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Referendum May Not be an Option in Fight to Keep Prison Out of Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City officials are exploring options for how to fight back on the decision to relocate the state prison to the city’s west side, but a lawsuit may be the only option.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said Thursday during an interview on KSL Radio’s The Doug Wright show, he would consider launching a referendum or filing a lawsuit to stop the state prison from moving to Salt Lake City. The Prison Relocation Commission voted unanimously earlier this week in favor of building a new prison near the Salt Lake International Airport.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert is expected to call a special session of the legislature, perhaps next week, to ratify the vote. Under state law, a two-thirds vote of the legislature would make the decision essentially bulletproof, barring a referendum. In addition, state law prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars to run a referendum drive.

Representative Brad Wilson is chair of the Prison Relocation Commission. He told KUER he’s confident the measure will pass, but he’s unsure if it will be with a two thirds majority. 

The application for a referendum must be submitted within five days of the special session.

The signatures would have to be collected and validated by August 31st in order to be placed on the November election ballot. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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