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Bill upping vote requirements for ballot initiatives abandoned, for now

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Bill upping vote requirements for ballot initiatives abandoned, for now

Feb 27, 2024 | 8:12 pm ET
By Kyle Dunphey
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Bill upping vote requirements for ballot initiatives abandoned, for now
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Voters walk into cast their ballots at the Center Point Church on Nov. 8, 2022 in Orem, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

An effort to amend the Utah State Constitution to require more votes for tax-related ballot initiatives appears to have stalled in the legislature. 

Under a bill and complimentary resolution sponsored by Rep. Jason Kyle, R-Huntsville, any ballot initiative that would have imposed new taxes or raised existing taxes would have required 60% of the vote to pass. Currently, all ballot initiatives need at least 50% approval. 

In a committee meeting in January, Kyle said the bill would have brought “more people to the table and make sure that we have good policy.” But advocates from groups like Better Boundaries, League of Women Voters Utah and ACLU Utah warned of a “power grab” that would have made it more difficult for ballot initiatives to pass, which already rarely happens. According to the League of Women Voters, 23 initiatives made it on the ballot between 1952 and 2014 and only four passed.

The bill, HB284, and resolution, HJR14, passed the House Government Operations Committee in January and the full House after a 54-20 vote. About a week later, they received a favorable recommendation from the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee. 

Now, the sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, says he will not move the bill forward, telling reporters he doesn’t want to crowd the ballot. If Kyle’s bill and resolution passed, Utah voters would have voted on the threshold increase during the 2024 general election. 

“We’ve got several constitutional amendments on the ballot already. And I think that’s probably enough for this year,” said Fillmore. “I’m content to just let the ballot stand as it is for constitutional amendments.”

2024 is shaping up to be a big election year for national and local elections, Fillmore said.  

“It’s a good idea to let the voters concentrate on the plethora of choices that are already out there,” he said. 

Katie Wright, executive director of Better Boundaries, which launched its own successful ballot initiative in 2018 to create an independent redistricting commission, said she was “very pleased that the constitutional amendment is not moving forward.” 

“I understand that Utahns have been very active in voicing their concerns,” she said. “I’m grateful that our legislature has responded to these concerns and tabled the amendment for the session.” 

Fillmore on Tuesday didn’t rule out the possibility of the bill and resolution making a comeback next legislative session. 

“We’ll see what happens in future years,” he said. “I haven’t sensed the appetite for it to keep going this year.” 

Wright said her group will continue to fight any attempt to raise the threshold for ballot initiatives. 

“We opposed it last year, we opposed it this year and we certainly will oppose it if it comes up again,” she said.