When Utah voters go to the polls on Tuesday, November 4, they’ll be faced with three possible amendments to the State’s Constitution. Amendment A deals with the Tax Commission, B focuses on the term of the Lt. Governor, and Amendment C asks: Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to authorize the Lieutenant Governor, State Auditor, and State Treasurer each to appoint legal counsel?
The Governor relies on appointed legal counsel for day-to-day operations; the Attorney General represents the Governor in any lawsuits. The Attorney General currently acts as legal advisor to the Lt. Governor, Auditor and Treasurer as they are not authorized to appoint legal counsel.
The Utah Legislature voted on the amendment during the 2014 session. The results were: Senate 24-1-4, House of Representatives 68-0-7.
The possible economic impact is estimated at $120,000 per year, per position and could change based on need, full or part-time work, employment status as an actual hire by the state versus a contract, and the experience of the hired attorney.
The argument in favor of Amendment C states these officers encounter “critical legal issues on a daily basis” and while the Attorney General does provide counsel, there could be conflict between the offices, creating a conflict of interest without outside counsel. The amendment does not require the hiring of legal counsel, but makes it an option by the individual offices.
The argument against the amendment is concern over how broad its impact could be. There are no limits on the number of members of outside counsel and their teams that could be hired. There are no time limits, limitations on reasons to hire, and an increased possibility of conflicts of interest, political influence, and growth of a system of legal advisors representing the agendas of individual politicians. The rebuttal suggests consideration of a more limited version.
Recent events in the Utah Attorney General’s office have made it clear there could be a problem. The AG and the Lt. Governor have been under investigation and it is impossible for the Attorney General to investigate the Attorney General. The question is should we allow these offices to hire what they say they need, or limit their hiring of outside counsel based on need and circumstance.
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Source: Utah Lt. Governor’s Office, Utah State Legislature