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Utah House panel endorses election reform prompted by Swallow investigation

Published: Tuesday, July 7 2015 5:08 p.m. MDT

Embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow announces his resignation at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. On February 27, 2014, a House committee endorsed two election reform bills Thursday that grew out of the scandal that pushed Swallow from office. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow announces his resignation at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. On February 27, 2014, a House committee endorsed two election reform bills Thursday that grew out of the scandal that pushed Swallow from office. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A House committee endorsed two election reform bills Thursday that grew out of the scandal that pushed former Utah Attorney General John Swallow from office last year.

HB394, sponsored by Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, would significantly expand the information that candidates and officeholders would have to disclose on campaign finance reports.

HB390, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, would add witness tampering, altering government records, and bribery in a legislative investigation or audit to Utah's organized crime law. Three or more of the offenses taken together could be prosecuted as a third-degree felony.

"I have mixed feelings about this," Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, told the House Government Operations Committee. "We have one bad actor, and 99 percent of us who do it properly have to suffer the consequences."

Dunnigan, who headed the special committee that investigated Swallow, said he agreed but said the bills aim to make meaningful changes to the law based on the findings of the investigation.

"It's not easy to be completely transparent, but that’s what the public wants," said Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek.

The committee unanimously passed the two bills to the House floor.

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