House proposal would repeal SB54 if Count My Vote fails to pass in November

State Rep. Dan McCay – the original co-sponsor of SB54 – has his own idea on how to fix the mess the Utah Republican Party now finds itself in because of a rules change by a minority on the State Central Committee made 10 days ago.

McCay, R-Riverton, says his upcoming legislation – not yet public – would take GOP candidates out of some risk this election year, while not imposing any more state actions into internal party affairs.

He believes Rep. Mike McKell’s legislation does that.

McKell’s HB485 passed a House committee Monday morning over the objections of some of the hard-line Central Committee members who helped pass what McKell calls an “illegal” bylaw.

Lawmakers adjourn midnight Thursday. McCay doesn’t have time to introduce a new bill and get it a committee hearing – those ended Monday.

So McCay will substitute his new GOP solution into his own HB338, an election bill which awaits House floor action at the top of the 3rd reading calendar.

All very smooth.

That’s if McCay can get his GOP colleagues to go along – and is told Senate Republicans are especially skeptical.

This is not all, however.

McCay says he knows of at least one other possible substitute that could be made into HB338.

That proposal repeals SB54, the compromise with Count My Vote, passed in 2014, which ended that year’s citizen initiative petition process before it could get on the ballot.

CMV is back this year with a new petition, which enshrines SB54 into law – saying candidates can take a signature route to the primary ballot, or the traditional caucus/convention route, or both at the same time.

McCay says the repeal is not part of what he wants to do, but he understands how it would work:

All would depend on Count My Vote’s appeal to voters this fall. (McCay and others believe CMV will get the required 113,000 voter signatures and make the November ballot.)

Under the 2nd Substitute that is being drafted, SB54 would be repealed only IF the CMV petition fails at the polls in November. Voters would, in effect, be upholding lawmakers’ decision this session.

But, said McCay, if CMV passes this November, then the voters’ choice would be honored, and the petition uphold the dual pathway for candidates would become law.

Why repeal SB54 now?

That would give the anti-Count My Vote folks within the Utah Republican Party the political advantage of saying in November’s CMV campaign: “See, our Republican Legislature understands that SB54 is bad, bad, bad. They repealed it!”

This is all kind of confusing – with the McKell bill, the McCay bill substitute, the 2nd substitute to the McCay bill, and who knows what else.

Think of this:

— Both McKell’s HB485 AND McCay’s own substitute would “freeze” the current Republican Party’s Qualified Political Party status with the state.

They just take different legal routes to do so.

Republican candidates under both measures would advance to the late-June party primary if they either gather required signatures or come out of their party delegate conventions in April.

In theory, both measures would make it highly unlikely that any court would end up kicking any GOP candidates off of the primary or general election ballots. Various groups are already saying they are going to sue over the GOP’s Central Committee actions 10 days ago.

GOP candidates would end up running under the official Utah Republican Party banner on the various ballots, both McKell and McCay say.

But, the 2nd Substitute to McCay’s bill – should it be introduced on the floor of the House and pass – WOULD have the effect of repealing the signature-gathering route for future candidates, should the Count My Vote citizen initiative fail in the November election.

Under current law, SB54 would still stand if the Count My Vote petition failed at the ballot box.

There was talk – is told – that either the McCay substitute or the 2nd Substitute – would repeal SB54 now, and since the Count My Vote citizen initiative language deals with amending the SB54 statute, if that statute no longer existed in state law, the CMV petition if ADOPTED by voters would be mute: It would be amending a portion of state law that didn’t exist.

That is not happening, McCay assured UtahPolicy.

McCay said that the voters’ will – in voting for CMV or against it – should be accepted.

“That is basic fairness,” McCay said.