Jay Evensen: Editorial: Utah bill makes citizen initiatives harder


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  • homebrew South Jordan, UT
    March 12, 2011 3:45 p.m.

    How could you not expect this from the republicans? This is who they are. Nationwide they are rearing their ugly heads, attacking workers, families, children, all the while extending taxcuts for the wealthy, and giving tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies and big business. Why do you people vote republican?/ The outrage should be manifested at the ballot box. But alas, this is the reddest state in the union. So not much will change. SAD.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    March 11, 2011 10:47 p.m.

    Mike Richards:

    What is your stance on the Legislature elevating the requirements for Citizen Initiatives being on the ballot? Why have they done this multiple times? Is this a retribution for the Vouchers initiative, a corrective increase in the threshold for citizen participation (via initiative)?

    Do you support a repeal of the Constitutional Amendment allowing popular election of US Senators?

    What is your stance on the GRAMA changes?

    Finally, do you believe that under certain circumstances the mechanism of popular vote should be suspended? Constitutions have been suspended in Latin America several times when the "wrong" candidates won elections. Do you agree with this?

  • Brer Rabbit Spanish Fork, UT
    March 11, 2011 9:47 p.m.

    Maybe the citizens could get together on a single petition; Repeal of:
    SB165 Citizen ballot initiative
    HB477 Limits to GRAMA
    HB116 Guest Worker Amnesty Permit
    HB466 Migrant Worker Suppression of Utah Wages Act

    All four of these tied together should be a slam dunk ballot initiative, even considering the new requirements. There was a lot of political over-reach this session. There are republicans that need to be voted out of office in the 2012 primary.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    March 11, 2011 4:44 p.m.

    @Twin Lights | 2:44 p.m. March 11, 2011

    Using Mr. Obama as an example shows what can happen when the masses are so mesmerized by the person that they ignore his qualifications. That example shows what happens when an initiative is sponsored by a person or group that uses a high-profile spokesman to persuade the "ignorant" masses to sign up for the initiative. No one should expect the "ignorant" masses to understand the various initiatives that they are asked to support when they don't even know the duties of the President. The "ignorant" act on impulse. "Impulse" and "government" are two words that must never be used together.

    I'm not calling for a test to weed out the "ignorant".

    I'm not calling for a change in our system of government.

    We have a Democratic Republic where we choose others to represent us. We expect that those we choose to be fully informed before they vote on any bill.

    Bypassing the representatives turns government into a popularity contest where the person who prances and dances best becomes our new leader. Initiatives should be a rarity, used only when all else fails.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 11, 2011 2:44 p.m.

    @Mike Richards

    I get that you are no fan of Pres. Obama or of the people who voted for him. I also understand that you think (rightly so) that most Americans (of whatever political stripe) could and should have a better understanding of govt. generally and ours particularly.

    But how does his election (or the election of any other President) reflect issues of pure democracy vs. those of a democratic republic? Irrespective of whether you love him or hate him he was properly elected, true? Therefore, how people act (ignorant of the Electoral College system or not) should not be at issue.

    The "ignorance" of the voting public has long been an issue. What can we do, restrict the franchise? Any restriction is subject to abuse (reference the writing requirements of the pre-civil rights era South).

    Despite the problems with a widely held voting franchise, I think it overall benefits the nation and encourages both debate of and education on the issues of the day.

    Initiatives should be difficult but available. People might like their representatives generally but want one issue to be addressed differently. A conservatively constructed initiative process provides that safety valve.

  • Wally West SLC, UT
    March 11, 2011 11:15 a.m.

    re: freddysheddy | 4:11 p.m. March 10, 2011

    You have not read Jonah Goldberg's book *Liberal Fascism* have you?

  • Hank Pym SLC, UT
    March 11, 2011 11:05 a.m.

    Re: LDS Liberal | 11:19 a.m. March 10, 2011

    You are 143% correct in your assessment. Ill forego any jokes about where the sponsors of the bill are from & just say that the churchislature is the pinnacle of Do what we say not what we do.

