Election Doesn’t Turn Legislators into Constitutional Scholars

True or false quiz:

1. Being elected to the Utah Legislature makes you a constitutional law expert.

2. The Utah Constitution can be easily amended and advice from legal scholars is not needed.

Of course, the answers to the above questions are false, but in 2011 the Legislature passed an ill-advised bill that indicates some legislators believe these statements to be true.

Senate Bill 44, sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, ended the independence of the state’s Constitutional Revision Commission by making that commission’s voice only heard when called for by (i) the governor, (ii) the Legislature in a joint resolution of the Legislature, or (iii) the Legislative Management Committee.

Thus, in matters affecting amendments to the Utah Constitution, the Legislature has determined that it does not need constitutional advice unless requested through one of these three mechanisms. In other words, like a strict family dinner, the Constitutional Revision Commission shall speak only when spoken to.

The truth is that the Legislature is a very busy place. Issues often fly around with the speed of an automatic pitching machine, and legislators are swinging their bats constantly during their constitutionally…

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