State Republican officials say it's now time to clean up state politics, specifically the state's campaign and lobbyist reporting laws.
"The time to talk about reform is before a scandal occurs," said Richard Eyre, co-chairman of a GOP task force that will make recommendations to the Legislature. "We have a naivete problem. We have legislators who are closer to problems than they think they are."Eyre said there is probably no corruption in the Legislature, but the way Utah's laws are loosely written the circumstances are "ripe for it." Laws requiring full disclosure will foster "self-policing," he added.
Utah is one of only four states that does not require legislative candidates to disclose contributions before an election, and one of only four states that does not require lobbyists or elected officials to report the gifts they give or receive.
Ironically, it has been the Republican-controlled Legislature that has killed repeated attempts to tighten Utah's campaign and lobbyist reporting laws in recent years.
State Republican Party Chairman Richard Snelgrove said party officials have discussed the idea with legislative leadership, adding that recommendations by the task force to toughen Utah laws will be made in time for the 1991 Legislature.
Specifically, the issues the task force will address include:
- More specific disclosure and reporting laws on campaign fund raising and spending, with candidates required to report all contributions on a regular schedule before the election.
- All money raised for a political campaign must be spent for campaign purposes.
- Tougher laws for the registration of all lobbyists and mandatory reporting of all direct or indirect expenditures or gifts to legislators.
- Tougher laws requiring all legislators to report direct or indirect donations, gifts, meals, etc. received from lobbyists.
- A "motor vehicle" registration system where everyone over 18 who has a Utah driver's license is automatically registered to vote.
- A closed-party primary election in which Republicans nominate Republicans and Democrats nominate Democrats.
- Limiting the terms of state representatives to three consecutive terms, and state senators to two terms.
- Revitalized party caucuses in which candidates would be allowed to address the caucus in person or by videotape.
- Free five-minute time blocks on Utah television stations following the 10 p.m. news and free half-page advertisements for major general-election candidates for state or congressional offices. Free space would also be allowed for legislative candidates in weekly newspapers.
In a prepared release, Snelgrove said, "Our concerns are about ethics, about values and about the fact that personalities and special interests are replacing substance and public issues both in our campaign habits and in our legislative habits."
Co-chairmen of the task force are Eyer, Randall Mackey, Jerry Higginson and Kimball Young.