Proposed Compromise Would Have Repealed SB54 (Updated)

Utah State Capitol 16Multiple legislative sources close to negotiations tell that there was a proposed compromise regarding SB54, but the agreement was nixed late Tuesday night.

The proposed agreement worked something like this:
Lawmakers would vote to repeal SB54, which provides for the contested dual-track system to the primary ballot. However, that repeal would not take effect until 2017. The delay would allow the dual-track system to remain in place for an election cycle. That would also give the Utah GOP and “Count My Vote” organizers time to come to an agreement or, if that fails, give CMV time to gather signatures to possibly get their initiative on the ballot. There was another proposal to further delay the full repeal of SB54 until 2019. is told the deal was ready to present to the majority caucuses in both houses of the Legislature, but was pulled at the last minute. There is some confusion as to who ultimately nixed the deal. Legislative sources say the deal was killed by the Utah GOP who held an emergency telephone meeting of the state central committee Tuesday night to discuss the proposal. However, a source who was listening in on the central committee meeting says party chairman James Evans informed the membership the proposal was taken off the table approximately 20 minutes prior to the phone call.
Evans says he was receptive to the 2017 repeal compromise and was prepared to present that deal to the GOP Central Committee before it was pulled off the table.
“Our attorney said he was supportive of the opportunity to get a full repeal of the law, even though it would not be effective until 2017,” said Evans.
Rep. Dan McCay, R- Riverton, who was the House sponsor of SB54 when it passed in 2014, said the failed compromise was an intriguing solution.
“(It) was not my idea, But I was interested — as were many of my (House) colleagues about what could we do now?” in the final days of the Legislature, said McCay. “There was a lot of talk after my presentation on SB54 and the courts in” the GOP Tuesday caucus.”
Judge David Nuffer, who previously ruled the state could not force political parties to hold open primaries, issued an advisory last week which signaled to many he may be on the verge of throwing out the signature requirements in the original legislation because they are now onerously high for some candidates. If that happens, many candidates who have already gathered the required signatures to get on the primary ballot may be left in electoral limbo, not sure if they have secured their spot on the primary ballot, or if they would have to go through the caucus and convention system.
McCay says there are three possible options for lawmakers in the waning hours of the 2016 session to deal with confusion arising from the SB54 lawsuit. Do nothing, repeal SB54 entirely or find a simple legislative fix for the signature thresholds. Sources say there was some momentum in the House to do something before the end of the session, but no consensus on which of the three options was most attractive.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, says that uncertainty is not fair to potential candidates.
“What about the citizen who decides that it’s time to step up and serve?” says Bramble. “Right now, if they go down to their county clerk or to the Lt. Governor’s office to file for office and they ask how they get on the ballot. They can’t get that answer right now. That, to me, is being irresponsible.”
Reportedly, CMV organizers reluctantly supported the compromise, but they didn’t love it. The Utah GOP also was not entirely enamored of the deal, but were prepared to discuss it with the central committee.
Ultimately, the general feeling among legislators was, if the Tuesday night compromise weren’t approved by the involved parties, any debate over a legislative fix for the problem would be a replay of the original SB54 debate from two years ago, and nobody wanted to relive that.
“We decided not to do anything; not get back in the middle of this argument again,” said McCay.
Many supporters of the original SB54 agreement feel, no matter what Judge Nuffer rules, he will not kick candidates who have already gathered enough signatures off of this year’s ballot. 
“There’s no real danger in doing nothing” before adjournment, says McCay. Then we’ll see where things stand.