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Utah House Republicans on Wednesday discussed possibilities from lawsuits to punitive legislation to battle Gov. Gary Herbert over what they say is his illegal special-election process to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
But by the end of a House GOP caucus meeting, they had not agreed to any course of action. House Speaker Greg Hughes said lawmakers do not intend for now to sue the governor. House Whip Francis Gibson said party leaders plan to move with care as they determine what to do, and will bring a final plan back soon for caucus consideration.
Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, offered the most unusual proposal: ask Chaffetz not to resign, making moot the increasingly nasty battles about whether the election to replace him is being conducted legally.
"We may not have a replacement until 2019" otherwise, he said, contending that lawsuits may stall the process until the next regular congressional election. Chaffetz has said he plans to resign June 30, but could legally change his mind, Stratton said.
But Chaffetz quickly threw a dart at that trial balloon.
"June 30 is still my last day," the congressman said about the proposal in a text message to The Salt Lake Tribune.
The House GOP caucus met a day after an unusual joint meeting with Democrats to contend that Herbert is breaking the law, and that he bullied Attorney General Sean Reyes into withholding as protected by attorney-client privilege a completed legal opinion requested by legislative leaders that lawmakers suspect may support their position.
They contend the process that Herbert implemented changes and shortens the normal system without obtaining the required legislative approval.
Herbert had repeatedly refused lawmakers' request for a special session, saying he was within his legal rights to call the election and set the timetable.
House Republicans' views were wide-ranging Wednesday. A few even urged calling a cease-fire with the governor.
Rep. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, said the Legislature failed to pass a bill spelling out a process for special elections earlier this year. "We fumbled the ball," he said, and the governor picked it up and ran with it.
Rep. Bruce Cutler, R-Murray, even suggested finding a way "to rubber-stamp" what Herbert has done so that the special election already underway may proceed, and working on a more permanent solution later.
Most members agreed they will work on legislation to outline a special-election process, and have it ready for January's general session or earlier if lawsuits lead to the need for a special legislative session.
Lawmakers confirmed previous indications that they will work on a proposed constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to call itself into special session a power now currently reserved to the governor.
Some lawmakers supported a lawsuit seeking to force disclosure of the attorney general's legal opinion about the election. But Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, an attorney, urged simply fighting that through an open-records request, arguing that the attorney-client privilege claimed by the governor doesn't exist because the attorney general is an independent elected official.