UtahPolicy.com has been told there is a move afoot to add a second ballot initiative to the already-formed Our Schools Now citizen petition aimed at the 2018 ballot.
The second petition – which would be formed by a separate group, but use the OSN volunteer/paid petition collectors network – would reflect the original Count My Vote effort of 2014.
The difference being it would NOT be the official CMV folks, but a new coalition.
The aim would be the same, however: Change state law to have the only way to a primary ballot being a candidate collecting voter signatures.
Why would you need a new coalition? Why not have the same CMV folks organize the new petition?
That’s because the original Count My Vote folks – like former Gov. Mike Leavitt – made a deal with the 2014 Legislature:
Pass SB54 – which has a dual route to the primary ballot, while keeping the traditional caucus/delegate/convention route as an option – and we drop our petition.
To now run the original CMV petition BEFORE the SB54 compromise fell apart would break that deal – and instead of the GOP-controlled Legislature being the turncoat deal-breakers – it would be CMV.
However, clearly the Legislature is on a political route to back out of SB54.
UtahPolicy.com has written about this extensively – analyzing the 2014 votes by lawmakers for SB54 and comparing several votes since. In that time, especially in the House, newly-elected GOP representatives have voted to gut or otherwise overturn SB54.
It appears it’s just a matter of time before the Utah House votes to kill the SB54 compromise.
That leaves the Senate, and maybe just a few die-hard SB54 Republican supporters there, as the bulwark.
And it’s likely not even those powerful senators can hold that water back for long – as new GOP senators are elected, ones who didn’t vote for SB54 in the first place and so have no obligation to uphold it.
Thus the new idea of piggy-backing the original CMV petition – with only a signature route for candidates to the primary ballot – as a possible way forward.
Now, former GOP House Speaker Nolan Karras is a leader in the Our Schools Now movement.
He told UtahPolicy.com Thursday morning that he has heard nothing about any second, or piggyback, petition being offered to the OSN effort.
“I haven’t heard anything about this,” said Karras.
That may be because UtahPolicy.com is told the talks with OSN are very preliminary and quiet.
However, James Evans, Utah Republican Party chairman, has heard the rumors – as the state party has been the leader in challenging SB54 in the courts – losing twice in federal court, and once before the Utah Supreme Court.
Of course, Evans et al. hate SB54 and have been working with GOP legislators to get the bill changed to give ultimate candidate nomination power back to the party, or repeal SB54 altogether.
“Yes, I’ve heard the rumor floating out there,” Evans told UtahPolicy.com.
“I imagine it was triggered by the votes” to repeal or gut SB54 in the House in the last session, said Evans.
Our Schools Now wants a tax hike to significantly help public education funding in the state.
It started out as a 7/8th of 1 percent rate increase in the state personal income tax, from 5 percent to 5.875 percent.
That would raise around $750 million a year, with most of the money earmarked for local schools.
A local elementary school, for example, could get hundreds of thousands of dollars more a year, a high school upwards of $2 million more.
UtahPolicy.com has reported before that pressure is building on OSN leaders to have some mix of various taxes, property, sales or income in their petition, to not overly affect one group or another.
In any case, of course, some of that new cash would come in raises to Utah teachers – and there has been plenty of evidence showing significant turnover among teachers, especially younger teachers who can’t raise a family on the low pay right now.
The natural base for organizing such a grassroots, petition-gathering force would be teachers.
And the power of that was seen way back in 2007, when GOP legislators after years of bitter battles passed a private school voucher program that would have taken some money away from public schools.
The Utah Education Association – the main teacher union – with the help of others, within three months put together a statewide referendum effort that gathered the required number of signatures, got the repeal before voters and got a significant majority to repeal the voucher law.
But would teachers want to become involved in a second petition effort, one aimed at doing away with the party caucus/convention process in candidate nominations?
Of course, if OSN used only paid petition gathers that second petition wouldn’t be an issue.
They would just gather signatures on the second petition as part of their job.
But a grassroots volunteer effort by OSN would at the same time be educating folks in favor of a tax hike, and be building a political base for the coming election
In any case, the new, dual petition idea seems to be an admission by some SB54-backers that the legislative compromise is about dead – and new ways must be found to get the old CMV signature-only petition before voters so they can do what Republican legislators don’t have the political stomach for.
A second petition would officially stand alone.
Voters would have two separate questions before them: 1) raise their taxes for public schools; 2) have only the candidate signature route to the primary ballot.
The issues would pass or fail in separate votes on the 2018 general election ballot.