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House's ethics reform efforts laudable

This year, the Utah House of Representatives is dealing with ethics reform legislation in a number of measures under consideration. Let me focus on two that are practical and would serve to promote public confidence in state government: House Joint Resolution 15 and House Bill 267. HJR15 calls for a constitutional amendment to create an independent ethics commission. The commission would consist of five members — three retired judges and two former legislators (one from each political party). The commission would provide Utahns with an official body to which we could voice misconduct concerns and report ethics violations — something not included in the current process. Having both retired judges and former legislators on the commission would be very practical. Judges are experienced, neutral fact-finders who can effectively evaluate allegations of ethical misconduct while ensuring fairness and due process. Former legislators understand how the legislative process works and how it might be misused or misperceived. HJR15 also would promote public confidence in state government by enshrining this permanent commission in our constitution. Before the commission could be dismantled, we, as citizens of Utah, would have to give our consent. This would provide an appropriate public check on political power.

HB267 would prohibit gifts to legislators over $10 and require full disclosure of meals costing more than $10. These prohibition and disclosure requirements would create an unprecedented level of useful transparency and an extraordinary amount of relevant information. Under these guidelines, we would have the ability to see and know who receives what from whom. At a time when so many people are frustrated with politics and cynical about politicians, HB267 would help promote public confidence.

We are fortunate to have devoted men and women willing to serve us in the Legislature. This is time-consuming, demanding, often thankless but essential public work. This year, while trying to balance a difficult budget, it would be easy for legislators to postpone ethics reform and just focus on fiscal issues.

Thankfully, our representatives and senators in the Legislature have not taken the easier path. By approving HJR15 and HB267, our legislators in the House of Representatives are demonstrating leadership in ethics reform. For this, I am very grateful.

A. Scott Anderson is the president and chief executive officer of Zions Bank.