June 2013 Legislative Highlights - Including Utah Attorney General Update
Thanks again for all your support. I truly appreciate all the emails, phone calls, returned surveys, Facebook comments, and any other way that you were able to reach out to me. Again, feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions, concerns, complaints or comments. All of my contact information is at the bottom of this post.
June Interim Session
The Regular Legislative Session lasted from January 28 - March 14, 2013. After March 14, all legislators (including me) went back to their regular lives and jobs for the rest of the year. We do meet in "interim sessions," which happen one day a month, to discuss possible bills, to study issues, and to recommend bills to the Senate or House for consideration. Our second Interim Session was this last Wednesday, June 19. Some of the items we discussed included:
- Possible impeachment proceedings against the Utah Attorney General (see below)
- Disclosure of consumer credit scores
- Responsibility for tree maintenance in mobile home parks
- Treatment of manufactured and mobile homes as real property
- Unemployment insurance program
- Front-line Teacher Data Program
- School grading - Story here.
- Existing Radio Communication Systems
- Possible recall elections - Story here.
- State Board of Education elections
- Adoption records access
- Putative father registries - Story here.
- Administrative subpoenas - Story here and here.
- Drug testing at pedestrian accident scenes
- Eminent domain issuesTaxation of sales by remote vendors
- Lake Powell Pipeline
- UTA - Operations and funding
Why I Voted to Formally Investigate the Utah Attorney General
On Wednesday, I voted to form a House committee to formally investigate our Attorney General John Swallow.
Should Mr. Swallow be removed from office? The answer I have today is, “I don’t know.” We should not rely solely on the limited information that is available to us at this time (which mostly comes from the media) to decide whether Mr. Swallow should be removed from office.
However, is there enough information to warrant that the House of Representatives formally investigate Attorney General John Swallow? I strongly believe the answer is “yes.”
The formal investigation conducted by the House will be more open than any other investigation that is currently ongoing. After the investigation is complete, the Committee will issue findings and make likely give recommendations. The recommendations may indeed include impeachment.
What is the standard to remove an elected official from office? The Utah State Constitution, Article VI, Section 19 states: “the Governor and other State and Judicial officers [including the State Attorney General] shall be liable to impeachment for high crimes, misdemeanors, or malfeasance in office.”
Without going into too much into detail as to what that phrase means, I believe that most scholars/cases agree that: (1) a crime does not necessarily HAVE to be committed by an officeholder for the officeholder to be impeached and removed from office; and (2) one issue relevant to our inquiry includes whether there has been a violation of the public trust.
Has the public trust been violated?
In an effort to gauge the sentiments of my constituents, I recently requested they let me know how they feel about the issues relating to the Utah Attorney General. The VAST majority (> 80%) of constituents with whom I have communicated have let me know that we should, at a minimum, formally investigate the Attorney General. Several mentioned that, regardless of whether he technically broke the law, their trust level in the Attorney General is low.
So, has the public’s trust been violated? If comments from my constituents are in any way representative of residents throughout the state, I believe that for many Utahns, the answer is “yes.”
Shouldn’t we wait until the other investigations are over?
We know that Mr. Swallow is the subject of several investigations. These include investigations by the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice, the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office, the Davis County Attorney’s Office, a special counsel to be appointed by the Lt. Governor, and the Utah State Bar.
However, the problem with waiting for these investigations to be completed include: (1) those agencies have no duty whatsoever (legal or otherwise) to share the results of their investigations with the legislature – indeed, we may NEVER know what those investigations uncover (or don’t uncover); and (2) these agencies have no deadline to conclude their investigations.
So, how long do we wait for some other group (the federal govt., county attorneys, special counselor, state bar) to voluntarily let the legislature know what they have found (or not found) in their investigations? Do we wait one more week? One more month? Six months? Another year? I submit that we have waited long enough.
And frankly, the Utah State Constitution sets forth that the LEGISLATURE is the appropriate body that determines whether an elected official should be removed from office. Just as a matter of due diligence, the legislature should do its own investigation. During this investigation, the Committee will be able to subpoena documents and interview witnesses under oath, and discover and publish the real facts.
I recognize the vast majority of information we have regarding these allegations is from the media. Maybe the information from the media is accurate. Maybe it is not. I don’t know for sure. But I want to figure it out, and figure it out quickly.
Should Mr. Swallow be removed from office? The answer I have today is, “I don’t know.”
However, do I believe there is enough information to warrant the House of Representatives to begin a formal investigation? I strongly believe the answer is “yes.” I look forward to learning all the facts in a fair, thorough and open investigation.
Let me know if you have any further thoughts regarding this issue.
Here are some photos showing our deliberations of the Attorney General situation. This first one is me making an argument regarding the House investigation.
Summary of the 2013 Regular Session
For those interested, the legislative staff has put together some good summaries of what was accomplished during the Legislative Session:
A complete list of all bills that were passed can be found here: http://le.utah.gov/asp/passedbills/passedbills.asp
A detailed explanation of some of the more interesting bills that passed can be found here: http://le.utah.gov/session/2013/pdfdoc/selectedhighlights2013.pdf
FY2013 - 2014 budget. If you want to know how Utah will be spending its money over the next fiscal year, here is a detailed, 346-page report that sets forth practically every penny: http://le.utah.gov/interim/2013/pdf/00001950.pdf
5 year budget projection. Here's a quick summary of what the State's next five years budget looks like: http://le.utah.gov/interim/2013/pdf/00001946.pdf
Representative Hall's 2013 legislation: Here's a list of all of my legislation this past Session. http://le.utah.gov/asp/billsintro/RepResults.asp?Listbox3=HALLHC
Read all of my previous email newsletters here: http://bit.ly/YJCYy1
Thanks again for all your support. My contact information is as follows. Feel free to contact me regarding any issue.
Legislative email: email@example.com
Personal email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cell phone: (801) 573-1774