Press Release: Utah Term Limits NOW! Succumbs—For Now, to Delayed Political Process

Effective immediately, Utah Term Limits NOW! (UTLN) is terminating its year-long effort to bring the issue of terms limits on key appointments by the governor to the 2016 ballot.

UTLN had planned to gather signatures for a state-wide ballot measure but has been blocked by the Lt. Governor’s office from even starting the process.

According to attorney Stephen Clark, “Actions by the Lt. Governor’s office have put us in a situation where, even if we win, we lose. Given a series of long and unexplained delays, it is no longer practical to bring this issue to the voters within the 2016 election cycle.

Clark refers to the fact that on July 2, 2015, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox unilaterally denied a June 2, 2015 UTLN application to place an initiative on the 2016 ballot to limit to two terms, key appointments by the governor. Without citing any precedent, Cox determined the initiative to be “patently unconstitutional.” Efforts by UTLN to clarify that declaration proved fruitless and in August, UTLN acted on its belief that Cox had overstepped his authority and filed for an expedited ruling from the Utah State Supreme Court. UTLN expected a prompt ruling, since the filing noted that time was of the essence to gather signatures. Unfortunately, UTLN recently received notice that the Court would hear oral arguments on December 1, meaning no ruling would be issued prior to December at the soonest.

“This case proves the adage that ’justice delayed is justice denied’,” Clark states. “The foot-dragging of Lt. Governor Cox and the timing of a court response leave us insufficient time to gather the required signatures in a practical and cost-efficient manner. Rather than spend up to a million dollars to expedite a paid signature process we intend instead to proceed with oral arguments before the Court. We feel it is important for the state’s highest court to rule on whether the Lt. Governor overstepped his authority in declaring our application ’patently unconstitutional’ without citing any precedent.  The issue of unchecked executive power is too important to abandon. It stymied the popular will in this case.”

UTLN Chair Rick Larsen adds, “Everyone involved in this effort is surprised and disappointed with the process. Three in four Utah voters favor term limits on appointments, yet Lt. Governor Cox has ignored that strong preference in favor of politics and procedure. It leaves thousands of supporters and volunteers and many more Utahns wondering if the voter has a clear path to effect change through the initiative process.”

Larsen recognizes a handful of local leaders who have stood on the side of the voters. “State Auditor John Dougall, one of the elected officials who has already imposed term limits on himself, along with Democratic Party State Chair Peter Corroon, who has been tireless in offering the support of his party, represent what is right about the process.

As of Friday November 6, 2015, Utah Term Limits NOW! will close the Political Issues Committee (or PIC) bearing the same name, and leave the issue to legislators who see value in assuming leadership on the issue, and to candidates sensitive to cronyism and overreach among elected officials.  UTLN may resume the effort at some point in the future, but will offer no further public comments until then.