Conflict disclosure bill dies in committee Patrick Parkinson Of the Record staff
A western Summit County lawmaker has failed in his attempt to require members of the Utah Legislature to orally declare conflicts of interest during floor debates. "People were advocating for a particular piece of legislation and it was only determined later that they were interested personally and financially in the outcome," Romero said. The legislator represents portions of Summit and Salt Lake counties on Capitol Hill. He recalled a situation in 2005 when it was revealed that several representatives didn’t disclose conflicts they had with charter schools prior to debating the controversial issue.
"As a lawyer, conflicts are an important part of our case handling. We’re very cautious of that," Romero said, adding that not disclosing conflicts in writing is against the law. "It was something that I thought worthy of bringing."
But members of a joint legislative Rules committee were afraid that during heated debates they’d forget to disclose, he said, adding, "they passed on the bill without really considering it." "Some people were concerned about the time it would take some people were concerned about perhaps forgetting a declaration orally and then being subject to the criminal liability," Romero said. Lawmakers already must disclose conflicts of interest in writing and opponents to his bill felt that was sufficient, Romero said. "They had concerns about whether or not there would be conflicts being disclosed that really weren’t conflicts," he added.
State law encourages legislators to disclose conflicts during debate but it’s not required, Romero said.
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