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Issue in Focus:
Analysis of Amendments, Initiatives, Judges, & Electronic Voting Proposals

Summary:  Consider an additional perspective on the statewide constitutional amendments and initiative, retention elections for judges, and electronic voting proposals.



Constitutional Amendment 1

Constitutional Amendment 2

Constitutional Amendment 3

Citizens' State Initiative 1

Retention Elections for Judges

Electronic Voting Proposals


Constitutional Amendment 1

Read the text of the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John Valentine. This amendment has been marketed as a means to simply clarify the power of the House of Representatives to convene in special session to impeach and try officials. In reality, it takes power out of the hands of the people and their representatives. Quoting from the amendment:

"If not already convened in an annual general session, the House of Representatives may convene for the purpose of impeachment if a poll of members conducted by the Speaker of the House indicates that two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives are in favor of convening."

Who could be against that, right?  After all, if an official with any position of power is worthy of impeachment, he/she should certainly be tried immediately — while the incident is fresh in the mind of the public. Citizens affected by the actions of an abusive official should not have to wait until the general legislative session for justice to be served.

Ok, but the legislature already has the implied power to meet to impeach and try officials. The State Elections Office recognized this in its "Impartial Analysis":

"The authority to convene for impeachment purposes may be implied from the House of Representatives' authority to impeach and the Senate's duty to hold a trial after an impeachment vote. However, there has never been an impeachment proceeding in Utah that has tested whether the authority exists."

And from the "Argument For" by Sen. John Valentine:

"Although it makes perfect sense to assume that the House and Senate have the authority to convene for impeachment purposes even when not convened in an annual general session, the Constitution is silent on that point."

This is shallow rationale for this amendment.  As our website repeatedly and amply demonstrates, the legislature frequently assumes authority for all sorts of activities that are not even implied in either the Utah or U.S. Constitution. The legislature, for instance, consistently violates Article XII, Section 20 of the Utah Constitution by conspiring to monopolize trade and commerce via corporate welfare schemes. It also violates the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights by denying basic due process (such as a trial by a jury of one's peers) in parental rights and property confiscation cases.

For the sake of argument, let's go ahead and assume that the legislature is — at present — too powerless and weak to assert its implied authority.  This amendment now adds the unreasonable requirement of a two-thirds majority to even hear an impeachment case.

This would allow a small minority to block an impeachment that, regardless of the outcome, ought to be heard by the public. If a simple majority of the peoples' representatives, or even a house committee, feels that it is necessary to immediately bring an impeachment case before the public, that ought to be enough weight to make it happen.

Again, the peoples' representatives should be empowered to exercise their impeachment authority as they see fit via House and Senate internal rules rather than via the inflexible Utah Constitution. This amendment would curtail the legislature's authority and their flexibility in determining when and how to conduct impeachment proceedings.

And what if the House Speaker refuses to conduct a poll or refuses to divulge the true results of the poll? Who would hold the Speaker accountable?
Note: For more information on the already-awesome powers of the House Speaker, see "Rule by Monarchy: How the House Speaker Manipulates Your Representative".

As a final insult, Sen. Valentine struck the following language that currently exists in the constitution:

"When any session of the Legislature trying cases of impeachment exceeds the number of days it may remain in session as provided in this section, the members shall receive compensation only for expenses and mileage for those days in excess of 30."

The constitution was written this way for a reason. If our representatives can't make a decision in 30 full-time, taxpayer-funded days, then they should be denied their regular pay. This amendment is another step backward and discourages citizens from pressing their legislators to hold officials immediately accountable for their actions.
Note: For more information on Sen. John Valentine, see his Pink Slip Report.

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Constitutional Amendment 2

Read the text of the amendment, sponsored by Representative Greg Curtis. Here is the crux of this amendment:

"…the State or a public institution of post-secondary education may acquire an equity interest in a private business entity as consideration for the sale, license, or other transfer to the private business entity of intellectual property developed in whole or in part by the State or the public institution of post-secondary education, and may hold or dispose of the equity interest." [emphasis added]

If this amendment passes, government institutions will be encouraged to "invest" in, and profit from, private corporations. In other words, government institutions and their pseudo-private corporate benefactors would be allowed to gamble with taxpayer dollars.  They would also compete with other truly-private providers who do not have the luxury of taxpayer-funded research.

This amendment encapsulates the very meaning of the term "fascism" (government manipulation and control under the façade of private ownership) and directly contradicts another portion of Utah's Constitution:

"Article XII, Section 20. [Free market system as state policy -- Restraint of trade and monopolies prohibited.]
It is the policy of the state of Utah that a free market system shall govern trade and commerce in this state to promote the dispersion of economic and political power and the general welfare of all the people. Each contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce is prohibited. Except as otherwise provided by statute, it is also prohibited for any person to monopolize, attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons to monopolize any part of trade or commerce."

Despite the absence of constitutional authority, state and local governments continue to encroach on the free market. From golf courses to children's museums and zoos, government is co-opting the private sector and destroying our economy and freedom.  This amendment would further institutionalize this dangerous practice.

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Constitutional Amendment 3

Accountability Utah vehemently opposes Constitutional Amendment 3 dealing with the question of marriage and the rights of couples.  Read the text of the amendment and our analysis.

