Former legislator and community advocate seek to strengthen initiatives in Utah

Christine Stenquist, lead patient advocate in the push for medical cannabis in Utah, and former Utah Senator Steve Urquhart have announced The Utah Initiative Protection Act (Utah IPA), to safeguard the constitutional right of Utah citizens. 

The Act would require citizen ratification or rejection of any legislative repeal or amendment of a law passed by citizen initiative. The Act could be passed by the Legislature itself or by citizen initiative in 2022. Stenquist and Urquhart are confident they will find a legislator to run the bill, though the two do not believe the Legislature would seriously consider the bill.

Urquhart said, “In Utah, the Legislature and the people each can make laws. The Legislature has greatly diminished the people’s ability to make a law that will not be immediately gutted by our 50/50 lawmaking partner.”

The Utah Initiative Protection Act will force lawmakers to be better lawmaking partners with the public. “When this provision is law,” Urquhart said, “the Legislature will be forced to have necessary conversations it presently is unwilling to have. That is a healthy and good thing.”

Urquhart further said, “I am excited to see this idea move forward. We will learn in the next legislative session whether the Legislature has learned from its recent mistakes and now values the right of citizens to make laws. If it does not, we will use the initiative process to force it to respect that right.”

Stenquist added, “The Utah Constitution gives the voters and the legislature equal power; it’s a beautiful and unique design. However, when abuse of power is experienced from one partner a statue must be put in place to ensure proper balance is restored.

The Utah Initiative Protection Act will better balance the relationship between voters and the legislature. 

Stenquist continued, “Without these added measures, voter cynicism will continue to rise. We experienced an influx of 78,000 new voters in 2018; they mean something to me. Their voices and their vote have value. This effort is intended to fortify the initiative process; by doing so, we increase the likelihood of real negotiations on issues in the future.”