SALT LAKE CITY — A bill making it easier for Utahns to remove their names from a statewide initiative or referendum petition has been signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert.
The bill is largely intended to keep a citizens ethics initiative from ever reaching the ballot. Among other things, the initiative would create an independent ethics commission, a code of conduct for state lawmakers and limit campaign contributions.
Utah is one of six states — and soon to be four — that doesn't place any limits on who or how much money can be contributed to a campaign.
Herbert has said he favors rapid disclosure of campaign contributions rather than limits, although he didn't advocate for any laws requiring rapid disclosure this legislative session.
Herbert's campaign has voluntarily been posting contributions to his political action committee on his campaign Web site.
Herbert has said he's not sure if he will start using his personal campaign account for fundraising, which would require him to report contributions within 30 days of receiving them. Herbert's Democratic rival, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, has been using a personal campaign account subject to greater disclosure rules since January.
Corroon has said he favors campaign contribution limits and would advocate for them if elected, but that he won't be subjecting himself to them as long as Herbert isn't.
The ethics initiative is being opposed by Republican lawmakers who say it goes too far. Sen. Howard Stephenson, a Draper Republican who sponsored the signature removal bill, has said he believes voters are being tricked into signing it.
It's a notion that Utahns for Ethical Government disputes but Stephenson maintains is true.
Utahns for Ethical Government needs to gather 95,000 valid voter signatures from 26 of 29 Senate districts to qualify the ethics initiative for the ballot.
The new law makes it easier for the initiative's opponents to target a few Senate districts to keep it from qualifying.
"We believe Gov. Herbert tries to live by the basics of fair play and suspect he was personally uncomfortable with SB 275. But it's just not fair to change the rules in the middle of a game as a way to win," Kim Burningham, chairman of UEG, said in a statement Sunday. "The governor had an opportunity to put politics aside and demonstrate his mettle."
Utahns for Ethical Government had been planning a rally at the Capitol on Monday urging Herbert to veto the bill.
SB275l was signed by Herbert on Saturday.