Three far-reaching proposals are now officially on the ballot for voters to approve or reject in November. A fourth, the Count My Vote proposal, was disqualified after opponents rescinded just barely enough signatures to keep it off the ballot. Myriad questions remain, such as potential lawsuits, the merits of the proposals and whether each will win or lose.
The lieutenant governor has ruled Count My Vote won’t be on the ballot. What’s next?
Pignanelli: "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on, you are hopelessly confused." — Walter F. Mondale
This ongoing drama has much in common with the "Star Wars" saga — sequels, endless spinoffs and activists who resemble scary aliens. Utahns will continue to endure this struggle between hostile forces for years.
Count My Vote is supported and well-funded by some of Utah's most prominent families. Further, they are just as tenacious as the Republican delegate militants, but nicer and less obnoxious.
So initiative supporters are not going away and will continue to push party nomination reforms through litigation, legislation and other means. In addition to requesting changes to Utah's primary system, they are now focused on the rescission process.
Readers are advised to approach this issue as they do "Star Wars": Enjoy the current offering knowing another installment is in the future.
Webb: Much has yet to play out on the Count My Vote disqualification, and it’s difficult to predict the outcome. The vast majority of Utah voters support Count My Vote and would like to affirm that support at the ballot box. The Utah Supreme Court will likely decide if they get that privilege.
The good news is that whether or not Count My Vote is on the ballot, the dual track to the primary election remains in force. The Count My Vote initiative would have improved the SB54 law, but it’s pretty good the way it is. The hundreds of candidates who have gathered signatures to get on the ballot will continue to do so, and Utah is not going back exclusively to the outdated, elitist, exclusionary caucus and convention system. We’ve crossed a tipping point in opening Utah’s election system to all voters — and we’re not going back.
The proposal to make marijuana readily available at the recommendation of almost any medical professional will go before voters. Are voters likely to approve?
Pignanelli: Politicos were shocked that the well-respected opponents (i.e. Utah Medical Association, law enforcement, prominent Mormons) could not obtain more rescission signatures — a clear indication of organizational problems. Also, this initiative was filed June 2017, but few bothered to read and explain concerns until a few months ago, far too late. Currently, the apprehensions with the initiative are far outweighed by the fear of the existing alternatives — opioid addiction and ineffectiveness of current FDA approved medications.
Webb: Despite polls showing widespread support for the marijuana proposal, the tide can easily turn. Prominent medical, law enforcement and community leaders are pointing out serious problems in this flawed proposal bankrolled by the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry.
It’s entirely possible that elements found in the marijuana plant have medicinal qualities. If so, let’s do it right and go through the approved process to create safe medications. This proposal allows widespread marijuana use without the normal safeguards used to regulate prescribed medications. Marijuana states like Colorado and California are seeing serious negative consequences. This is too big a gamble.
Medicaid expansion qualified for the ballot. Will it become law?
Pignanelli: Supporters were unchallenged while gathering signatures. That free pass now ends. Opponents will soon advise Utahns that buried in this initiative is a sales tax increase to fund the state obligation of 10 percent of medical services for the additional Medicaid recipients. So, messaging will determine the outcome of this. Is the opportunity to obtain millions of federal dollars to assist Utah's poorest greater than the fear entitlement programs are exploding the national debt? Does a tax increase make sense when the state budget is in surplus? The winner will have conveyed the simplest, most emotional missive.
Webb: Our health care system — except the emergency room — remains inaccessible for many low-income families. The system needs significant reform, especially at the federal level. In the meantime, we have the opportunity to bring home hundreds of millions of dollars we’re currently paying to the federal government. This money could help provide insurance and health care services for low-income families. Makes sense to me.
Voters will decide whether to set up an independent redistricting commission. Is gerrymandering a thing of the past?
Pignanelli: Gerrymandering coexists with the Constitution and is difficult to completely remove from our system. A Supreme Court decision in the very near future could impact how proponents and opponents message this initiative. Stay tuned because we will have opinions.
Webb: The authors of this initiative have struggled mightily to take the politics out of politics. It won’t work, but it will be fun to watch.