    Re: Prodicus | 11:41 a.m. March 10, 2011

    Legislators want to restrict citizen initiative abilities because they're afraid of what will happen if the ethics initiative gets on the ballot.

    So? Congressional Ethics and not Military Intelligence is the most ironic oxymoron ever!?

    Re: Belching Cow | 1:19 p.m. March 10, 2011

    I think he means the true belivers in the churchislature who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are on a mission from God.

    Re: FDRfan | 5:54 p.m. March 10, 2011

    Could it be hat polythestic socities are more inclined toward Democracy i.e. Classical Greek Civilization with Zeus, Apollo, Athena, etc... was the birth place of Democracy and Old Testament Israel believed in One God and was a monarchy?

  • Considering Stockton, UT
    March 11, 2011 10:47 a.m.

    ""Republic" in 18th century usage simply meant "a non-monarchial form of government"; "

    Historical revisionism and linguistic ignorance, at best.

    The founders were VERY specific in making clear the difference between a republic and a democracy.

    "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself."
    John Adams

    The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty.
    Fisher Ames, speech in the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, January 15, 1788

    A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine. Thomas Jefferson quotes (American 3rd US President (1801-09). Author of the Declaration of Independence. 1762-1826)

    The founding fathers and framers of the federal constitution were VERY particular in NOT adopting a "democracy" but instead creating a republic where the passions of the masses did not have immediate access to the creation or overturning of laws.

    And God never gave his stamp of approval as a universally acceptable government form to Nephite democracy that He has given to the US Constitution and the republic it established.

  • SG in SLC Salt Lake City, UT
    March 11, 2011 9:09 a.m.

    For the State legislature to make the citizen initiative process more difficult, to build roadblocks into the process, is a huge conflict of interest.

    The legislators are each sworn to (among other things) discharge the duties of their offices with fidelity. Consequently, if they are not doing everything reasonably within their power to fairly represent their constituencies in good faith and to put the interests of their offices (State Senator or State Representative) ahead of their own personal interests (which is where the "conflict of interest" issue comes in), then they are violating their oaths of office.

    I would argue that legislative action to further limit citizen initiatives, in conjunction with action to limit access to government records and recent efforts to thwart government ethics initiatives, amounts to putting legislators' personal interests (the ability to act with impunity) ahead of the interest of their constituencies (government openness & accountability), resulting in a huge conflict of interest and failure to fairly represent their constituencies in good faith, and is a violation of the oaths of office of those legislators.

    The same argument applies to the governor, who endorsed these actions with his signature.

  • Anti Bush-Obama Washington DC, MD
    March 11, 2011 8:59 a.m.

    People tend to do alot of complaining but not alot of action. Thats is why there will be complaining when they tag you with your RFID microchip, but there will also be complying. :)

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    March 11, 2011 7:46 a.m.

    Twin Lights | 9:10 p.m. March 10, 2011

    We have three branches of government; the Executive, the Legislative, and the Court.

    Mr. Obama pretends that he is the government. Too many people also think that Mr. Obama is the government; that he has all power; that he can make law; that he can execute those laws; that he can rule on the legal authority of those laws.

    To them, he is a rock star. They like his presentation. They like his looks. They like his youth; but, they don't have a clue about the proper role of the Federal government, its role, according to the Constitution, nor do they have a clue about the proper role of any individual who serves in the Federal level of government.

    Instead of using the process prescribed for a Democratic Republic, they act as if we had a pure democracy where THEY choose the president. They have no idea what the electoral college's role is or even why we have an electoral college.

    When that same degree of ignorance extends to all aspects of government, allowing easy use of the initiative process would destroy our Democratic Republic.

  • Furry1993 Somewhere in Utah, UT
    March 11, 2011 7:06 a.m.

    When dealing with a "my way or the highway, and to heck with what YOU want" legislature like the one we just saw, it should be easier to process initiatives and referendums, not harder. That's what the people of the state need to keep the legislators in line, and keep them working to fulfill the people's wants and needs instead of just trying to accumulate power and force THEIR wants onto the people.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    March 10, 2011 11:51 p.m.

