The dye is finally cast on the House of Representative’s investigation into scandal-laden Republican Attorney General John Swallow. During a special session Wednesday, the House approved four bill that will put into motion the formal and legal setup for the investigatory committee, and House Speaker Becky Lockhart (Republican, Provo) announced which nine lawmakers will sit on the committee.
The main bill, HB 1001, proved the most contentious for lawmakers, some of whom had a hard time swallowing (no pun intended) a provision that will allow the investigation to close their doors to the public and media if they deem the current testimony could be damaging to the two criminal investigations of Swallow currently being conducted by both the FBI and Salt Lake/Davis County attorneys.
Representative LaVar Christensen ( Republican, Draper), proposed two amendments which, had they passed, would have had the biggest effect on the functioning of the committee. The first would have limited the funding of the investigation to only $500,000, as opposed to the current blank check the committee currently has. The second would have required that the committee not be allowed to participate in any action that interfered with any legal investigations.
House Republicaan Leader Representative Brad Dee (Republican, Ogden), who sponsored the bill, successfully repelled the amendments, arguing that budget requests would require the involvement of the Senate, which could cause future problems as that body could potentially be holding the impeachment trial in the future if the investigation confirms wrongdoing.
Democrats, and several Republicans such as Representative David Lifferth (Eagle Mountain), fought back against the idea that the investigation should have the capability of closing their doors to the public and the media. Representative Brian King (Democrat, Salt Lake City) floated the idea, both on the floor and in a committee earlier in the day, that a sunset clause should be put into the bill to ensure that these special situations don’t stay in law after the investigation concludes. The proposal was not added into the final bill.
The legislature also passed two other bills associated with the Swallow investigation. HB 1002 allows attorneys from other states to work for the investigation, even though they’re not licensed in Utah, and HB 1003 allows the investigation committee to hire private investigators.
Soon after passage, Speaker Rebecca Lockhart announced the makeup of the committee. It will consist of five Republicans: Reps Dee, Snow, Dunnigan, Perry, and McKell, and four Democrats: Reps Seelig, Chavez-Houck, Hemingway, and Duckworth.
The bills were quickly confirmed by the Senate as well, and are expected to be signed by Governor Herbert shortly.