The Spectrum Published 3:34 p.m. MT Jan. 19, 2018
Laws are supposed to be passed by the Utah legislature. When they fail to listen to the people, then laws can be passed directly by the people using a voter initiative. Voter initiatives occur because the people's voices are being ignored. This is evidenced by the legislature's approval rating dropping to 39%. In the 2018 general election, there will be up to five statewide voter initiatives on the ballot. Although the legislative session begins this month, the most pressing issues would seem to be decided by the people.
America's leadership does not reflect the American population. The demographics in America and in Utah are changing. There are proportionally many more women, people of color and young people. Our leadership needs to represent the voice of these people. We must listen and respond to a new constituency. Thank goodness that the people of Utah can bypass this feckless Republican legislature and pass laws that our state so desperately needs.
Here are potential ballot initiatives for 2018:
• "Count My Vote": In 2016, the legislature passed the controversial compromise bill SB54. Count My Vote seeks to completely do away with the caucus/convention system and allow candidates to be chosen by direct primaries where candidates gather signatures to get on the ballot.
• Medical marijuana: There is good support for this initiative. You will see major groups in the state support this initiative depending on how it's written. Pain management using marijuana is far safer than risking an opioid overdose.
• Full Medicaid expansion: This initiative would force Utah to expand Medicaid under provisions of Obamacare. Utah would bring in millions of dollars to cover the uninsured, but it would also slightly increase our state budget. Many predict this would be offset by major savings in addiction treatment, crime prevention, mental health access, emergency room cost and medical bankruptcy cases.
• "Our Schools Now" funding: This initiative would increase both sales tax and income tax by 0.45 percent, which could raise an estimated $700 million for public schools. Some feel it's the wrong time to raise taxes for fear of restricting economic growth. Others feel that education is the key to economic growth.
• "Better Boundaries" Redistricting: This would create an independent commission to govern how the state legislature and congressional districts are drawn. Currently, the legislature is responsible for gerrymandering our districts.
Be an informed voter. If you want information on the impacts of any initiative, or the plain text of the proposal or where you can go to attend public hearings on the initiative, the Lt. Governor’s Office maintains an elections website at https://elections.utah.gov/election-resources/initiatives.
If you would like to sign a petition to get one of these initiatives on the ballot, come to George's Corner Restaurant on any Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. for "Conversation Over Easy" or visit DemsUt.com or call 435-339-0200.
Chuck Goode is the chairperson. Washington County Democratic Party. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org