    I'm not a liberal. People who don't have credible arguments resort to name-calling.

    The US Constitution's only mention of state governments' form is the Guarantee Clause, and claiming that the Guarantee Clause has any bearing on the current question is positively laughable.

    "Republic" in 18th century usage simply meant "a non-monarchial form of government"; see any decent dictionary for plenty of evidence (the OED will certainly suffice). The first real source using "republic" in the more technical sense of a _representative_ democracy is Federalist 10- _after_ the signing of the Constitution. This didn't catch on until Webster's dictionary 40 years later. To claim that the majority of the signatories and ratifiers understood it to mean this is a plain anachronism; to claim that they meant it to exclude all forms of direct citizen participation in government is ludicrous.

    Most state constitutions have included provisions for referenda and/or initiatives; these as well as recall provisions aren't "liberal" ideas, as is evident from the political composition of those states at the time. The Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions (notably in 1912) that these do not violate the Guarantee Clause.

  • Larry Willard, UT
    March 10, 2011 9:55 p.m.

    Shame on these Republicans that are always in Office.

  • Schwa South Jordan, UT
    March 10, 2011 9:37 p.m.

    I am shocked, SHOCKED to find that there is corruption in this establishment!

  • Considering Stockton, UT
    March 10, 2011 9:22 p.m.

    "King Benjamin would agree:"

    Ah, another effort to twist LDS scripture to support liberal positions.

    Let's try these on the other side:

    D&C 101:77
    "...the laws and constitution of the people, which I [God] have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles"

    D&C 101:80 : "And for this purpose have I [God]established the Constitution of this land [United States of America]..."

    And what does the constitution say about democracy or doing business by the voice of the people?

    Art 4 Sec 4: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government..."

    A REPUBLICAN form of government, not a democracy.

    A pure democracy was, apparently, the right form of government for the Nephites who had previously been under a monarchy.

    But for US, in OUR day, God has given us a REPUBLICAN form of government.

    I do wish the liberals would do a little better job of reading and understanding LDS scriptures before using them politically. Especially since they are among the first to complain if conservatives use religion in politics.

  • Considering Stockton, UT
    March 10, 2011 9:12 p.m.

    Outlawing electronic signatures on petitions is a very good move at least until such a time as we have a system in place to verify the accuracy of those signatures. I visited the web page of one of the petitions last season. The 'signatures' there were gathering online required nothing more than to type into a few boxes in an on line form information that is readily available from public databases.

    If someone won't even get off his rear end to go down to a supermarket parking lot to sign a petition, I don't really care what his opinion is.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 10, 2011 9:10 p.m.

    @Mike Richards

    I have seen you post similar comments before and I cannot understand them.

    You ask "Are we a democratic republic or are we a pure democracy?"

    I know you know the answer (a democratic republic). But then you write:

    "Under the mob rule of a pure democracy, a high profile, smooth talker could persuade people that a 2,000 page bill only contained things good for the nation . . ."

    I assume (from prior comments) you mean Obama. If so, the question becomes, how could this happen under our republican form of government if it has protections not built into a pure democracy? That is, why do we have problems with a "smooth talker" putting one over on us when we have a republican vs. purely democratic form of govt.? If we are subject to inordinate influence under either form of govt. then are the republican protections ineffective?

    I'm not trying to challenge your views on Obama or the bill to change the initiative process. I just dont understand what you are trying to say about the public getting fooled and how that relates to our actual form of govt.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    March 10, 2011 7:47 p.m.

    Again, for those who think that allowing measures to be placed on the ballot is dangerous because you can't trust the populace to choose wisely, I'd say that it's much more dangerous each time something comes to a vote in the legislature or a party convention. King Benjamin would agree:

    "Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your lawto do your business by the voice of the people."

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    March 10, 2011 7:46 p.m.

    There is some discussion in Arizona about Maricopa County (roughly Rep Giffords district) seceeding from the rest of the state to form the 51st US State. Many in Tucson are embarassed & horrified at how the Arizona Legislature and how other Arizonans are behaving, their demonstrated values and lack of compassion.

