Ethics initiative says it has collected enough signatures

2010-08-13T00:08:00Z 2010-09-04T03:04:32Z Ethics initiative says it has collected enough signaturesJoe Pyrah - Daily Herald Daily Herald
August 13, 2010 12:08 am  • 

Utahns for Ethical Government says it has collected more than 110,000 signatures to qualify their initiative for the 2012 election ballot.

But the Lt. Governor's Office claims the process UEG followed negates most of the signatures turned in on Thursday and doesn't even take into account that the deadline UEG is using is flawed.

What it will most likely come down to is a lawsuit.

"I expect there would be legal action in the future," said Kim Burningham with UEG. "It depends a lot on what the lieutenant governor does in my estimation."

The Lt. Governor's Office has told county clerks to count the signatures but not to certify them.

"We could wait for 2012 to say that," said Office Administrator Mark Thomas, but he doesn't expect the next step to take that long.

That next step depends on what UEG organizers decide to do.

Burningham said the group is confident that it has met the overall state goal of 94,552 qualified signatures as well as the proportionate number of signatures in 26 of the state's 29 Senate districts.

Friday marks one year since UEG was OK'd to gather the signature to get an initiative on the ballot to overhaul the state Legislature's ethics rules. The group and the Lt. Governor's Office have been at odds since April over what constitutes a signature and when they're due.

Because UEG turned in nearly 74,000 signatures at the April deadline, Thomas says they can't be reused, dropping the 110,000 turned in Thursday to 36,000 -- well short of the number needed.

UEG leaders sent a letter to the office in May stating that their April submissions weren't official and should therefore count later.

"Clearly, all indication are that they had submitted everything on April 15. Obviously they have a different interpretation," Thomas said.

The petition is to get an initiative on the ballot that proposes sweeping change to the way ethics issues are handled in the Legislature. The movement in part pushed lawmakers to pass their own version of ethics reform earlier this year.

"When well over 100,000 citizens have expressed their desire to have our initiative on the ballot, the public deserves an opportunity for fuller debate and a chance to vote on our initiative," Burningham said in a news release. "The Legislature has a long ways to go to become a leader rather than a follower in terms of ethical standards in state legislatures across the country."

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