Laws governing the initiative process in Utah (archive)

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Utah voters may pass new state laws through the initiative process, and they may also initiate a nullification of legislation approved by their state legislature through a veto referendum process. Utahns, however, have no initiative provision for amending their constitition, although they do have the right to ratify or reject constitutional amendments that are legislatively referred to the ballot by the state legislature.

Initial steps

An original draft of the application for initiative or referendum is submitted to the Lieutenant Governor of Utah. The application requires five sponsors who must be registered voters and have voted in regular general elections in Utah in the last three years. The Lieutenant Governor then forwards the application to the Utah Attorney General who reviews it, usually for 5 business days. After the Attorney General reviews it, he sends it back to the Lieutenant Governor who notifies the proponents that they can begin circulating. The Lieutenant Governor can reject an initiative petition application if the law proposed by the initiative is patently unconstitutional; the proposed law is nonsensical; or if the proposed law could not become a law if passed.

Once the signatures are verified and the proposal verified by the lieutenant governor a ballot title is prepared for the initiative within 15 days of receipt. At least three of the sponsors may appeal the decision to the Utah Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will examine the measures and hear arguments, and, in its decision, certify to the lieutenant governor a ballot title.

Deadlines

See also: Petition drive deadlines, 2010

Initiative language and referendum can be submitted at any time, but circulators may only collect signatures for a period of one year from the time they submit their language to election officials.

Distribution requirement

See also: Distribution requirement
  • For an indirect initiative, signatures must be collected from each of at least 26 of the 29 Utah State Senate districts equal to 5% of votes cast for governor in that district.
  • For a direct initiated state statute, signatures must be collected from each of at least 26 of the 29 Utah State Senate districts equal to 5% of votes cast for governor in that district.[1]

Residency status of circulators

Main article: Residency requirements for petition circulators

Utah has a residency requirement for petition circulators. However, the December 2008 decision of the Tenth Circuit in the case of Yes on Term Limits v. Savage could mean that Utah's residency law is unconstitutional.

Number of required signatures

See also: Utah signature requirements

The number of required signatures is tied to the number of votes cast in Utah for the office of President in the most recent Presidential election. Before 2011, the basis for signature requirements was the gubernatorial election. For directly initiated statutes and veto referendums, proponents must gather signatures equal to 10% of the total votes cast for President. For indirectly initiated statutes, proponents must get 5% of this vote. If the legislature chooses not to adopt the measure, proponents must collect another 5% to place the measure on the ballot.

Year Direct statute Indirect statute Round 1 Indirect statute Round 2 Veto referendum
2014 102,879 51,440 51,440 102,879
2012 97,119 48,559 48,559 97,119

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Utah Code, Title 20A, Chapter 7, Section 201, Section 208 & Section 301

Single-subject rule

See also: Single-subject rule

The Utah elections website says that once proposed initiative language is submitted to election officials, the Lieutenant Governor of Utah "...will reject the application if the law ...contains more than one subject."[2]

Supermajority for Certain Initiatives

The Utah constitution requires that any initiated legislation to allow, limit, or prohibit the taking of wildlife or the season for or method of taking wildlife get the approval of two-thirds of those voting on the measure to pass. (Utah Constitution Article VI §1(B)ii)

Legislative tampering

Main article: Legislative tampering

Initiatives that are approved by the voters are treated as regular statutes and may be amended or repealed by the Utah State Legislature at any legislative session after the act or law has taken effect.

Proposed changes

2011

Changes in 2011 to laws governing ballot measures

Bills that have or might be introduced in the 2011 session of the Utah State Legislature include:

2010

Changes in 2010 to laws governing ballot measures

The following proposals were made during the 2009-2010 session of the Utah Legislature:

2009

Changes in 2009 to laws governing the initiative process

Proposed HB48 would require that ballot initiative and referendum titles be no more than 75 words. The current limit is 100 words. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo. He believes it will make ballot language more "succinct and understandable."[3]

Campaign finance

Main article: Campaign finance requirements for Utah ballot measures

Some of the notable features of Utah's campaign finance laws are:

  • Utah bans labor unions from making donations to referendum campaigns as a condition of membership.
  • All corporations who donate $750 or more in a referendum campaign must register with the Lieutenant Governor of Utah.
  • Utah bans unapproved political advertising, only with the express consent of a registered committee's leadership.
  • Utah bans public entities from donating to campaigns in support or opposition of a referendum.

External links

References