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Effort To Delay Ballot Measure Implementation Stumbles Ahead After Late-Night Vote

Austen Diamond

Utah lawmakers are putting up a big yield sign in front of six citizen-led ballot initiatives. A bill to delay the effective dates of voter-approved referendums cleared the House on Monday in a dramatic late-night vote.

H.B. 471, sponsored by Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, narrowly failed in its first vote before the House, but was quickly revived through a procedural maneuver. It passed 46-25 and now heads to the Senate.

Backers of the bill said it’s necessary to slow down the implementation of ballot measures that may contradict state law.

Currently, ballot measures may become law just five days after the final canvas results. Under Daw's bill, those effective dates would be pushed until 60 days after the adjournment of the Legislature's next general session, so nearly a half a year after voters approve them. 

"We are faced with some very serious contradictions going on the books," warned Daw in an appeal to win over some waffling House Republicans on Monday night. "Of course we respect the initiative process." 

But Democrats strongly objected to the move, calling it an effort to interfere with the process and block the will of the public. 

"We're changing the rules midstream," said Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake, one of several Democrats who stood to oppose the bill. 

Several groups are gathering signatures to get on the ballot this November. That includes initiatives to legalize medical cannabis, establish direct primaries and create an independent redistricting commission.

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