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Final push under way to get initiatives on state ballot

Published: Saturday, April 3 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — With two weeks left before voter signature petitions are due, various groups seeking to put their initiatives on the 2010 ballot are making big pushes in voter sign-up.

Utahns for Ethical Government is targeting several areas of the state, as is the group Fair Boundaries.

UEG's petition deals with legislative ethics and campaign reform.

Fair Boundaries' plan would set up an independent commission to recommend to the Legislature newly-drawn boundaries for U.S. House seats in Utah and for legislative and State School Board districts.

This weekend, UEG volunteers are concentrating on Washington County, one of the state's fastest growing areas.

UEG Chairman Kim Burningham, who will be in St. George, said: "Should Utahns be able to vote on creating a more ethical Legislature? Should citizens be in charge of their government instead of well-funded, narrow interests looking out only for themselves? We believe thousands living in Utah's Dixie would without hesitation say yes."

Several years ago, legislators — many of whom don't like to see citizen initiatives, believing as the elected representatives of the people, they should make state law — made it more difficult to gather the required signatures.

And in a new law passed by the 2010 Legislature, Republican legislators and Gov. Gary Herbert made it easier to remove names from citizen initiative petitions. The law also gave opponents of initiatives 30 days to identify signees and ask them to remove their names.

To get initiatives on the ballot, supporters have until April 15 to get 95,000 signatures statewide of registered voters. Of that number, in 26 of 29 state Senate districts supporters must get 10 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

Both the Fair Boundaries and UEG petitions are strongly opposed by the Utah Republican Party.

State Party Chairman Dave Hansen says GOP officials may organize a name-removal campaign against UEG and Fair Boundaries should it appear the groups, in some critical state Senate districts, have barely achieved the required number of signees.

State Democrats have endorsed the Fair Boundaries initiative, but have not acted on the UEG petition — which, among other things, would curtail fund raising by candidates and political parties.

Lt. Gov. Greg Bell has ruled that because state initiative law doesn't specifically mention online, electronic signature gathering, initiative supporters can't count their online signees.

UEG and Fair Boundaries organizers are both gathering signatures online and say they will go to court to get a ruling on Bell's online signature exclusion.

You can read the initiative petitions and sign them online (your online signatures may not be counted in the official tally) at www.fairboundaries.org and www.utahnsforethicalgovernment.org.

Petition drive

Utahns for Ethical Government supporters will be in the following areas to gather signatures for their effort to gain a referendum to enhance oversight of legislative ethics and campaign reform, as the April 15 deadline to turn in their petition approaches:

April 4 and 5: Price, Moab and Spanish Fork

April 6 and 7: Vernal, Roosevelt, Heber City and Park City

April 8 and 9: Kamas, Huntsville, Eden and North Ogden

April 10: Pleasant Grove and Orem

April 11: Clearfield

April 12: Roy

April 13 and 14: Logan

e-mail: bbjr@desnews.com

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