***Note: this bill has been substituted, this analysis may no longer be valid***
In 2015, the Utah Supreme Court halted an effort by the group “Keep It In Draper” to launch a referendum aimed at repealing legislation concerning the impending move of the Utah State Prison. In their ruling, the court pointed to the fact that the referendum sponsors did not file the application with the lieutenant governor’s office before the deadline on March 17.
Sponsors of the rejected petition contended that the deadline, which is a mere five days after the legislature adjourns, came before Governor Gary Herbert had even signed the bill in question. So, in order to make the process easier, one Utah lawmaker is proposing to extend the current deadline.
[pullquote]Representative Fred Cox cries foul at giving petitioners just a few days to organize a full-blown petition process, and he hopes HB 11 will level the playing field a bit.[/pullquote]HB 11 – Referendum Amendments, sponsored by Representative Fred Cox (Republican – West Valley City), would give people more time to decide whether to they wish to challenge new laws through the petition process.
Under Cox’s proposed legislation, the deadline to announce the start of a petition process would be five days after the end of the legislative session or five days after the governor signs or veto’s the bill in question. These so-called “trigger points” will give organizers a few extra weeks to decide on a course of action.
The petition process itself would not change. Petitioners would still have to hold seven meetings across the state, must collect 10 percent of the total number of voters who participated in the previous Presidential election, and must collect 10 percent of all voters who participated in the last Presidential election in 26 of the 29 state senate districts in the state – no camping out in Salt Lake County to collect your signatures. In 2012, this equates to just over 92,300 signatures for any successful referendum (granted they come from the right locations). What
“If, for some reason, some group decides that they really hate the law that we passed and they really think they can get 100,000 signatures gathered around at least 15 counties, they still have to pull that off in about 35 days or something. It’s really tight for them to be able to do that,” Cox told the Government Operations Interim Committee in November.
At that same meeting, Mark Thomas, Utah’s director of elections, said that he believes the legislation solves some issues in the signature collecting process. “I am very sympathetic to that. You have [referendum] sponsors who come in who file the application and begin the process of printing hundreds of petition packets, only to know a few days later that the governor vetoed it, which did happen a few years ago. And so, you be ‘man, wouldn’t it be nice to know what the governor is going to do before I go and print those petition packets?’ That is the exact kind of issue that Representative Cox is getting to.”
Overall, Cox is attempting to come up with a common-sense solution to a serious problem and is making the process just a little bit easier for those who wish to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Five days still feels short, but Cox has to begin somewhere. The question is, will fellow legislators agree that setting the start date to the trigger point will make the whole process easier?
To contact Representative Cox, click here or call 801-966-2636 (Home).
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