After medical marijuana and Medicaid-expansion, a new bill lets you sue over the legislature replacing a ballot initiative

Posted at 1:32 PM, Mar 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-10 21:02:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A new bill introduced in the Utah State Legislature would let you sue over a ballot initiative the legislature replaces.

Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, filed Senate Bill 267. It would let citizen referendums pick their effective date and, if the legislature replaces the initiative, take them to court.

"You went through all that trouble to do the work, that if it was undone there should be a process for you to have that day in court," Sen. Riebe told FOX 13 on Sunday.

Right now, the state is being taken to court in two different actions over the special session replacing Prop. 2, the medical cannabis ballot initiative. Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) and the Epilepsy Association of Utah have sued over the replacement bill. The People's Right has a hearing before the Utah Supreme Court seeking a public referendum on that replacement.

"I feel like this is a pleasant breath of fresh air coming from Capitol Hill. To know there’s a senator who recognizes the voice of the people should not be silenced or diminished, unlike what we’re seeing from other representatives on the Hill," said Doug Rice, the president of the Epilepsy Association of Utah.

Sen. Riebe acknowledges it's difficult to get the bill through in the final days of the 2019 legislative session. But SB267 has a hearing scheduled Monday.

After a series of ballot initiatives were introduced and passed by voters last year, the legislature is running bills to change how they get on the ballot and what happens afterward. They include:

  • A bill to delay implementation of a ballot initiative for 60 days, giving lawmakers time to review it and make any needed changes.
  • A bill lowering the signature-threshold for a citizen referendum to qualify for the ballot.
  • More transparency in how an initiative is funded.
  • A website that would show in almost real-time who has signed a referendum petition, allowing for people to remove at the same time.

Sen. Riebe said she did not agree with some of the bills being proposed on ballot initiatives.

"I really believe that’s an important part of this whole process to make it not too cumbersome to run an initiative," she said.