The ongoing political scandal surrounding Utah’s new Attorney General, John Swallow spilled into the legislative branch today, as the body met for the first time since the close of the 2013 general session for interim meetings.
In the Government Operations Committee hearing, Senator Todd Weiler (R – Woods Cross) proposed the idea that, in order to depoliticize the office, the state’s top cop be appointed by the governor rather than elected by the people.
“The difference between a legislator and the attorney general,” said Weiler, “is that the attorney general is the one who ultimately decides if a person is charged with a crime or not. As a lawmaker, it is appropriate for someone to say ‘Hey, I elected you, try to pass this law,’ but it is entirely inappropriate for someone to call the attorney general and say ‘hey, I elected you, do or do not charge this person with a crime.”
Senator Jim Dabakis (D – Salt Lake City) used the opportunity to discuss the greater problems surrounding the AG’s office. “The policy discussion shouldn’t be about the relationship between the governor and the attorney general, it should be about the role money plays in elections.”
Senator Margret Dayton (R – Orem), chair of the committee, appeared put off by Dabakis’ attempts to bring up Swallow as part of a policy discussion, saying that the senate may could possibly hold an impeachment trial in the future, and to bring up the topic shows bias. Dabakis countered the argument, saying, “Policy needs to come from real world examples.”
Ultimately, the interim committee decided that the idea of appointing the attorney general is one worth exploring further, though Dayton expressed that she is not eager to have the legislature expand the power of the executive branch by giving the Governor the power to appoint an attorney general.
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