Ballot initiative backers say new bill ‘moves the goalposts’ on them

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Backers of some ballot initiatives are fuming over a bill introduced in the Utah State Legislature that would delay implementation of those voter referendums until lawmakers have a chance to examine the effects.

Volunteers with the Utah Patients Coalition gather signatures for medical marijuana on the 2018 ballot. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, introduced House Bill 471 which delays by months -- and up to a year -- any voter-approved initiative.

"If there’s contradictions in the law, that gives us a chance to straighten out contradictory code or anything like that," he told FOX 13.

Right now, there are six ballot initiatives seeking to get on the November ballot:

  • Count My Vote, which allows candidates to gather signatures or go through the caucus/convention system.
  • Keep My Voice, which reverts back to the caucus/convention system.
  • Medical marijuana for patients dealing with a wide-range of conditions.
  • Independent redistricting which would create a commission to draw political boundaries.
  • Our Schools Now, which would hike taxes to pay for education.
  • An initiative that would enact full Medicaid expansion.

"We think it’s bad legislation, we think it’s bad precedent and not only that we think it’s bad form of the legislators to be trying this at this point in the game," said DJ Schanz of the Utah Patients Coalition, which is sponsoring the medical marijuana ballot initiative.

Taylor Morgan, the executive director of "Count My Vote" files the ballot initiative with the Lt. Governor's Office on Sept. 27, 2017. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Schanz accused Rep. Daw of moving the goalposts in the middle of the game. He told FOX 13 the medical marijuana initiative had 150,000 signatures gathered so far (they only need 113,000 to qualify for the ballot).

Taylor Morgan with Count My Vote, warned lawmakers could face trouble.

"It's unwise for legislators to interfere with ongoing initiatives. The voice of Utah voters is constitutionally protected and should be respected," he said.

Rep. Daw insisted his bill wasn't interfering with ballot initiatives, but ensuring that Utah law could appropriately respond to whatever passes.

"I think this is more of an acknowledgment that if this passes, and the people’s will is that this happens, that we say, 'OK, let’s make sure we clean up any contradictions or confusion,'" he said.

HB471 was scheduled to be heard in a House committee on Thursday.