "have pumped a lot of money into races to defeat me, and it has not been reported as part of (his District 52) election."

In 2004, two influential senators from his own party -- Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper; and Sen. Al Mansell, R-Sandy -- both opposed Hogue's re-election. Stephenson is president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, a group that often speaks for manufacturers, and Mansell is president of the National Realtors Association.

The Utah Manufacturers Association PAC and other business groups gave hundreds of dollars to Hogue's GOP challenger in 2004, George Holling, while the Utah Association of Realtors gave $1,000 to defeat Hogue.

Hogue's complaint is not against those contributions since they are listed on Holling's campaign reports.

Hogue there are other groups running so-called "independent" campaigns for or against legislative or local candidates and the spending is not publicly connected to the targeted races.

"I'm looking for a way to put in (Utah's legal) code what they spend in a race, so citizens know what is going on," he said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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