After all the noise over the three tax initiatives, some voters will probably be surprised when they enter the voting booth Nov. 8 to see two items on the ballot called Propositions 1 and 2.
These proposals haven't ignited the same heated arguments that the initiatives have - some people haven't even heard of them. But their effects could be more permanent than those of the initiatives, because they are constitutional amendments, not just statutory changes.Both were placed on the ballot by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature, rather than by voter petitions, as the tax initiatives were.
Proposition 1 was the product of a suggestion by Weber County Attorney Reed Richards to his uncle, Sen. Winn Richards, D-Ogden, as well as the work of the Utah Constitutional Revision Commission. The commission also recommended Proposition 2 to the Legislature.
Proposition 1 would broaden the provisions under which state judges can deny bail to people accused of crimes. The Utah Constitution allows judges to deny bail to two categories of people: Those charged with a capital offense, and those charged with committing a felony while on probation or parole or free on bail awaiting trial on a previous felony charge.
In each of those situations, bail can be denied only when "the proof (of guilt) is evident or the presumption strong."
Proposition 1 would change that standard to "when there is substantial evidence to support the charge."
And it would add two more bail-deniable categories: people whose release "would constitute a substantial danger to any other person or to the community" and those "likely to flee the jurisdiction of the court if released." The court would have to find "by clear and convincing evidence" that one of those threats exists.
Those two categories would apply not just to people charged with capital offenses, but to those charged with any crime for which a statute says bail may be denied "if there is substantial evidence to support the charge."
Proponents say federal judges have much more leeway than state judges in Utah in denying bail. They say no amount of bail is high enough to make sure some criminals, such as certain drug dealers, will show up for trial - they can afford to just forfeit their bail and flee.
And proponents say some very dangerous people get out on bail because, although they're charged with violent crimes such as rape or second-degree murder, they don't come under the non-bail categories in Utah's Constitution. Opponents fear that Proposition 1 would erode fundamental freedoms, such as the presumption of innocence before trial. They say the new standard of "substantial evidence" is vague, and they ask if it can be interpreted to apply to such things as possession of a fishing knife, deer rifle or prescription pills.
They say adequately high bail already keeps people from fleeing before trial on most crimes, and everyone should not be placed at more risk just to make it slightly more difficult for a suspect to flee.
Proposition 2 includes several miscellaneous amendment proposals. One would clarify that the Legislature should reapportion other districts than just congressional ones - such as state legislative and school board districts - after each 10-year federal census. It would also drop a requirement - never obeyed - that the state conduct its own census each decade.
And it would reduce the maximum number of state senators from 30 to 29. It would leave the maximum number of representatives at twice to three times the number of senators, so the total reduction in potential legislative numbers would be four - one senator and three representatives.
Proposition 2 also would reword the homestead exemption from forced property sales - such as in a bankruptcy - to eliminate the specific $1,500 amount listed as a minimum. By statute, the Legislature has already set the exemption at $8,000.
Another part of Proposition 2 would drop the constitutional requirement that the State Fair be in Salt Lake City.
And it would cut the language requiring the state to provide for the support and maintenance of reformatory and penal institutions and those for the deaf, blind, insane and dumb. That requirement is already in the Utah Enabling Act, the federal law that made Utah a state, as well as in state law.
Finally, Proposition 2 would drop a paragraph of the Utah Constitution that transferred territorial property and institutions to the state when Utah joined the Union.
Proponents say the proposition would clean up and clarify a cluttered constitution, eliminating language that has either been found to be unconstitutional or is archaic.
Opponents don't disagree that many of the proposed changes are good. But they say some things that would be dropped should stay in.
Proponents want the changes in reapportionment language before 1991, since the U.S. Census Bureau will issue a new census in 1990. They say the changes merely reflect actual practice. Opponents say there's time to improve the proposed language and still get the amendments passed in the 1990 Legislature.
One provision that should go back in, they say, is the language that requires the Legislature to reapportion if Congress does so - something Proposition 2 would remove. And they say the proposition should include language requiring districts to be whole parcels, not made up of separated areas.
The opponents say the provision transferring territorial property to the state should stay in for historical reasons, and the requirement for the state to support various institutions should remain.