Lawmakers Should Respect the Will of the People & Leave the Initiatives Alone

After two long weeks, yesterday marked the official end of the 2018 midterm elections here in Utah. Well, it officially won’t be over until next week when the State Board of Canvassers certifies the votes statewide, but I don’t want to get into that.

In my opinion, the so-called “blue wave” did make its way to Utah. We saw change in a congressional district, several state house and senate districts, and other local offices. But most significantly, in my opinion, we saw hundreds of thousands of voters show up to vote in favor of the three propositions on the ballot, approving medical cannabis, Medicaid expansion, and redistricting reform. The election results clearly signal that Utahns support each of these policies.

However, even before election day, there were reports in the media indicating that Utah lawmakers were planning to ignore the outcome of the elections. The most obvious example is the so-called “compromise” medical cannabis legislation, which the Governor and legislative leaders said would be adopted by the Legislature regardless of whether Proposition 2 passed or failed on election day. Lawmakers also indicated they would be making changes to the funding of Medicaid expansion, even though Proposition 3 already includes a sales tax funding mechanism, and that they were interested in adding work requirements, even though backers of the proposition purposefully excluded such provisions. And Proposition 4 made lawmakers so upset that they have threatened to repeal the initiative, completely ignore the commission it establishes, or even sue to have it invalidated.

Yesterday, we issued a statement calling on lawmakers to respect the will of the people and leave the initiatives alone. A portion of the statement was directed “[t]o lawmakers who might now seek to undermine the will of the people,” reminding them “we remind them of the co-equal legislative power that Utahns hold under the Utah Constitution.”

This statement builds off of an Op-Ed I wrote earlier this year that was published in The Salt Lake Tribune. In it, I explained the co-equal power that Utahns hold to pass legislation by initiative. As lawmakers threatened to preempt the initiatives during the Legislative Session, I argued that they should honor the concurrent power held by their constituents.

I believe the same principles apply now as lawmakers threaten to change, replace, or repeal the initiatives that have been duly passed by the residents of Utah. I admit, there may be technical changes that need to be made to these initiatives so they can work in harmony with the rest of the laws on the books. This does not include any substantial changes to the policies in the initiatives. The people of Utah voted for the initiatives as they are written. They didn’t vote for a compromise bill, for added policies that lawmakers believe will “improve” the law, or for lawmakers to completely ignore what they voted for.  

As I said earlier this year:

“It’s time for our Legislature to quit being the overbearing parent who feels they always know what’s best.”

And as I said yesterday:

“The people have spoken. It’s time for the Legislature to listen.”
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