The "light of day" is creeping into the Utah Legislature.

This week, House Republicans voted to open the House's now-secret Rules Committee, the powerful committee that kills bills in the final days of the 45-day sessions behind closed doors with no recorded votes.Meanwhile, while the Senate will just strip its Rules Committee of its "sifting" powers and give those responsibilities to President Lane Beattie, standing committee chairs and the body as a whole, Beattie is taking action to keep lobbyists at bay.

Beattie reaffirmed this week that he plans to stop the practice of lobbyists gaining entry to the Senate lounge - located right behind the Senate chambers - and sitting there most of the day pulling one senator after another off the floor for talks.

"Former senators who are lobbyists aren't, in my view, former senators any more. They're lobbyists," said Beattie. So he will make sure that former senator-lobbyists have lost their floor privileges. The House already enforces that rule.

But for some years, former legislators who were lobbyists could walk onto the floors of their former bodies and talk to lawmakers. Former lawmaker-lobbyists say they didn't abuse their privilege and didn't lobby members unless properly invited by a legislator to the lounge or floor, but other lobbyists resented the advantage.

Beattie says he will also try to cut down on the number of messages sent in to senators from lobbyists and constituents from outside the chamber while the body is in session. "We should be concentrating on the debate before us, not talking on the telephone (which each senator has at his desk) or running out to talk to lobbyists and constituents."

Beattie says a number of lobbyists have talked to him about his plan. "There's some concern, but after I explain it they're OK. Some thought I wouldn't be letting them back (into the lounge or on to the floor) at all. Any senator can invite anyone back they want. But we're not going to have lobbyists sitting in (lounge) chairs all day long pulling senators off the floor. That will stop."

While House Republicans voted to pay for their own caucus lunches this upcoming session (and Democratic House members agree with that), at least for now senators will be eating on lobbyists' tabs. Historically, House and Senate caucuses, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the session, have been hosted by one group or another. The lawmakers eat with the lobbyists and then give them 15 minutes or so to present their views. It costs about $250 to sponsor a lunch for the 29-member Senate (Republicans and Democrats eat together) and about $500 for the 75-member House (Republicans and Democrats caucus and eat separately).

Some groups, like advocates for the poor, complained about the system. They didn't have the money to buy the lunches. In recent years as lobbying has become more intense and the numbers of professional lobbyists increased, hosting one, two or more caucus lunches became a sign of influence itself. Some lobbyists specialized, hosting Senate caucuses but staying away from the House. Others hosted both bodies.

In any case, House leaders came to believe that it looked bad that lobbyists were buying their lunches and getting captive time for their pitches while some citizens were excluded because they didn't have $500. Representatives will pay $7.50 each for their lunches.

House caucuses used to be open during lunch time, but Republicans didn't like citizens, lobbyists and the press watching them eat. So they started closing their caucuses during lunch - partly for personal privacy and partly so representatives could talk privately among them-selves. They then opened the caucus after they finished eating so the public could hear the formal caucus agenda and subsequent debate.

The House's Third House - the entertainment coordinating body - will continue to operate and accept lobbyist donations for its various activities, which include sending flowers to sick or bereaved acquaintances or buying small retirement gifts for members who are leaving.

While House members won't solicit caucus lunch sponsors, they will still accept lobbyist donations to pay for their opening and closing night socials. Lobbyists may still take lawmakers out to lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, take them golfing and to Jazz games. The fate of a lobbyist disclosure bill aimed at making lobbyists name the lawmakers they so entertain is still in doubt.