    I would imagine there would be some traction for a similar movement in Utah. Take the northern part of SL County and combine it with Summit County and form a separate state. I know this Legislature doesn't represent me or my values, nor is it likely to for the foreseeable future.

    Call the new state "Wasatch", or let the rest of the state be called "Deseret", which is the original preferred name. There is less & less we have in common, and maybe it would be better to separate.

    Both states would prosper. I know the new state in SLC & Park City would attract lots of prosperous imports from other states. I certainly would be willing to pay more in taxes for smaller classrooms.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    March 10, 2011 7:40 p.m.

    There's nothing surprising in the ethics initiative. The party put out a list of talking points about it, but anybody who took a minute to glance over the bill could see what they were saying was a ridiculous effort to slander it and thus cover their tracks.

    Why do you think it's easier for a "smooth talker" to convince millions of Utahns than to convince a couple dozen legislators? Our legislators are not significantly more educated than the average adult Utahn, especially the average likely voter. (Did you know that the House ranks 90th out of 99 legislatures nationwide in postsecondary education?) Nor are they particularly well-informed. If you think they read all the bills they vote on you're naive. It's disingenuous to claim that "loud political activists" control public opinion on issues - where's the evidence? On the other hand, one can't ignore the fact that lobbyists' control of legislators' opinions is clearly proven time and again as the truth about more ethics violations comes to light. Again, out of state funds (e.g. the Club for Growth) have been effective at swaying party conventions and occasionally caucuses, but not general elections.

  • FDRfan Sugar City, ID
    March 10, 2011 7:31 p.m.

    Mike Richards,
    Nobody understands the issues like thee and me - and sometimes I have doubts about thee. Instead of the electorate being ignorant they are becoming aware and involved. And this is why the establishment GOP are passing these laws.

  • Oatmeal Woods Cross, UT
    March 10, 2011 7:15 p.m.

    Hmmm... I wonder what will happen if Mitt Romney gets close to winning the nomination for 2012, the religion issue comes up again and the media starts to look closely at Utah politics?

  • Salsero Provo, UT
    March 10, 2011 7:13 p.m.

    This is just another in a long line of moves to further disenfranchise people. The goal of setting up a one-party government with the Republicans in permanent charge has been the objective of conservative lawmakers for a long time. Now they feel confident that they can act to consolidate their position under the "Republic" banner regardless of our democratic heritage.

  • FDRfan Sugar City, ID
    March 10, 2011 5:54 p.m.

    John Cotton, in a letter to Lord Say and Seale, in 1636 wrote this: Democracy I do not conceive that God ever did ordaine as a fit government either for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors, who shall be governed? As for monarchy and aristocracy, they are both of them clearly approved and directed in scripture. Sounds like the Kingmen have been revived in Utah.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    March 10, 2011 5:33 p.m.

    Mike -

    From your posts and comments,
    I can safely assume you are FOR both SB165 & HB477.

    Sad - I your ideology reminds of someone else's....
    which goes something like this:

    "We teach a party line made of the philosophies of Republicans, mingled with the Constitution."


  • Considering Stockton, UT
    March 10, 2011 5:00 p.m.

    I tire of battles waged with out of State money and media campaigns to a populace largely ignorant of the issue at hand. Direct democracy SHOULD be very difficult. It should be possible only with overwhelming and broad based support.

    Win at the polls when we elect legislators. Or quite whining.

  • SG in SLC Salt Lake City, UT
    March 10, 2011 4:54 p.m.

    The hubris of the super-majority in the State legislature is just staggering . . . and sickening.

    There REALLY needs to be partisan balance in our State legislature (and before some idealogue follows my post with, "Where's your indignation over the Democratic super-majorities in other states, you hypocrite!", yes, I do think there should be partisan balance elsewhere, too; I just don't care as much because I live in Utah and not "elsewhere"). These actions by the legislature intended to limit their transparency and accountability are unconscionable.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    March 10, 2011 4:44 p.m.

