It came as no surprise to Kim Burningham when Utah’s restrictive, new open records law brought the state national recognition for reducing public access to government. Burningam is chairman of Utahns for Ethical Government and he says that group has been trying to get a ballot initiative dealing with ethical behavior. “Suddenly, in the last days of the session, the bill got pushed through very quickly,” Burningham lamented. “It went to the top reading in the House and moved through. “That bill would make it so there would be a higher standard in the number of signatures you’ve got to get a referendum or ordinance on the ballot. You couldn’t use electronic signatures, even though the courts have ruled that electronic signatures were appropriate.” On KVNU’s Crosstalk show Monday, Burningham said unfortunately this is not a new problem. He says when people have one-party power they think they can do almost everything. Burningham is hoping public outrage over bills that greatly restrict access to public records will help his organization’s efforts to get an ethics initiative on the 2012 ballot. Burningham said state lawmakers claim they already have an ethics law but he says what they have is totally inadequate. For example, he says, Utah is one of only four states in the nation that has no campaign contribution limits. “Big organizations of all sorts can donate all the money they want to any legislators and, as a result, some legislators can become beholden to those organizations,” he continued. “If you put campaign contribution limits on it, we believe that would be a vast improvement. That’s a part of our initiative and what we believe needs to be done.” Burningham says in the last session of the legislature there was a bill proposed that called for campaign contribution limits. But he says it failed to get enough votes to even get out of committee.
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