Bill Would Allow Lawmakers to ‘Borrow’ Books from Lobbyists

Utah legislators burning books?

Ok, that probably won’t happen.

But just the thought of lawmakers using Rep. Mike McKell’s new lobbyist/lawmaker exemptions on “publication” gifts to legislators, and the authority given to lawmakers to destroy such free books, if they wish, brings an interesting mental picture.

McKell, R-Spanish Fork, says in recent years he and other part-time legislators have been inundated with publication gifts from registered lobbyists, conservative groups, party delegates and constituents.

In most cases the legislators don’t want the publications, which can be magazines, studies, opinion pieces or books.

But under current lobbyist reporting rules the lobbyists have to list the publication gifts, their value. And that can make it look like, on the lobbyists’ public filings, lawmakers are taking things they don’t want or even use.

Or, if the publication cost more than $10, the legislator can’t accept it in the first place.

 “I appreciate delegates and constituents wanting me to read things,” McKell told UtahPolicy. “But if it is over $10, I’m not supposed to take it.”

But there is no easy way to refuse them, short of taking the time and effort of mailing the publication back to the giving lobbyist.

HB234 says legislators can’t accept such a publication gift unless the book has a value of less than $30.

And it says lawmakers can give the book back to the lobbyist, give it to a charity, or destroy it.

Thus the mind-picture of Utah legislators having a book burning party to rid themselves of publications they didn’t want in the first place.

“I’m not trying to build my library. I’m just trying” to have legislators be in compliance with what is really happening, he said.