Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ethics Reform

Here's a quote from a Deseret Morning News article about Governor Huntsman's State of the State speech. (emphasis added by me)

The biggest surprise in the speech that came on the second day of the 2007 Legislature was the ethics reform package, which includes a gift ban as well as a two-year "cooling-off" period for executive branch employees who want to lobby after leaving government. "It's an idealistic experiment," Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said of the reforms, which the governor said he would implement quickly through an executive order. "We've got to see how it works. ... There are a lot of unanswered questions."
Both Valentine and House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, said they saw no need for the reforms and questioned whether they'd be able to talk to former lawmakers who have joined the administration, including Jeff Alexander, a former member of House leadership. Lawmakers have long been reluctant to pass ethics reforms, even for the executive branch. Curtis said Huntsman was no doubt attempting to pressure lawmakers to enact their own reforms. "That's the role of the governor. Absolutely," the speaker said.
House Minority Leader Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake, said he hoped lawmakers would feel obligated to take action but wasn't holding his breath


I have never thought much about Governor Huntsman. I always kind of viewed him as buying (through money or his name, take your pick) the position, but I have been impressed with some of his goals recently. Funding education, doing more than just throwing money into the prison system as a way of dealing with meth addiction... I also liked what he had to say about ethics reform.

I find it interesting that the senate president and the house speaker both think the reforms are not needed. It seems to me, if reforms aren't needed, then they aren't going to negatively affect anyone, but they would make the general public feel warm and fuzzy, so they would be a good move politically. If Valentine and Curtis don't see that, then maybe they're trying to avoid ethics reform for other reasons...

5 comments:

WP said...

So far, I agree with your assessment of the Guv. I see he also promised he would veto any bill that would take away in state tuition from the undocumented who have gone to school here. For being a "R" I think he is better than his predessor though I had hoped the Lt. Governor Walker could have had the chance to run.

WP said...

So far, I agree with your assessment of the Guv. I see he also promised he would veto any bill that would take away in state tuition from the undocumented who have gone to school here. For being a "R" I think he is better than his predessor though I had hoped the Lt. Governor Walker could have had the chance to run.

Allie said...

That's good.

It will be interesting to see what happens this session.

y-intercept said...

Just a comment on this part of the statement: " if reforms aren't needed, then they aren't going to negatively affect anyone, but they would make the general public feel warm and fuzzy"

My experience is that things that aren't needed in a law or contract often end up hurting everyone simply by adding fluff that administrators, lawyers and public have to deal with. Bureaucrats are very good and making hot air from fluff. I would rather see less legislation that is more substantive.

I would also note that legislation that makes people feel warm and fuzzy. So, if we feel that there was substantive reform and there was not, we could end up misplacing our trust.

For example, Senator Weasel may have a two year rule against paid lobbying. We see him advocating Energy Solutions, and think that this must be authentically motivated. Exactly 731 days after leaving office he signs up as a lobbyist and scores a mysterious $70k bonus.

If the legislation makes us feel safer without actually making us safer, then it is doing us bad.

Even worse, sometimes feel good legislation may even drive out substantive legislation. Lets say we passed an ethics reform law that made us feel good, but did nothing.

A few years down the line, someone comes up with a real law. Opponents of the authentic legislation would point to the feel good legislation and note how all these reform efforts do nothing, effectively using the fluff on the books to drive out substance.

Of course, the law in question may be substantive. My comment was strictly about the statement.

Allie said...

I certainly didn't mean to voice support to fluff-leislation. :)

It does seem like Curtis and Valentine (and most politicians these days) are not the types to be above fluff-legislation if it makes them look good, which again makes me wonder what they are hiding.