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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.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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