Before Utahns vote on November's non-binding Olympic referendum, legislators first must approve ballot language and a voting procedure as well as consider a measure giving full authority to the agency building Olympic facilities.
Legislative leaders expect little opposition to the three measures to be debated during Tuesday's special session. More debate is likely over what to do with the state's $80 million surplus.Olympic backers last winter pledged to hold a referendum on whether Utah should proceed with a 1998 Winter Olympics bid. The International Olympic Committee will decide in 1991 which of seven cities will host the Games.
So lawmakers will consider an act establishing a process for a state opinion poll. Previously, no procedure other than a lengthy initiative process requiring thousands of petition signatures existed for statewide polling.
The act would establish only a non-binding referendum. However, state leaders and Olympic backers have pledged to abide by the will of the people should the referendum be defeated. The procedure would be retired Jan. 1, 1990, under the bill.
Legislators must also approve the language appearing on the ballot. A single-sentence question proposed by House Speaker Nolan Karras in August drew fire from Olympic opponents complaining the version oversimplified Olympic issues.
So Karras, R-Roy, drafted a six-paragraph preamble (see accompanying story) explaining the repayment of public funding for Olympic facilities. Organizers want to use $56 million in sales tax money they say will be repaid with Olympic proceeds - if there are enough proceeds to make the repayment.
The preamble also refers to a U.S. Olympic Committee requirement that Utah must build three Olympic facilities. The USOC rule, known as the 18-month rule, would require Utah to begin facilities constructions by December, 1990.
Further, the preamble, which has changed slightly from a previous preamble draft, pledges no Olympic events would be held in the environmentally sensitive Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood canyons east of Salt Lake City.
Karras said the wording spells out Olympic issues without controversy. "I tried to not make the ballot the issue," he said.
Before voters go to the polls, Karras said he wanted Utahn's to know how the Utah Sports Authority, the agency that would use the $56 million in sales tax, would be formed.
Legislators last year voted to divert 1/32-cent in state and city sales tax to the authority to use to retire bonds for construction of a bobsled-luge run, speed skating rink and ski jump beginning in December, 1990.
If the Olympics come to Utah and make money, public expenditures would be returned to the state and municipalities. The sports authority measure requires the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee to submit a repayment plan.
Tuesday, the Legislature will consider establishing a 15-member authority board and a 15-member oversight board for the sports authority, under the sports authority bill sponsored by Karras.
One crucial element of the authority bill would require the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee to submit a budget, all contracts and an operating plan to the scrutiny of the sports authority.
"I think the public deserves to know on the front end what kind of authority is going to be set up," Kar-ras said. "During the debate it's a lot easier to say it's in place rather than it's going to be in place."
Now is also an opportune time to form the authority because Karras said he has "leverage to get it done with the Olympic committee."
With the pending referendum, "it's sort of a subtle thing, but they (organizing committee headed by Tom Welch) want to cooperate like all get out, and they are," Karras said.
If Utahns defeat the Olympics referendum, "we'll undo everything that is there. As much as we want the Olympics, I don't think there is anything else we can do," Karras said.
The Legislature will consider legislation that will:
- Permit diversion of 1/32 cent sales tax from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 1999, to build Olympic facilities.
- Require Organizing Committee to submit repayment plan for public money.
- Require Organizing Committee to submit budget, contracts and operating plan to authority's scrutiny.
- Permit authority to review Organizing Committee's financial and operation structure.
- Establish 15-member authority board, appointed by governor.
- Establish 15-member oversight committee appointed by state, Salt Lake City and others.
- Restrict state money from being used for IOC campaign.
Proposed ballot wording for November referendum
Here's the proposed wording for November's non-binding Olympic referendum:
1. In June 1989, the United State Olympic Committee selected Salt Lake City as the United States bid city for the International Winter Olympics in 1998 and 2002.
2. The United States Olympic Committee's selection of Salt Lake City as the United States' bid city for the 1998 and 2002 International Winter Olympic Games is contingent upon the construction of certain Olympics facilities before the International Olympic Committee awards the bid for those Winter Olympic Games.
3. In order to construct those facilities, the Legislature has dedicated 1/32 of one cent from the existing sales tax rates to build certain Olympic facilities, including bobsled and luge runs, a speed skating oval and ski jumps.
4. It is the intent of the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee to completely repay the state for monies expended by the state if revenues generated by the Olympic Games are adequate.
5. The Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee and Salt Lake City have agreed that no events connected with the 1998 or 2002 International Olympic Games will be held in Big Cottonwood Canyon or in Little Cottonwood Canyon because of environmental concerns.
6. Based upon the items listed above, the Legislature and the governor have affirmed their commitment to Utah's hosting of the Winter Games and hereby submit to the voters of Utah for their opinion the following question:
Should Utah continue its efforts to host the Winter Olympic Games?