Constitutional accountability falls by wayside in bill that eliminates legislative review

Salt Lake City–The Legislature’s self-appointed constitutional expert, Rep. Ken Ivory, wants to make it more difficult for legislators to know whether or not their laws will pass constitutional muster. Ivory’s HJR7, Joint Rules Resolution on Legislative Review, which would eliminate what are often referred to as constitutional review notes, quietly passed the House late Wednesday night.

The notes, attached to legislative bills and authored by the Legislature’s General Counsel, are designed to put legislators on notice if there is a risk that a proposed law conflicts with either the State or U.S. constitutions.

Maryann Martindale, executive director of the the Alliance for a Better UTAH, has issued the following statement in response to the House’s decision to pass HJR7:

“The House’s decision to remove constitutional notes from bills is just one more step in the recent history of elevating the legislature’s constitutional knowledge above the real constitutional experts. In 2011 it was the silencing of the Constitutional Review Commission. This year it is Ivory’s HJR7.

“Though constitutional notes are routinely ignored, they provide important context for writing and passing legislation. They can also save the state millions of dollars in later legal battles. As noted in Better UTAH’s amicus brief in the Amendment 3 case, the most timely example of this is a 1995 note by the Legislature’s General Counsel that suggested same-sex marriage bans were likely unconstitutional. Almost 20 years later, the State is involved in expensive and protracted litigation that defies the very constitutional advice it was originally given.

“The Legislature should be strengthening the practice of constitutional review, not weakening it. The Senate should not pass this bill.”

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Contact:
Maryann Martindale
Executive Director, Alliance for a Better UTAH
801.557.1532 | maryann@betterutah.org

Isaac Holyoak
Communications Director, Alliance for a Better UTAH
801.664.9751 | isaac@betterutah.org

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