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SALT LAKE CITY -- Groups advocating government reform are criticizing Gov. Gary Herbert for making it harder for citizens to create laws by making it easier to have their signatures removed from petitions.
The big question now is: will they have enough signatures?
A pair of citizens' petitions -- one on ethics, another on redistricting -- need nearly 100,000 signatures, but in some districts they're coming up short.
The 2010 elections in Utah could be remembered as the Year of the Big Reform Showdown. People are gathering signatures to put legislative ethics and political redistricting on the ballot, needing to reach a certain number in 26 of 29 districts statewide.
The law's sole purpose is to stymie efforts of citizens to enact statute by initiative, specifically Utahns for Ethical Government's efforts on legislative ethics reform.
–Utahns for Ethical Government
Monday, ethics reform advocates say they've qualified in some areas, but not all.
Kim Burningham of Utahns for Ethical Government said, "To this point the answer is, gaining the necessary signatures is close but not accomplished."
Making matters tougher, Gov. Herbert has signed a bill making it easier, if a citizen changes his mind, to remove his signature from a petition.
Angie Welling, Herbert's spokeswoman, insists the move is not intended as a roadblock to reform.
"Just as people are allowed and have every right to sign initiative petitions, and the governor welcomes that as well and encourages it, they have every right to remove them as well," she said.
Herbert's Democratic challenger in the race for governor says he would have vetoed it.
"It makes me cynical about our state government, saying they want citizens' involvement and then passing bills that hurt citizens' involvement and take away the citizens' voice from our government," said Peter Corroon.
Local advocates, joined by a national reform advocate, worry the signature removal law opens the door to certain districts being targeted and makes it harder for citizens to be involved in government.
President of Citizens in Charge Foundation Paul Jacob said, "That's not conservative, that's not liberal, that's arbitrary, unfair, bad government."
Reform advocates did not release specific numbers of signatures gathered, saying they fear signaling to opponents which districts they're short.
The deadline for signatures is April 15. Signatures could be removed for a month after that.