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Citizen's State Initiative One

Read the text of the initiative. As the Elections Office has reported in its summary of this initiative, this authorizes a bond (tax increase) to the tune of $150 million via a 1/20-cent state sales tax increase (the bond must be repaid within 13 years). This money is to be spent for nebulous "environmental" projects by pseudo-governmental organizations. Consider the following:

1) According to 63B-14-206(2), one supposed purpose for these monies is,

"…to enhance local communities such as: athletic and recreational fields and facilities, equestrian centers, aquatic centers, city, town and county parks, trails, picnic and camp grounds, fairgrounds, convention centers, capital improvements…"

What does this mean? Consider 63B-14-204(1):

"The acquisition of fee title to, perpetual conservation easements on, or other interests in public or private land for the purpose of preserving watersheds, rivers, lakes and streams, wetlands, uplands, critical wildlife habitat, endangered species habitat, ecological areas, agricultural lands and soils, farms and ranches, sites of cultural and historic significance, motorized and non-motorized trail rights of way, greenways, pubic access, state and local parklands, and predominantly undeveloped natural lands and open space…"

In other words, amendment proponents feel justified in forcefully "acquiring" and then restricting the owners (citizens) from using those lands. Currently, over 70 percent of the land in Utah is owned by federal, state, or local governments. Yet these initiative proponents believe $150 million in tax dollars is required to convert more private lands for statist purposes.

2) According to 63B-14-206(3), another supposed purpose for these monies is for,

"…State Museum of Natural History and Natural and Cultural History Museums capital expenditures, including structures, exhibit space, interpretive displays, archives, collections and related fixtures and equipment."

What does this mean? According to 63B-14-101(5), "Natural and Cultural History Museums" are,

"…institutions that are (a) non-profit organizations designated under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; and (b) collect, care for, and exhibit collections of natural or cultural history."

Non-profit organizations are simply organizations that do not pay taxes. The organizations that receive these types of government grants such as these often tend to be anti-property rights, anti-farm, and even proponents of zero population growth.

This initiative would send taxpayer dollars to pseudo-private organizations to be spent with a few nebulous restrictions, and virtually no accountability.  Thanks to these taxpayer dollars, troublesome details such as fundraising or competition are eliminated, and these pseudo-private "non-profits" are then free to unabatedly market and further what would otherwise be an unpopular agenda.

See, for example, our flier sampling portions of the agenda of the pseudo-private "Envision Utah" (in .pdf format), which as been the happy recipient of millions of taxpayer dollars.

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Retention Elections for Judges

First consider how judges are appointed in Utah:

1) The governor appoints nominating committees of seven commissioners (see Utah Constitution, Art. VIII, Sec. 8 and state statute 20A-12-201) for courts of record (i.e. trial courts and appellate courts). Two of the seven commissioners that comprise each committee must be chosen from a list provided by the pseudo-governmental (i.e. part government, part private) Utah State Bar Association.

2) These committees make a list of candidates and send them to the governor.  Not surprisingly, judicial candidates considered by these nominating committees are typically "in good standing" with the Utah State Bar Association. By statute 20A-12-104(4), these nominating committees may hold their meetings in complete secrecy and are not required to follow the "Open and Public Meetings" act (Title 52, Chapter 4) or the "Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act" (Title 63, Chapter 46a).

3) The governor selects one candidate from the list and forwards that name to the senate.

4) The senate then confirms or rejects that person (rejections are rare).

Have you identified any accountability problems or conflicts of interest in this process?

Judicial retention elections do not provide citizens with choice or accountability. There is no alternative candidate to choose from, and even if a majority of voters vote "not retain" a particular judge, the governor and Utah State Bar Association can simply nominate the same person (or some other puppet) as per statute 20A-12-104(3).
Note: Municipal level judges do not currently receive so much as a retention election by the citizens.

Because judges are not accountable to the people, we recommend two courses of action:

1) Vote no on every judge. This would at least keep the bureaucrats and special interests busy doing damage control for their appointees. Smart judges would recognize the incentive to please the people after they are appointed, rather than continue to please those they often gratified to obtain their judgeship.

2) Join the effort to restore judicial accountability to the people. For more information on judicial reform, see our "Issue in Focus: Why Are Jury Trials Crucial to Your Freedom?"  Until judges are held accountable, even the decent laws that occasionally squeak past our legislature are in serious jeopardy.

If you do not concur with our advice and would rather attempt to evaluate each judge on your ballot, there are few resources to assist you.  You will have to rely on the opinions of unseen lawyers affiliated with the state to tell you who is effective and who is not.  This is akin to purchasing a very expensive car solely on the car sales manager's opinion of the integrity of your salesman.

Unfortunately, there is currently no reliable organization in Utah that effectively monitors the behavior of all judges. Accountability Utah has criticized many judges, but of those, only Christine M. Durham, a Utah Supreme Court judge, is up for retention election this cycle. See her Flounders Quote.

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Electronic Voting Proposals

Accountability Utah is adamantly opposed to any type of electronic counting process. It is too easy to manipulate the computers and process — and the results are nearly impossible to verify. We recommend that ballots be hand-counted and carefully controlled by citizen election judges at the voting locations. Leaving elections in the hands of the very people on the ballot is sheer stupidity.

For a glaring example of obvious favoritism, examine the sample ballot published by Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swenson (a Democrat). Notice that the first party mentioned for each race is, shock-shock, a Democrat.  We should not be so naive as to assume that this favoritism does not flow over into the results of our general elections.

How many times have we witnessed the red-faced grocery clerk, frustrated with a computer coding error?  He apologizes for the inconvenience and the customer just hopes he didn't lose an extra buck or two.  With electronic voting, however, apologies for computer coding errors or hacker manipulation will not be acceptable, as irreparable damage will have been done.

For more information on how and why voting controls must be returned to the citizens, see our report, "Fraud Advisory: Beware of Officials Who Attempt to Sell You Electronic Voting" (be sure to read the appendixes).


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Permission to reprint this article in whole or in part is hereby granted provided that Accountability Utah is cited.  Citizens are encouraged to share this information with others.

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