The Utah state Capitol is a magnificent building, in which all Utahns should take pride. Recently, this edifice was made even better by a structural upgrade of the foundation and a complete cleaning of the granite and marble. A restoration of the beautiful murals gives the Capitol an artistic quality rarely found in today's government buildings.
But one important element of this cleansing and restoration process has been left undone: the restoration and restructuring of ethical standards of the Utah Legislature the way our Founding Fathers would have applauded.
In recent years, the line that protected Utahns from conflicts of interest in the Legislature has all but disappeared. As a journalist, I have covered issues involving the Utah Legislature since 1971. I have seen the change over the years that has spawned this citizens' initiative. There are lawmakers in the Legislature who are also lobbyists. There are bankers, real estate developers, energy developers and so on. That does not mean they are unethical. They are, for the most part, dedicated Utahns serving in a civic manner. But when an issue that affects their livelihood comes before them, what motivates their vote? Is it personal interest or public interest?
Legislators have proposed laws that would directly benefit themselves and their largest campaign donors. There are no limits on campaign donations, and special interests provide the bulk of them. And there are highly paid lobbyists, many of them former legislators, who are using methods to get their bills passed that most of us "common folk" do not have at our disposal. The Legislature did not close the loophole allowing former legislators to be paid by large corporations to immediately lobby their colleagues.
These are among the reasons that I am asking readers to sign the petition sponsored by Utahns for Ethical Government. Signing the petition is needed to allow the issue of legislative ethics to appear on the November ballot for all Utahns to vote on.
The April 15 deadline to collect the required 95,000 signatures of registered voters is fast approaching. And because the Legislature has passed bills making it tougher for Utah residents to petition their government and easier for the opposition to pressure signers to remove their signatures, many more signatures are necessary.
It is very important that Utahns be allowed to vote on bringing higher standards of ethics to our noble Capitol and its hallowed halls.
This is not a conservative or liberal issue. It is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is an issue for all Utahns who believe that our lawmakers should be held to as high a standard as we demand from other institutions we hold in high regard.
For those who feel they are not informed enough on the issue, sign the petition, and come November, you will have the opportunity to vote yea or nay!
For more information and to find out how you can sign and help, go online to www.utahethics.org.
Don't wait. April 15 is approaching. The need is urgent, the time is now and your voice needs to be heard in November.
Terry Wood is a former television anchorman and journalist.
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