Members of the Utah Technology Industry Council aren't ready to endorse draft legislation changing the council's structure and duties, but they aren't yet giving it a thumbs-down, either.

The council on Thursday discussed the draft, which would replace the existing monthly-meeting group with two leaders who would appoint ad-hoc committees as needed. Council members did not vote on the proposal and did not seem to have a consensus about it.

The concept assumes that industry executives and staffers who would man the ad-hoc committees have limited time but want to help solve specific issues facing the tech sector in Utah.

Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork and co-chairman of the Utah Technology Commission, which has passed out the bill, said the committees' work could be broad- or narrow-focused. The committees might consist of chief executive officers, chief technology officers, researchers or others, depending on the issues being addressed.

"These things are quick, nimble," Dougall told the council Thursday. "They form, they do things, they dissolve, they reformulate into something else as we tackle issues that come to us. . . . That's the key point of what the legislation does. Rather than having a highly structured organization, it's more of a free-form, nimble organization."

The draft bill calls for a UTIC chairman and vice chairman, appointed by the Senate president and House speaker, who would form the ad-hoc committees. The council would get help from the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, while the Governor's Office of Economic Development would assist the committees.

"It's all solution-based," the council's chairman, Stan Lockhart, said of the concept for committee duties. "They're going into it with the knowledge that at the end of this, there very easily could be legislation coming out."

Council member Nancy Lyon said a two-person council "has the potential to be really effective" or just the opposite.

"It could be very, very effective if the ad-hocs are really cranking," said Greg Jones, the state science adviser and the person in charge of the state's industry clusters initiative, "but it could wisp away without good ad-hoc involvement."

Council member Brad Bertoch said a key will be having state staffers to help. The new structure will fail if it relies entirely on the efforts of volunteers, he said.

A standing concern is whether the council, formed as a state entity in 2003, would become too closely attached to the executive branch.

"This (new structure) has more of a potential to be an agent of the executive branch generally, and we said we didn't want to be just a rubber stamp of the executive branch," council member Suzanne Winters said.

Lockhart noted that much of the council's work so far has addressed executive-branch matters.

Thursday's meeting included a few comments about how the council devolved into a situation where basic structural changes are being expected.

"We need to re-evaluate what we are now," Lyon said. "It's not like we've done anything wrong. We've just lost a little steam. . . . The challenge always, I think, for any public group is to maintain leadership and maintain momentum."

Bertoch said one factor has been the strength of the state's high-tech sector the past couple of years. "One of the issues that we have is that when things are good, nobody cares," he said.


E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com