At issue were three bills that dealt with some troublesome situations.
“Apparently there is some legislation on the national level regarding secret balloting,” said committee member Tim Kendall. “They are trying to make it so that everything would be out in the open, which could allow some arm twisting (to influence votes).” HJR8 would keep secret balloting in Utah.
Kendall said the concern is if a person votes for or against a union for example, that person could be vulnerable to pressure for the way he voted.
“We want Utah to still have the secret ballot, and we would ask for your support of HJR8,” he said.
Vaughan Jacobsen of the Ogden Standard-Examiner agreed. “A union could demand to know who was for or against the union,” he said. “It’s scary. I appreciate what he’s trying to do here.”
Having come up through the ranks in unions, Steve Rush with Rocky Mountain Power said he’s seen the other side and wants secret balloting to continue.
“It’s an open power grab,” said Rush. “I’m offended. People vote more rationally when the ballot is secret. It makes me crazy when I think of this.”
Chamber President John Pitt pointed out that a secret ballot would protect both parties.
On the flip side, Jacobsen gave an update on a controversial bill regarding the GRAMA laws which provide access to public records. The bill was calling for language changes that could have potentially closed some of those records.
“HB122 has worked through the system as it should,” said Jacobsen. “Now all parties have come into harmony with the language of this bill. I applaud this group for standing up and being counted on this (issue).” The committee agreed to support the new amended bill.
Another bill causing concern is SB208, which would mandate all public notices be placed on a state-run website rather than in newspapers.
“We do make money on these (notices),” said Jacobsen of his and other newspapers. “The intention is good, but we’re not ready yet.” He pointed out that although newspapers currently place the notices in print and on the Internet, to go to the Internet only would cut out a large segment of the population.
“Only 29 percent of those over 65 access the Internet,” he said. “Do we want this information controlled only by the government?”
The Clipper also presented its concerns at the meeting.
Meanwhile, Davis County Clerk/Auditor Steve Rawlings said he had spoken with a handful of other Utah auditors about the bill.
“We are all in agreement that transparency is the most important,” he said. “We want to get out as much information (to the public) as possible. We are opposed to this bill.”
Jacobsen and Clipper Executive Editor Rolf Koecher will present the issue at Thursday’s meeting with legislators on Capitol Hill.
Bogey’s owner Mark Livingston asked for the committee’s support on HB347 which deals with clubs.
“This bill makes very good sense,” he said. “There are things we don’t like but the bill addresses every issue that has caused concern. It is really a win-win situation and would be good for restaurants, too.”
Livingston vehemently opposed SB187, however, which he said would double liquor liability, among other restrictions.
“This is the worst piece of legislation I’ve seen in my life,” said Livingston. “With this you’ll never see places like Applebee’s or Chili’s come to Utah. It is just too broad.”
The committee voted to support HB347 and oppose SB187 and will hear from Livingston at the Capitol Hill meeting.