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Deal struck over Proposition 4, the independent redistricting ballot initiative

House caucus
Posted at 10:20 AM, Feb 26, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — A deal has been struck over Proposition 4, the independent redistricting ballot initiative.

It would preserve the independent redistricting commission that voters approved, but also wouldn't make the Utah State Legislature beholden to what its ideas are. House Republicans went into a closed-door caucus on Wednesday where they were informed about the deal with Better Boundaries, the campaign that ran the initiative that passed in 2018.

"We’re not going to repeal the bill," House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, told FOX 13 afterward. "We’re still going to have an independent commission which will allow them to draw maps and present them to the legislature."

The agreement calls for the independent redistricting commission to remain independent. The legislature will fund $1 million for Better Boundaries to hire its own staff, but it will not use legislative staffers. The commission will draw three maps each for congress, legislature and school board. However, the legislature is not obligated to vote on them.

"We have agreed in principle but I want to see the released bill before I comment further because we understand that the commission will be prohibited from recommending gerrymanders," Rebecca Chavez-Houck, the executive director of Better Boundaries, said in a text message to FOX 13.

Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers said they had an "agreement on principle" and he was cautiously optimistic. A bill would be introduced in the legislature within the next day or so. Talks broke down last week with Better Boundaries disclosing that lawmakers were targeting the ballot initiative.

Lawmakers have been negotiating with Better Boundaries since Prop. 4 passed in November 2018. It would be the third ballot initiative the legislature has overriden. Lawmakers have replaced Prop. 2 (medical cannabis) and Prop. 3 (Medicaid expansion) with their own language.

Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, who was a part of the negotiations with Better Boundaries, said there were concerns about Prop. 4's legality.

"One of the main issues is is the proposition the way it was written, really didn’t fit into how we could make it work with the legislature, which has that constitutional authority," Sen. Davis told reporters.

Chase Thomas with the liberal-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah, which supported Prop. 4, said he believes Better Boundaries is giving up too much.

"Too much has been gutted from the bill," he told FOX 13. "Every provision that would have helped transparency and accountability to the part of the legislature [is removed]. It leaves a commission that has a public process and is going to recommend maps, but after that the legislature can do whatever they want and can completely ignore the commission."