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Utah Independent Ethics Commission, Amendment D (2010)

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The Utah Independent Ethics Commission, Amendment D appeared on the November 2, 2010 as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment where it was approved.[1]

The proposed legislation called for establishing an independent ethics commission. The proposition, also known as HJR15, was sponsored by House Speaker David Clark.

Election results

See also: 2010 ballot measure election results
Amendment D (Ethics Commission)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 378,517 66.99%
No186,48933.01%

Source: State of Utah Elections Office - 2010 general election results

Text of measure

Summary

The amendment proposes to amend the Utah Constitution to establish a legislative ethics commission.

This resolution proposes to amend the Utah Constitution to:

  • establish a legislative ethics commission and define its authority; and
  • authorize the Legislature to provide by rule for complaint filing procedures and requirements, for the qualifications, appointment, and terms of commission members, and for commission duties, powers, operations, and procedures.

Background

A different yet somewhat similar proposition known as the Utah Ethics Commission Initiative (2010), an initiated state statute, was described as "a broad ethics initiative" that also included an independent commission. However, not all legislators that supported one of the proposed ethics commission measures supported the other. House Speaker Clark, for example, did not support the ethics initiative but was a sponsor for the legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.[2][3]

Initiative vs. Amendment

With the filing of two similar measures - one an initiative and another a constitutional amendment - arguments about the best method for establishing an ethics advisory council developed. House Speaker Clark argued that a constitutional amendment was the best way to go in order to "show how serious they are." However, Dixie Huefner of the Utahns for Ethical Government argued that a constitutional amendment was "unnecessary." Additionally, Huefner noted that any future initiatives may be blocked by the proposed amendment, if it is successful. Utahns for Ethical Government supported an initiative for the 2010 ballot - Utah Ethics Commission Initiative (2010). The measure did not qualify for the 2010 ballot.

Had both measures made it to the ballot and were approved by voters, legal authorities said they believed the issue would have gone to court. However, according to legal authorities constitutional amendments typically overrule statutes. "This is the first time I'm aware of in Utah history where you have a constitutional provision and a statute that both attempt to address the same thing. So the courts have been silent on how those would actually merge," said John Fellows, general counsel for the Legislature.[4]

Initiative proponents initially attempted to qualify for the 2010 ballot but supporters failed to collect the minimum required signatures.[5] According to campaign officials, the group gathered about 77,000 signatures, less than the minimum 50,000 signatures required by the state. However, supporters announced that they would continue collecting signatures through August 2010 in hopes of placing the initiative on the 2012 ballot.[6]

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Utah ballot measures, 2010

Support

  • The Salt Lake Tribune supported Amendment D. In an editorial, the board wrote, "If you care one whit about ethical governance, and want state lawmakers to be held accountable when they break the rules, vote for Utah Constitutional Amendment D on Nov. 2."[7]

Path to the ballot

See also: How the Utah Constitution is amended

According to Section 1, Article XXIII, a two-thirds vote was necessary in the state legislature to place the proposed amendment before the state's voters.

The proposed amendment was approved by the House after a 69 to 3 vote.[8] On February 22, 2010 the Senate Ethics Committee approved the proposed legislatively-referred ethics amendment.[9][10] As of March 8, 2010 the bill was approved by both the House and the Senate. The bill was sent to the Lieutenant Governor of Utah on March 9.[11]

See also

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