Ballot measure challenge costly

Ballot measure challenge costly

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- They fought the law and they won.

Now the group that successfully got a public referendum back on the ballot thinks the people who write laws that are struck down in court should be held accountable for the costs of challenging them.

"Who should pay for all our legal bills if not the very people who caused all this trouble?" asked Elaine Bonavita, chairwoman of the Right To Vote committee.

Bonavita's group put an initiative on coal-fired power plants on November's ballot. Sevier Power Co., which wants to build a new coal-powered plant in central Utah, challenged the referendum under a new state law and a 6th District judge ruled in favor of the company, taking the measure off of the ballot.

But the state Supreme Court overruled the judge on Oct. 8, restoring the voter initiative to the ballot. The court ruled the following week that the new state law that the power company used to challenge the initiative was unconstitutional.

The law, SB53, prohibits citizen-led initiatives and referendums regarding city and county land-use ordinances. It passed easily in the Legislature earlier this year and Gov. Jon Huntsman signed it in March.

Bonavita's group, which is fighting the power company's plan for a coal-fired electric plant on 300 acres of privately owned land near Sigurd, raised about half of the $40,000 court costs in donations.

The group's attorney, Jeff Owens, said he anticipates filing a motion with the court to attempt to recoup the rest of the fees from the power company.

Bonavita said the group also intends to draft a bill to make lawmakers responsible for the costs if similar cases arise. She said the group has already lined up a sponsor in the House and Senate.

Voters will decided on the proposed power plant Nov. 4.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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