Utah lawmakers make changes to initiative process on heels of successful ballot measures

SALT LAKE CITY — State lawmakers fiddled with the citizen initiative process on the heels of Utah voters passing an unprecedented number of ballot measures last fall.

The Legislature passed three bills in all, and some say they make the ability to get an issue on the ballot more cumbersome.

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said there needs to be a balance between the Legislature and ballot initiatives. He said it would be “really impossible for 3 million people to spend the time and effort that we have to to be able to deal with the issues we have.

“I believe in the legislative process,” Adams said. “We need to make sure the initiative process is available but that it doesn’t become the norm.”

Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, said growth is changing Utah’s demographics and its politics are shifting.

“It’s up to us as a Legislature to keep up with the desires and the sentiments of the general public, and if we don’t do that, then we need to have a pathway to address that,” he said.

HB145 pushes back the effective date of a successful initiative to the same date as bills passed during the next general legislative session, or to the beginning of the year after the session if it involves a tax change.

“It would have been nice had we had some negotiation, transparency (and) ability to make changes in a transparent way,” bill sponsor Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, said about the initiatives passed in the last election.

Initiatives on medical marijuana, Medicaid expansion and creating an independent redistricting commission all qualified for the ballot — the most ever in the state for a single election — and all three passed last November. Another initiative on Utah’s candidate nomination process also qualified for the ballot but was bumped off after 3,000 petition signers …read more

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