    Are we a democratic republic or are we a pure democracy?

    Under the mob rule of a pure democracy, a high profile, smooth talker could persuade people that a 2,000 page bill only contained things good for the nation, then we would have a problem where lies were hidden until experts combed through that bill and showed us that it had been lied about and that the smooth talker had totally misrepresented the bill.

    That is the problem with initiatives, a smooth talking group of activists can make their initiative seem to be something different than it really is.

    How many people blindly signed the petition for the 26 page ethics initiative without reading it? How many people blindly signed it because it used the words "ethics", "in" and "government"?

    Citizens have a right to pass initiatives, but the last election showed that ignorant citizens are easily persuaded to follow the crowd. The politics of this State cannot be delegated to mob rule where loud political activists have a larger role than the Representatives who were duly elected to represent us in our Democratic Republic.

    Until electronic signatures can be absolutely verified, that must NOT be permitted.

  • On the other hand Spanish Fork, UT
    March 10, 2011 4:11 p.m.

    @blue dot, go read Here or There's comment one more time. He/she didn't cite Matheson as an example of an extreme liberal but as a moderate candidate who can win even in a conservative area.

  • freddysheddy Bountiful, UT
    March 10, 2011 4:11 p.m.

    Everyone is so afraid of America and Utah becoming socialist that instead they become fascists.

  • blue dot! Eagle Mountain, UT
    March 10, 2011 2:46 p.m.

    @ Here or There

    I dissagree with your notion that in this state the Dems only float radically liberal candidates. In fact, in order for a Dem to stand a chance in this state they simply must move closer to the conservative side of the isle to be taken seriously.

    You mentioned Jim Matheson as an example of an extreme liberal. He votes mostly pro life, he votes fiscally conservative, voted against the Dream act and funding for Acorn, voted against regulation of drilling and for extension of tax credits for energy companies, voted for gun rights in DC, and against the health care bill, etc.. That's a pretty conservative record, that is, unless your view of conservative is much further right than other states.

  • AZRods Maricopa, AZ
    March 10, 2011 2:04 p.m.

    @LDSlib, you only continue to prove that you are far removed from the LDS church or from any knowledge about the religion.
    Accusing all members of the church as folliwing the GOP as though divinely inspired by God truly makes me wonder why they don't deny your comments every time your profile name pops up, hint hint.
    Other than that, I actuall agree with other parts of your post.
    Just try cutting out the hateful LDS garbage, it impresses no one.

  • On the other hand Spanish Fork, UT
    March 10, 2011 1:26 p.m.

    This year's legislative session has been a travesty. Our legislators have pushed the envelope too far. They're driven by an agenda that I think most Utahns disagree with, and they get away with it because Utahns have a habit of electing representatives who don't really represent their views. Utah's current dismal political situation is the unfortunate consequence of a handful of conspiring factors:

    * a byzantine political system calculated to give disproportionate power to a few well-organized groups at the expense of the average citizen

    * a prevailing culture that promotes voting for anybody with an R behind their name

    * a current trend toward political extremism, which is sweeping through both major parties

    Until some or all of these factors change, we shouldn't expect Utah's political outlook to get any better.

  • Belching Cow Sandy, UT
    March 10, 2011 1:19 p.m.

    @LDS Liberal
    "many believe the GOP is divinely following the Spirit and the will of God in their legislating on the hill."

    I don't know any LDS people who think this. Judging by some of the things you say about members of the LDS Church you must belong to one whacked out ward.

  • Eric the Half-bee Bountiful, UT
    March 10, 2011 1:08 p.m.

    Two words: Term Limits.

  • Here or There West Valley City, UT
    March 10, 2011 1:04 p.m.

    @LDS Liberal

    I have to admit I rarely agree with your philosophies, but read your replies anyway;-) In the case of this legislation it is just plain bad.

    However, you over state the blind obedience mentality of the sheep in Utah. The problem isn't just a Republican one. Consider this, most folks, even in Utah tend to float nearer the center, well center for here anyway. When the Dems float candidates with either extreme leftist views or lifestyles that reflect the same most people here don't vote for the Republican they just vote for the lesser of two evils. When the Democrats bring more moderate candidates to the ballot box they have a good chance to win. Even in heavily conservative areas. Can you say Jim Matheson?

