Congressional Republicans are full-steam-ahead on a package of bills that would drastically change how lawmakers interact with lobbyists. Congress will entertain stricter rules on lobbyist gift-giving, meals and travel paid for by special interests. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are hard at work developing their own proposals.

Unfortunately, members of Congress didn't arrive at these proposals for stricter lobbyist rules on their own. They were driven to it by the federal corruption probe of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who worked primarily with congressional Republicans. Abramoff has pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion charges in a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation in the investigation.

Members of Congress are weighing a number of issues, including whether to ban privately paid travel; whether to tighten limits on lobbyist gifts or even ban them outright. Undoubtedly, the debate will be contentious.

Abramoff aside, these are precisely the kinds of discussions that should be occurring in state houses and the halls of Congress. While most statehouse lobbyists have neither the resources nor the gall of an Abramoff, they nonetheless work to achieve the best outcomes possible for their clients in the legislative arena. The public deserves to know that its legislative bodies have rules and procedures that protect the integrity of the process.

House Majority Leader Jeff Alexander has proposed to lower Utah's lobbyist' gift-reporting threshold to $5, among other reforms. It is now $50. Why not ban the gifts outright? Then there would be no tedious reporting requirements. Then lawmakers and lobbyists would be spared even the hint of impropriety concerning their interactions.

If legislators need to meet with lobbyists for breakfast, lunch or dinner — and we would contend that they do because lobbyists do their fair share of persuading lawmakers on certain issues of the day — lawmakers could use their state-paid per diem to purchase their meals. That's its intended purpose, after all.

So there's no confusion here, no one is equating lobbyists on Utah's Capitol Hill with the likes of Abramoff. He's likely their very worst nightmare. But it shouldn't take an Abramoff-scale scandal for any elected official to recognize the importance of maintaining the integrity of the legislative process through lobbyist gift bans. As this page has said many times, the preference would be outright bans all together. Absent that, reporting processes must be as concise and as transparent as possible.