Utahns mostly don’t want to give lawmakers the ability to call themselves into a special session

Utahns are not sold on changing the state Constitution to allow the GOP-controlled, part-time Legislature to call itself into a special session, a new UtahPolicy.com poll finds.

Currently, by the Constitution, only the governor can call lawmakers into a special session – which is outside of the 45-day January-March general session.

And only the governor can set a special session agenda – lawmakers can only consider what he wants them to.

But a battle this spring over how the governor and lieutenant governor set up the process for a special election in the 3rd Congressional District will undoubtedly lead to legislators considering a special session amendment in the 2018 Legislature.

UtahPolicy’s pollster, Dan Jones & Associates, found in a recent survey:

  • 50 percent of Utahns oppose an amendment to the state Constitution that would allow lawmakers themselves to call a special session and decide what to consider.
  • 41 percent approve of giving legislators that power.
  • And 10 percent don’t know.


There are some really interesting demographic breakouts in the poll.

Jones finds that rank-and-file Republicans are most concerned about lawmakers of their own party having this new power.

And those who self-identified as “very” conservative also have the greatest reservations over changing current law.

Maybe this is because Republicans and conservatives by nature don’t like changing the state’s founding document – the Constitution.

But here it is:

  • Republicans oppose giving lawmakers the power to call themselves into session, 54-36 percent.
  • More Democrats favor than oppose lawmaker-approved special sessions, 48-41 percent.
  • And political independents – those who don’t belong to any party – favor giving them that power, 51-41 percent.
  • Those who said they are “very” conservative politically oppose changing the Constitution for special sessions, 55-34 percent.
  • Those who said they are “somewhat” conservative oppose the change, 51-40 percent.
  • “Moderates” are split, 46 percent oppose the change, 43 percent support it.
  • Those who said they are “somewhat” liberal are also split, 46-44 percent oppose.
  • But those who said they are “very” liberal favor giving lawmakers the power to call themselves into special session, 51-48 percent.

Considering that the Legislature is more than two-thirds Republican in both the House and Senate, and many members would consider themselves very conservative, this is an interesting finding.

More than 80 percent of the Legislature are also active members of the LDS Church – meaning they pay tithing and hold temple recommends.

Jones finds that most “very active” Mormons oppose giving members of their own church the power to call themselves into a special legislative session.

Or phrased differently, they don’t trust their own church members with that new legislative power.

  • 54 percent of “very active” Mormons oppose amending the Utah Constitution to allow lawmakers to call themselves into special session.
  • 38 percent of “very active” Mormons support the change.

Another interesting number: Older folks don’t trust the Legislature more than youngsters.

Jones finds:

  • Those who are 25-34 years old favor giving lawmakers special session powers, 56-29 percent.
  • While those who are 55-64 years old oppose it, 55-35 percent.

It would take two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate to pass such a constitutional amendment.

That would put the measure on the 2018 general election ballot, where if 50 percent or more of the voters approve it, the Constitution would be so changed.

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert opposes such an amendment, saying the governor should retain the power of special session calls.

However, he cannot veto a constitutional amendment; it would go directly to the ballot if lawmakers act.

Jones polled 608 adults from Aug. 30-Sept. 5. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.97 percent.