The constitutional right of the people of Utah to petition their leaders has come under increasing attack as the visibility, and potential success, of Count My Vote increases. Good government groups Alliance for a Better UTAH and Utahns for Ethical Government have issued the following statement in response to legislation that would weaken Utah’s petition process:
“Utah has a long history of citizen petitions. In fact, well over a century ago, Utah became the second state in the country to amend its constitution to include initiatives and referendums. Since that time, our legislature has passed a series of statutes designed to weaken the power constitutionally held by the people of Utah.
“HB192, by Rep. Jon Stanard of St. George, which would require petition signers to agree not only that the citizen law should be put to a vote, but that they themselves support and would vote for it; SB228, by Sen. Stuart Reid of Ogden, which increases the signature requirements for city or municipality petitions; and SB54, by Sen. Curt Bramble of Provo, which would preempt Count My Vote with a watered down version of the initiative are three potentially devastating steps in a long line of attempts to limit the right of the people to petition their legislators. These bills reflect the legislature’s ongoing discomfort with the reminder that their political power is derived directly from the people of Utah. All three significantly curtail the constitutional right of the people to petition their government.
“It is no secret that the legislature, secure in their gerrymandered districts, does not always listen to the people of Utah. Just in recent memory, several bills, such as the infamous HB477, which seriously weakened access to government records in Utah, were overturned after substantial public outcry. The petition process, through initiatives or referendums, is the constitutional expression of that outcry and an additional check on legislative overreach. However, instead of listening to Utah voters, the legislature has chosen to limit public participation by continuously changing the rules of the game, frequently in mid-stream. Such was the fate of the Utahns for Ethical Government petition. It would be a serious mistake on the part of the legislature to add Senator Bramble’s Count My Vote bill and the other house bills to that list.”
The Alliance for a Better UTAH is a year-round, multi-issue education and advocacy organization providing resources, commentary and action on important public policy matters. www.betterutah.org
Utahns for Ethical Government is a nonpartisan coalition of Republicans, Democrats, independents and unaffiliated voters who advocate for legislative ethics reform. www.utahethics.org