United Utah Announces Legislative Agenda

United Utah Announces Legislative Agenda

The United Utah Party today announced a sweeping legislative agenda that focuses on improvements in Utah’s election process. 

“This session, the Utah legislature has the opportunity to return the government to its citizens by enacting new reforms and preserving the ones it has already made,” said Richard Davis, United Utah Party chair. “We call on it to take the major steps to bring people back into their government.” 

Specifically, the UUP proposals covered a number of items, including:

1. The elimination of straight party ticket voting. 
2.  Maintaining the dual route to the primary ballot created by SB54
3.  Preserving citizen initiatives
4.  Strengthening the independent redistricting commission created by Prop. 4
5.  Campaign finance limits
6.  Non-partisan county elections
7. Term limits
8. Open primary elections 

“We believe these changes will give people a greater voice in their own government,” Davis said. “Utah should be a model for transparency, accountability, and citizen involvement.  These changes will foster those values Utahns hold dear.”

The following are reforms that the United Utah Party calls on the Utah Legislature to enact during the 2018 general legislative session. 

Straight Party Ticket Repeal – The United Utah Party supports the proposals by several legislators to end the straight party ticket on ballots. As of 2020, Utah will be one of only seven states that has not yet repealed the practice of straight ticket voting. Straight party tickets are outdated and go against the principle of informed voting. Such an option only serves the interests of the major political parties in encouraging unthinking voting by citizens. Straight ticket voting has become particularly confusing to voters in an era of mail-in ballots. It can lead to some voters being unaware that straight party ticket vote is optional. 
Maintain SB 54 – The United Utah Party urges legislators not to repeal SB 54. This legislation opens the process of participating in party nomination processes. The United Utah Party already has the most open nominating process of any political party in the state. While Republicans and Democrats require a candidate to win 40 percent of the convention vote to trigger a primary election, the United Utah Party bar is only 20 percent. We oppose Senator Dan McCay’s effort to repeal SB 54. We encourage Senator McCay and others who have concerns with the outcome of SB 54 to push for other reforms which could help level the playing field, such as more robust campaign finance laws. 
Preserve Citizen Initiatives – Citizens deserve the opportunity to have their voices heard when they feel that the legislature is not adequately addressing issues important to them. In Utah, this is accomplished through the initiative process. The 2018 election showed that citizens are unhappy with the responsiveness of the legislature and are willing to take matters into their own hands through citizen initiatives. Although we believe legislation generally is a better method for making policy, the initiative option must be preserved when the legislature is intransigent in meeting current needs. We are concerned about efforts by Representatives Daw and Thurston to limit citizen initiatives. The process of enacting a citizen initiative is difficult enough as is. Their efforts would place additional burdens on the process. We urge the legislature to reject their efforts. 
Independent Redistricting Commission Improvement – The passage of Proposition 4 was a major step in the direction of ending gerrymandering in Utah. Unfortunately, some legislators are seeking to amend Proposition 4 to reduce the power of the commission. The United Utah Party supports the opposite objective. We believe that Proposition 4 should be amended to: 
a.  Establish a term limit of two years for the commission members to assure that there is a set amount of time a member serves. Currently, Prop. 4 places no limit on members’ terms. 
b.  Increase the size of the commission by three additional members to an overall size of 10. 
c.  Remove the power of partisan officials over the commission by changing the appointment process. All members should be appointed through an application process and random selection. Prospective members could apply for consideration for membership on the commission. The lieutenant governor would select randomly from among the pool of applicants who meet the qualifications established currently in Proposition 4. The applicant pool would be divided into four groups – Republicans, Democrats, members of other qualified political parties (such as United Utah, Libertarian, Constitution, etc.), and unaffiliated voters. 
d.  In proportion to the affiliations of the electorate of the state, four individuals would be selected from the unaffiliated pool, three from the Republicans, two from the Democrats, and one from other party members. 
e.  Members of the commission would select their own chairperson. 
Other Reform Priorities 
In addition to these issues which will be part of the discussion during this legislative session, the following is a list of additional reforms which we believe would enhance transparency and cooperation, while simultaneously reducing corruption and bad government which puts politics above the people. 
Campaign finance limits - The party urges legislators to introduce and pass a bill that would limit the amount of money a candidate can take from an individual or a political action committee and ban any donations from corporations, associations, or unions. We believe that Utah’s campaign finance limits for state candidates should not be looser than those imposed on federal candidates. Utah’s laws should reflect the concern by Utahns that elected officials are more beholden to wealthy donors, corporations, unions, and associations than they are to ordinary citizens. 
Non-partisan County elections – The legislature should pass legislation establishing non-partisan elections for county offices. County government, like municipal government, should not be subject to partisan demands. Commissioners, surveyors, attorneys, etc. should not be using partisanship to guide their decision-making regarding party business. These officials should be elected through a non-partisan process similar to local school board members. The partisan election of county officers injects an unnecessary partisanship into the functioning of these offices. Candidates who win office to county positions become beholden to one political party because they must cater to the party to win its nomination. Non-partisan elections would connect these officials more to the general citizenry than to a particular party. 
Term limits – The party calls on legislators to allow a referendum that will change the Utah Constitution to limit terms of state elected officials, including all statewide elected officials, as well as state legislators. One option: Statewide officials would serve no more than two terms, while legislators would serve no more than two (state Senate) or four (state House) terms. 
Open Primary Elections – All primary elections in party nomination processes should be open to all Utah voters regardless of partisan affiliation. The United Utah Party opens its primary election process to all voters, but other parties do not do so. The UUP calls on the Utah legislature to refuse to provide taxpayer money for party primary elections for political parties that do not open their primary elections to include voters who do not affiliate with the party.