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House Republicans Propose Rule Change After Democrats Force Vote on Healthy Utah

Andrea Smardon
Utah House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan (R-39) and House Speaker Greg Hughes (R-51) speak to the media. (Jan. 26, 2015)

The Utah House of Representatives passed a resolution Monday night making it more difficult to revive legislation that has failed to pass in committee. The move comes after Democrats attempted last week to bring a bill advancing Governor Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah Plan to the House floor.

House majority leaders made it clear this session that they did not want the governor’s Medicaid expansion plan brought to the floor for debate. But last week, after Healthy Utah failed to pass through committee, Democrats made use of a procedural rule. They forced the body to decide whether or not to bring the governor’s plan to the House floor. The attempt failed, but Republicans were outraged. Now House leaders have made a move to change the rules.

“I do believe it was targeted; it was payback if you will,” Democratic Representative Carol Spackman-Moss says.

House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan introduced a resolution Monday that would raise the threshold of votes required to lift a failed bill to the House floor. Previously it took a majority, but Dunnigan’s resolution would require two-thirds of the body.

“I think it was a quick fix to something that angered some people, and they just wanted to see some kind of retribution if you will and let us know that we did something that displeased them,” Moss says.

When asked if this move was prompted by Democrats actions last week, Dunnigan insisted that this is something he wanted to do last year, but he admitted that Democrats quote “jogged his memory”. Reporters asked Dunnigan whether there was angst about the way Democrats put Republicans on the spot.

“I observed some of that myself,” Dunnigan said. “It’s actually, you know there’s still an avenue there. It’s a higher threshold as it should be for a failed bill.”

Moss says she voted in favor of the measure because she thinks Republicans will be affected as much as Democrats, and they will all have to abide by the same rule. The House passed the resolution Monday evening 71 to 0.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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