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UTA spending inspires lobby regulation bill


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah legislature is poised to consider a proposal that would limit the lobbyists who work on behalf of government agencies.

HB 383 would prohibit contract lobbyists from working for taxpayer-funded agencies. The idea, according to Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, is to equalize access to lawmakers.

"Is there a disadvantage to the smaller cities and municipalities versus the bigger ones that have hundreds of thousands of dollars the throw out?" he said.

Ray is the sponsor of the bill and said it's in response to a June 2012 KSL 5/Deseret News investigation on contract lobbyists.

The report found the Utah Transit Authority spent more than $3.5 million over the last 5 years on lobbyists at the federal, state and local level. UTA's response at the time was that the investment paid off in the form of rapidly expanding and state of the art transportation.

"Since 2006, more than a billion dollars of federal money has been brought to Utah through our efforts in Washington," UTA Spokesman Gerry Carpenter said at the time of the report.


Is there a disadvantage to the smaller cities and municipalities versus the bigger ones that have hundreds of thousands of dollars the throw out?

–Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield


However, Ray said he is one of many people who are stunned by the amount of money spent exposed in the report.

"The numbers is what was astounding me, the amount of money that's being paid for lobbyists," he said.

The bill was unveiled Thursday and is already getting a cool reception. Similar bills have been proposed in the past but haven't passed because UTA's expansion is seen as a unique situation, not one that's a problem for most cities and countries.

"It's been up here before, and it hasn't succeeded," said Brent Gardner, executive director of the Utah Association of Counties. "I don't know if it has more motivation behind it this time, I don't sense anything personally."

Even though many people feel lobbying money is a mixed blessing, the bill is seen as a longshot this session.

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Richard Piatt

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