Legislators passed the most comprehensive legislative and campaign reform bills in recent memory during the final days of the session.
Chief among them are two bills - a legislative campaign finance reporting measure that requires legislative candidates to disclose campaign finances before their elections and every two years thereafter and a lobbyist expenditure bill that requires registered lobbyists to report how much they spend, in total, on legislators and list individual legislators who receive $100 or more in a single event - like a trip.Neither bill is perfect, critics and supporters say, and you may see changes proposed for the 1992 session, which will be held before the 1992 election season begins.
Currently, legislators are the only class of political candidate in the state not required to report campaign finances before their election. The old law requires a single report 30 days after the general election.
Now, legislative candidates will report seven days before their first contested election, whether in their party convention, the primary or general election.
Legislators will also report once a year in every general election year. House members stand for election every two years, so they will report every election year. But senators serve four-year terms, and so would report once in their mid-term.
If a legislator decides not to run for re-election, when he finally closes out his campaign fund he must file one last report detailing where the money went. Current law allows campaign funds to be used for any purpose. That doesn't change under the new law, but its final disposal must be reported.
The new law will require detailed disclosure on how campaign funds are spent. The old law required only reporting for political purposes. If a legislator used his campaign funds for non-political purposes, he didn't have to report it. Now expenses for constituent news letters, purchase of computers to keep track of constituents or even paying for a spouse's trip on a government-related trip will be disclosed.
Current law requires no lobbyist financial disclosure. Lobbyists just register with the lieutenant governor's office, listing whom they represent.
Under the new law, lobbyists will have to file reports several times a year.
There was spirited debate in both the House and Senate over the individual $100 level. Attempts to lower that cap to $25 - which could require reporting of some legislative lunches, dinners or golf outings with lobbyists - was narrowly defeated in both bodies.
Some lobbyists are concerned about the severe penalties in the new law. For example, if a lobbyist knowingly fails to report an expenditure of more than $100 on a lawmaker, he could be suspended from lobbying for a year and face criminal penalties as well.
Even though great strides in campaign and election reform were made this session, lawmakers refused to adopt several changes, including:
- Moving up primary election dates.
- Limiting legislators' terms.
- Tying voter registration to driver's license renewal.
- Limiting political action committee contributions to legislative races.
Election law changes
- Legislative candidate campaign expenditures must be disclosed before elections.
- Lobbyists must disclose how much they spend on legislators.
- Judges' job performance ratings will be published in the newspaper just before retention election.
- All party caucuses - formerly mass meetings - must be held at the same time so one person can't participate in more than one party's caucus.
- The collection and combination of initiative petitions are detailed and clarified.
- Military personnel returning home to Utah just before an election can register to vote up until noon the day before an election.