Mr. Bob Bernick, Deseret Morning News commentator, stated Feb. 12 that "one of every four bills introduced in the current Legislature creates an apparent conflict of interest for sponsors." We use the word "commentator" intentionally, as Mr. Bernick's article was a reflection of his own, unfounded opinion. Being very close to what should have been his information source, we found his "apparent conflict of interest" story to be light on research but heavy on speculation and innuendo.
If Mr. Bernick were a cub reporter, we would be more tolerant of his mistakes. But Mr. Bernick repeatedly makes this mistake. This is not the first time he has reported his opinion as fact. He knows better. Or he should know better.
We write to your readers who want to know the truth.
One assumes that a reporter uses his best supporting pieces of evidence for a newspaper piece. The two senators he attempts to "expose" are guilty of nothing more than having expertise in the bills they proposed.
Take, for example, Sen. Jon Greiner: Sen. Greiner is also the Ogden police chief. He introduced nine bills dealing with law enforcement. One would allow police chiefs, such as himself, to declare "no-gang zones." Known gang members could be arrested if they refuse to leave such areas or return to them within eight hours.
How does Sen. Greiner benefit from this bill other than getting gang members off the street?
Sen. Dan Eastman, a former car dealer, introduced a bill about the Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection Advisory Council.
And this retired car dealer lined his pockets how? Sen. Eastman's bill was a request from the Department of Commerce, allowing them to more fairly hear appeals. That knowledge was just a phone call away but no one called.
The most damning innuendos were in the chart accompanying the story.
Senate President John Valentine is a good example. The chart shows President Valentine (a certified public accountant and tax attorney) as sponsoring eight bills, four of which are apparent conflicts (Deseret Morning News emphasis in italics, not ours) then declares the percentage that are conflicts, 50 percent in Valentine's case.
The problem with Mr. Bernick's claims is that all but one of President Valentine's bills are "boxcars," i.e. place holders to be used in the event a bill is needed later in the session. The bills, which create "apparent conflicts," are actually blank. The bills are literately blank pages! It is difficult to understand how Mr. Bernick could think that a blank bill creates a conflict of interest.We have worked hard this session to be more transparent. We are almost always available through e-mail, multiple cell phone lines and office phones. We realize that a story like this requires research and leg work. Mr. Bernick apparently did not.
Curtis S. Bramble, R-Provo, is Senate majority leader. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, is Senate minority leader