Utah citizens have just stopped Utah politicians from killing term limits in their state. But now the politicians are cutting the heart out of initiative and referendum itself, a process without which Utah, and most states, would never have gotten term limits to begin with.
Utah politicians just passed a bill that would let the legislature “amend” initiatives before they’re even enacted. The governor has signed it. Until now, legislators had to wait at least until an initiative took effect before swinging at it with their meat axe. The immediate target is an initiative passed last November, called “Initiative B.” Initiative B revised forfeiture laws so that innocent third parties have more protection of their property rights. Some people thought law enforcement would be unduly hampered by the changes. So the merits of the initiative were vigorously debated. It passed by a 70 percent majority.
That legislators might not like a particular initiative is no surprise, of course. The whole point of initiatives is to enable citizens to pass laws they judge to be advisable when their representatives disagree. But once an initiative has succeeded, the legislators should respect the rule of law and the duly expressed will of the voters. That is the honorable thing to do. Initiative B is not scheduled to take effect until March 20. But under the new anti-initiative law, it may be scrapped tomorrow. Not with any legitimacy, to be sure. Not with any respect for the democratic rights of the voters. But who cares about that, right?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.