This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A House committee killed a bill seeking to delay a compromise struck last year to change the way parties choose their candidates.
HB281 died Tuesday on a 3-6 vote in the House Government Operations Committee. It had sought to delay until 2017 the changes made by the Legislature last year.
The earlier compromise, called SB54, allows candidates to qualify for the primary ballot in two ways. They can collect enough signatures, a method pushed by the Count My Vote ballot initiative. Or they can by nominated by party conventions, the traditional method.
Count My Vote officials have charged that the Republican Party and some lawmakers are tying to go back on the deal, which last year led Count My Vote to drop its efforts to put a ballot initiative before voters that would have done away with the old caucus-convention system.
Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley City, sponsor of the new bill, said, "I don't want the proposal to pull the rug out from underneath the deal" made last year, "but I do believe that the request for more time is something we should consider."
He said SB54 requires changes that the Republican Party may not be able to enact under its bylaws before the 2016 elections.
Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans said that means the GOP might not be a qualified party, which could remove it from the ballot. Republicans could then be forced to run as unaffiliated candidates.
Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, questioned that, and noted that other parties are able to comply.
Kirk Jowers, a co-founder of Count My Vote, said his group always insisted that the compromise take effect in 2016, the year of presidential, gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races in Utah. He said it would never have agreed to a compromise that did not take effect in that major election.
He charged that the point of the bill "is not to delay" SB54 from taking effect, but to help overturn it noting that Evans and Fred Cox said they oppose the law.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who negotiated the SB54 compromise, said Tuesday that the Republican Party has had a year to comply with the changes which the lieutenant governor's office has said can be easily met and the 2016 effective date was one of the conditions for Count My Vote to suspend its initiative drive.
"I believe personally that the Legislature needs to hold to the terms of that compromise," Bramble said.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, who has a bill in the Senate to delay SB54 until 2018, said his goal is to give the Republican Party's roughly 4,000 delegates a chance to make the revisions needed to comply with the changes.
Cox also said his bill would allow time to resolve a lawsuit the GOP filed challenging SB54 before the compromise takes effect. Jowers said the party should have filed its lawsuit six months earlier if it truly worried about such confusion.
Despite the defeat Tuesday, two other bills are advancing that could delay or overturn SB54.
The Senate is set to soon debate those two bills by Rep. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, one similar to Cox's to delay the compromise, and a separate constitutional amendment to allow voters to decide whether to give parties complete power over choosing its nominees.