SALT LAKE CITY — A bill establishing how future congressional vacancies would be filled passed the House Government Operations Committee with little debate Wednesday.
Members of the committee voted 6-1 to advance HB344, sponsored by Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, to the full House. Only Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, voted against the bill.
Arent questioned why the bill would eliminate the option of allowing candidates to gather voter signatures for a spot on a primary election ballot and instead require political parties to nominate candidates.
McCay said that was intended to speed up the process.
Elections would have to be called within 110 days of a vacancy occurring through the primary election date in the second year of a two-year term in the U.S. House under the bill. After that, different rules would apply.
The bill also reduces the number of candidates a political party would nominate and submit to the governor to fill a vacancy in the Senate from three to one.Comment on this story
It comes after a protracted fight between the Legislature and Gov. Gary Herbert over his decision last year not to call lawmakers into special session to deal with the decision of former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to step down during his term.
Instead, Herbert went ahead and set a special election process similar to a regular election, allowing candidates to gather voter signatures in addition to competing for the support of party delegates through the caucus and convention system.
The winner of that election, now-Rep. John Curtis, chose both options and ended up winning the GOP primary over the candidate nominated by delegates, former state lawmaker Chris Herrod, and attorney Tanner Ainge, who only gathered signatures.