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Public appetite for ethics reform is high

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by John DaleySALT LAKE CITY -- With Utah lawmakers set to start the next legislative session on Jan. 25, a new KSL-TV poll by Dan Jones and Associates finds the public appetite for ethics reform is high.

An initiative that would set up an independent legislative ethics commission and limit contributions to legislative candidates' campaigns draws broad support.

Did you know... Utah is one of only 10 states without an Independent Ethics Commission and one of only five states that do not set limits on campaign contributions.

At Monday's Martin Luther King Day luncheon, the group Utahns for Ethical Government gathered signatures in support of a citizen's petition.

"It's going great," said Vik Arnold of Utahns for Ethical Government. "We rarely run into people that don't want to sign it once they understand what it will do."

The latest Dan Jones poll conducted last week finds strong support for that initiative: 65 percent are in favor; 23 percent oppose it.

One signer who spoke with KSL says he thinks it's important that government set a high ethical bar.

"I think that's why it's a good thing to sign that petition," said Mack Dan Hounsrou of Taylorsville.

Also among the findings:

  • 86percent back mandatory disclosure of lawmakers financial and personal conflicts of interests
  • 80 percent support a ban on gifts to lawmakers from lobbyists
  • 77 percent favor limits on campaign contributions
  • 77 percent support an independent ethics commission
  • 71 percent back a ban on the personal use of campaign money
  • 67 percent favor the initiative that would set up an independent redistricting commission to redraw boundaries for U.S. House and legislative seats. For more poll results click here.

Many GOP lawmakers oppose the citizen's ethics initiative, fearing unintended consequences.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Cache County, told KSL in September, "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?"

Former Gov. Olene Walker backs the ethics petition. She says after years of going nowhere on Capitol Hill, she thinks the time is right.

"The fact that there are gifts and special influence, special interests is giving them a very negative picture of our legislature," Walker said earlier this month.

Legislative leaders have pledged to address the issue head on.

The session starts Jan. 25 and runs through March 11.


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