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3 new proposed amendments to the Utah Constitution

(KSL TV, File)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Although most election buzz generates around the candidates and their respective issues, but three proposed amendments to the Utah State Constitution that could make a difference for Utahns.

The following amendments will be enacted Jan. 1, 2015, if approved by voters.

Amendment A changes how the State Tax Commission is composed. It removes the requirement that two members of the State Tax Commission be appointed from the same political party. Under the current statute, no more than two of the four Utah State Tax Commission members can belong to the same political party.

“Under the Amendment, it is possible for all or a majority of State Tax Commission members to be from the same political party,” Davis County Utah Republican Party Headquarters website.

Some voters and politicians have expressed concern that this particular amendment could have lasting negative consequences because it changes the political party balance currently maintained.

“It’s a huge deal, a big change, and a grab by large corporations to take any vestige of fairness out of the state Tax Commission,” said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City.

Constitutional Amendment B changes the term of an appointed lieutenant governor to avoid a potential situation where the term of an appointed lieutenant governor would be different from the term of the governor. The amendment eliminates the potentiality that either the governor or the lieutenant governor could be elected from different political parties or at different times.

It's a huge deal, a big change, and a grab by large corporations to take any vestige of fairness out of the state Tax Commission.

–Senator Jim Dabakis

Essentially, this amendment puts both the lieutenant governor and governor on the same election schedule.

While the change seems technical in nature, some concerns have been raised over the proposed amendment.

“By constitution, voters weigh in on the governor’s choice at the next general election within two years or less. Amendment B, however, means an appointed lieutenant governor could go almost four years before facing voters. If we also had to replace the governor during this same period, Utah could end up with a chief executive that had never been elected,” said Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful.

Constitutional Amendment C authorizes the lieutenant governor, state auditor and state treasurer each to appoint legal counsel.

Under current law, members of the executive office are only permitted to rely on the attorney general for legal counsel when the need arises.

Some have suggested that this new amendment is necessary, in case the executive has a conflict with the attorney general's office, as witnessed in Former Attorney General John Swallow's case.

Arguments against the proposed amendment suggest that the law is not specific enough and should be narrowly tailored to special situations when the executive requires its own legal counsel.

Amendment C would throw the doors wide for each executive branch officer to hire teams of legal staff — temporary or permanent — for any reason. This overreach would damage the checks and balances in our constitution,” Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, president of the Utah State Senate.

If interested in learning more about the three proposed Constitutional amendments or in reading the arguments for and against them, read The Utah State Voter Information Pamphlet available online.

Contributing: Richard Piatt

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