    All that aside wouldn't it be nice if the local Republican caucuses would allow more moderate candidates? Which, in fact is the biggest problem. It still blows my mind that Jon Huntsman was elected governor. But in a good way. I still think Sam Granato would have been a fine Senator, this was just the wrong year.

  • chris8484 South Jordan, UT
    March 10, 2011 12:19 p.m.

    It is clear the legislators do not want ethics reform, transparency, or accountibility. Any of our legislators who support these terrible bills should NOT be reelected. We need more transparency in government, not less.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    March 10, 2011 11:41 a.m.

    Legislators want to restrict citizen initiative abilities because they're afraid of what will happen if the ethics initiative gets on the ballot. They know that it would pass and that their actions would face stronger scrutiny. They know that their actions can't stand up to that kind of scrutiny.

    Further, any kind of direct democracy provisions require public officials to be more directly accountable to the public. People in the legislature, as well as some county officials, don't want that- they feel they should only be answerable to their party leadership in closed-door meetings and perhaps to the fringe of people who end up at party conventions.

    Not only should SB165 be rejected, but we should implement more rigid provisions for direct democracy, slightly loosening the initiative requirements and by allowing for recall. Recall provisions would have to be carefully crafted, setting the bar fairly high and making the process fair. Even if it's extremely rarely used, though, the existence of recall provisions will force legislators to rethink some of their "muscle-flexing hubris of the kind that naturally follows one-party dominance" and pay attention to public outrage like that over HB477.

  • Mike in Texas Allen, TX
    March 10, 2011 11:39 a.m.

    This is no surprise. Republicans fear the power of the people, and so they want to increasingly disenfranchise them. Republicans don't really want to "limit" government, the want to emasculate the people and the opposition party to increase their power. But, the good people of Utah bought the ultra conservative Republican cool aid. Now they have to drink it just as the public workers in Wisconsin now must bear the fruits of their unfortunate political decisions.

  • dalefarr South Jordan, Utah
    March 10, 2011 11:29 a.m.

    Excellent editorial. It seems like every time the self called conservative legislature meets, another first amendment right is restricted. I cannot remember a one party legislature ever protecting,expanding or enhancing a first amendment right.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    March 10, 2011 11:19 a.m.

    Jay -
    I'm usually one to disagree with you, but on this article we've found common ground.

    The problem is, Republicans in Utah are lulled into blindly thinking the GOP is the party of righteousness, a moral extension of the LDS church, and will always CTR [Choose The Right] - in fact, many believe the GOP is divinely following the Spirit and the will of God in their legislating on the hill.

    Meanwhile, their leaders are caught time and again again Hot Tubbing with minors and being arrested for DUIs and receiveing standing ovations from the House floor.

    Raising Taxes on the poor and the needy [Food], and giving $13 million in bogus construction projects who are "friends".

    You said, "I'm also fairly certain most members of the tea party would favor giving greater power to the people."

    The Republicans do NOT, repeat do NOT, represent the Tea Party anymore than Democrats do.

    They duped Tea Party members and have used them once again for political power.

    That's why they don't listen - they don't represent you.

    There's and Old saying --

    Fool me once - shame on you,
    Fool me twice - shame on me.

  • williary Kearns, UT
    March 10, 2011 11:06 a.m.

    Not a chance. No way. How could Republicans who want to limit government, and give the people more say, put through two bills like this?

    I'm at a loss for words. I would never have expected such deceit from Republicans. They talk such a good game.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    March 10, 2011 10:02 a.m.

    It surprises me to read an editorial like this in Deseret News. Thank you for having the courage to write something that is right.

    I just hope that Utah's voters will have a long enough attention span to remember this next time we head for the ballot boxes. (Ooops, ballot machines.)

    The American Taliban is alive and well in Utah and are doing the bidding of the Gadiantons.