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In a course reversal, state senators apparently are ready to act a bit as if they have moved the clock back 99 years to the era before the 17th Amendment was ratified and legislatures, not the voters, chose U.S. senators.
The Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee voted 3-0 to endorse SR1 by Sen. Casey Anderson, R-Cedar City, and sent it to the full Senate. It would order a secret-ballot poll among state senators each election year to show the public which U.S. Senate candidate they prefer.
The same committee two weeks ago failed to pass on a tied 3-3 vote a similar resolution, SJR11, which would have ordered a similar poll among all legislators, and not just senators.
Anderson said that, after the earlier failed vote, other senators suggested he try the new bill for a state Senate-only poll. He added that legislative researchers are unsure whether the entire Legislature or just the state Senate elected U.S. senators in various elections before the 17th Amendment.
"It would restore some connection between the state and our federal senators," Anderson told the committee. He had previously told it that he blamed repeal of the 17th Amendment for a disconnect between Washington, D.C., and the rest of the country because most money raised by U.S. senators "does not come from the home state but from special interest groups."
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, was absent during the vote. But he said later that he opposes the resolution taking effect this year, fearing many will see it as a move to help former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, R-Bountiful, in his race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "I think people may see it as us trying to help a buddy, and the importance of what happened with the 17th Amendment may be lost," he said.