With a vote of 69-3, the Utah House of Representatives voted this afternoon to officially create a committee to investigate scandal-laden Republican Attorney General John Swallow.
The two hour special House Session has just drawn to a close, with lawmakers furiously debating whether or not to begin the investigation, what the scope of it will be, and the makeup of the committee members.
House Democrats argued that the investigatory committee should be modeled after ethics committees, with an even split of Republicans and Democrats. “The Attorney General represents all Utahns, not just Republicans,” said Representative Brian King (Democrat, SLC). “[this] committee should not be about partisanship.”
Representative Roger Barrus (Republican, Centerville) disagreed. “We are a republic and the public trusts us to work for them. This is an investigation, not a legislative committee.” Representative King’s motion to make the committee an even split failed along party lines.
Over 14 different amendments were offered on the bill, officially titled HR 9001, and the committee will have the authority to investigate anything done by Swallow while he has been the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, or a candidate for office. If the committee decides to investigate anything outside of that timeline, which would include the allegations that he took lavish vacations to a California resort and trips on a mega house boat—paid for by people under investigation or possibly coming under investigation—it will require a majority vote by the 9 person committee to expand the scope. The committee will also not be allowed to make recommendations to the House, such as whether or not they think impeachment is warranted, but will only be able to report their findings.
Swallow’s staunchest supporter was Representative Ken Ivory (Republican, West Jordan), who attempted to block or delay the committee’s creation at every opportunity. “We are setting a precedent for the future,” Ivory argued, saying that the House was rushing to create the investigatory committee rather than taking their time to think things through. “This is an assault on our constitutional process.”
Another big moment in the debate came when Representative Larry Wiley (Democrat, West Valley) tried to pass an amendment that limited the makeup of the committee to no more than five members from a single party. The amendment ultimately failed, which leaves the decision of the committee’s nine member makeup to House Speaker Becky Lockhart (Republican, Provo).
The committee has 18 months to complete their investigation, afterwhich the full House will reconvene to consider next steps. If the House votes to impeach John Swallow, the process would then move to the Senate where the Senators will conduct a trial to determine if the Republican Attorney General should be removed from office.
HR9001 passed the full House with only token opposition, 69-3. The three Representatives voting against were Ken Ivory (Republican, West Jordan), Curt Oda (Republican, Clearfield) and Jim Nielson (Republican, Bountiful).