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Newly adopted petition law causes heated debates in Utah

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March 31, 2010

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah: This past weekend Gov. Gary Herbert signed, what some call, a controversial petition bill into law. The bill, also known as Senate Bill 275, allows for Utahns to easily remove their names from statewide initiative and referendum petitions. According to the filed legislation, signees would no longer to have to provide a notarized letter in order to remove their name. All that would be required is a letter with personal identification attached. Removal of a signature can happen up to a month before petitions are due or become public. However, ethics initiative organizers argue that the new law will allow pressure from opponents for signers to remove their names. Despite just about two weeks left before the petition signature deadline for the 2010 ballot, the new law applies immediately.[1][2]

Just weeks prior to the signing of the bill Utah Ethics Commission Initiative and Utah Redistricting Commission supporters called requested the governor to veto the bill.The bill, argue supporters, would "undermine their petition drive." UEG treasurer Vik Arnold said in an email to the governor, "If the bill was NOT aimed squarely at the two citizens initiatives already under way, then why is it so important for the bill to have an expedited effective date?"[3][4] Bill sponsor, Sen. Howard Stephenson, argues,"All I want is for people to have a fair chance to remove their names."[5]

Another hotly debated bill, House Bill 112, was signed by the governor on March 30 according to state officials. HB112 calls for removing any deadlines for court decisions related to initiatives and referendums.[6]

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