Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
FILE - Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, listens SB50 debate during during the final night of the legislature at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill allowing political parties to stop candidates from both participating in the caucus and convention nomination process and gathering voter signatures was advanced Tuesday by a House committee.

The sponsor of HB68, Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, said he sees giving political parties that choice as a "good compromise" in the ongoing battle over changes made to the nominating process in 2014 still known as SB54.

Fawson told the House Government Operations Committee he believes the public wants to keep the signature-gathering path created through the deal made then with backers of Count My Vote, an initiative to establish direct primary elections.

"It is my preference? No," Fawson said. He said he'd like to see SB54 repealed, just as the Utah GOP is hoping the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will do, but he's trying to strike a balance between what the public and party want with his bill.

Fawson said candidates would have to choose between competing for party delegate support through the caucus and convention system or gathering voter signatures for a place on the primary ballot if parties decide to take the single path option.

Phill Wright, a member of the Utah Republican Party's State Central Committee and a leader of the effort to continue the party's legal fight, spoke in favor of Fawson's bill.

"I think it takes a step in the right direction. It just doesn't go far enough," Wright said.

2 comments on this story

He said if the state were telling a church what process to use to select its officials, there would be "thousands and thousands of people protesting."

Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, the House sponsor of SB54, said the option in Fawson's bill was considered then but rejected as making the party's nomination more insular and "less likely to be contributing real candidates to the ballot."

The issue is the subject of two opposing citizen initiatives seeking a spot on the November ballot.

HB68 passed out of the committee 7-3 and now goes to the full House.