St. George’s Seegmiller, other Utah lawmakers, ‘nervous’ about empowering citizens

Rep. Travis Seegmiller, R-St. George, is sworn in as the newest member of the Utah House by Speaker Greg Hughes as Seegmiller's wife, Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller, stands at his side in Salt Lake City, Feb. 14, 2018 | Photo courtesy of utah.gov, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Facing the possibility that voters could change laws on several hot-button issues, Utah lawmakers are considering giving themselves the option to change any voter-approved measure before it goes into effect, a move that comes as lawmakers around the country work to limit the effects of ballot initiatives.

Utah voters could have the opportunity to consider an unusually high six ballot initiatives, ranging from medical marijuana, school funding and Medicaid expansion, making at least one lawmaker uneasy. “I’m nervous about the concept of empowering the citizenry to intervene so swiftly and rapidly as to even derail the deliberative and systematic processes of the Legislature,” said Republican Rep. Travis Seegmiller of St. George.

Opponents argue there’s already a high bar to get questions on the ballot and creating an approximately six-month delay for any successful measures would undercut the will of the voters.

“I just have concerns with … moving the goalpost in the middle of the game,” said Chase Clyde with the Utah Education Association, which supports an initiative to boost education funding by $715 million annually through tax increases.

The state House of Representatives will soon vote on the proposal to delay implementation and let lawmakers make changes to the voter-passed laws before they go into effect. They can already change any law once it’s on the books.

In this Jan. 31, 2018, file photo, Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, walks off after testifying during a hearing at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City, Utah. | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

Republican Rep. Brad Daw said his plan wouldn’t undermine the will of the voters, but rather deal with practical challenges. Some ballot initiatives could conflict with laws passed by the Legislature, he said, while others might need money that’s not yet in the budget.

“All we’re saying is, if you pass your initiative in November we want to have a chance at the Legislature, for practical reasons — possibly for political reasons, but largely for practical reasons — to be able to correct any errors, to fix our budget,” said Republican Rep. Norm Thurston of Provo.

Under current state law, if voters approve a ballot initiative, it goes into effect after the election results are certified, usually in late November. Daw’s plan would delay the effective date until May, when most other laws passed by the Legislature go into effect.

Daw said there are a “freakishly high” six ballot initiatives that groups are trying to get on the ballot in November. State law requires more than 100,000 signatures on petitions from all over the state, and initiative backers will face their deadline to see if they can get on the ballot next month.

No initiative has passed in nearly 20 years, Daw said.

Utah lawmakers say they don’t want to undercut the will of the voters, and Gov. Gary Herbert said he’d be reluctant to sign anything that would go against a law that passes through the ballot box.

But nationally, legislatures from the Dakotas to Maine have brushed aside voter measures and some have taken steps to hamper people’s ability to get on the ballot. Since the 2016 election, lawmakers in at least 10 states have floated or approved proposals that would make it harder for voters to pass laws or change their constitutions.

Republican lawmakers say the changes are needed to neutralize the impact of special interests, especially those from outside the state.

In Ohio, a Republican lawmaker who proposed tougher requirements to get on the ballot pointed to efforts on recreational marijuana and prescription drug prices when he said Ohioans were sick of outsiders “trying to buy our ballot.” In South Dakota, the House speaker wants to ban out-of-state political contributions for ballot questions.

Read more: See all St. George News stories related to Utah’s 2018 legislative session

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

9 Comments

  • Craig March 1, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    A bit of a scary statement coming from government –

    “St. George’s Seegmiller, other Utah lawmakers, ‘nervous’ about empowering citizens”

  • high5 March 2, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Let’s empower their Exit! Who the hell do they think they are? I’m so sick of Daw and his lies.

  • Caveat_Emptor March 2, 2018 at 8:04 am

    The Utah Legislature, which is universally recognized as representing their own campaign contributors, not necessarily their constituents, once again holds the “unwashed masses” in contempt.
    Our local representative, who has enjoyed an excellent legal education, and several job opportunities within the Washington Swamp, reveals his true feelings about the electorate………..we are not worthy………..

  • tcrider March 2, 2018 at 8:15 am

    if Seegmiller had his way, we will be living under a dictatorship, if this numskull thinks he can,
    take power away from the tax paying citizens of Utah, by law or not, it will bite him in the end.
    This idiot is as obnoxious as the soon to be ousted piece of dung, dungle trump.

    the dungle trump, never my stinking pile.

    • desertgirl March 2, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      Doesn’t matter sheepster. The Dems want us to hand our lives over and the Republicans are joining them. Trump has noting to with it Dummy. Get over it; Trump is president and try to act like a reasonable adult. There will be no impeachment.

      • mesaman March 2, 2018 at 10:32 pm

        Not to worry, desertgirl. tipsyrider has a large callous where his brain used to be and it causes him to have a hard time teasing out fantasy from reality. Whining, wimpering, and throwing tantrums are his substitute for rational and reasonable thoughts.

  • PogoStik March 2, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Help! Help! The rabble might get their way. So as Marie Antoinette said “let them eat cake”.

  • Lee Sanders March 2, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    It really does make a person wonder, who does Seegmiller think he was elected to represent, anyway? I suspect that the Repubs in Utah see a long range swing away from conservatism and are going on the offensive now Even T rump hole panders to his base and he’s the worst example of a rational “politician” that I’ve ever seen. Notice how enthusiastically he’s claiming responsibility for the market during this downturn like he claimed total responsibility for the Obama Wave market upswing. Tariffs, you’ve got to be kidding me. Maybe someone will talk some sense into him if that’s possible and there’s anyone left in the White House with any intelligence to advise him. Oh, well, hopefully our constitution is strong enough to survive him.

  • HerePliggyWiggy March 3, 2018 at 8:01 am

    I wonder if they can smell us coming like … Reid can?
    Ed: ellipsis

Leave a Reply