Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 13, 2018
Legislature makes changes to county gov’t study process

Bill on governor’s desk would eliminate second petition required for gov’t change 

The Utah State Legislature ended its 45 days of work on March 8.

As the 2018 Legislative session closed, the Utah legislature had passed a total of 533 bills and resolutions.

Out of those 533 pieces of successful legislation, 266 of them, or 50 percent, were passed in the last three days of the session.

One bill of particular interest to Tooele County passed at 9:47 p.m. on March 8. That’s when the House concurred with amendments made by the Senate to House Bill 224 — County Government Change Elections.

The final version of the bill will allow for the recommendation of a county government study committee, which was already underway at the time HB 224 becomes effective, to be placed directly on a ballot without a second petition if voters approved the initiation of the study with at least a 60-percent vote, according to Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City.

Thatcher submitted the changes to HB 224 on the Senate floor.

Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne and Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson spoke in opposition to HB 224 during the House Political Subdivisions Committee’s hearing on the bill.

Tooele County residents Daniel Pacheco and Jeff McNeill spoke in favor of the bill at the same hearing, according to the committee’s approved minutes.

The version of the bill considered by the House committee would have changed the process of changing county government to mirror the process for changing city governments, which meant requiring only one petition and eliminating the need for a study committee.

HB 224 was passed out of the committee with an 11-0 favorable vote on Feb. 7. It passed the full House with a 71-2 vote.

In the Senate, HB 224 was given a favorable recommendation with a 5-0 vote after a hearing on Feb. 27.

The full Senate approved HB 224 with a 26-0 vote on March 8 at 8:32 p.m. after Thatcher presented a substitute to the bill that restored the creation of a study committee and eliminated the need for a second petition if the vote to undertake the study was passed with at least a 60- percent vote.

Thatcher’s substitute to HB 224 included wording that applies the new petition process to studies already initiated at the time the bill becomes effective.

“I listened to my constituents,” Thatcher said. “They said they wanted to make this change in the process, so I proposed it.”

HB 224, along with many other bills passed by the Legislature, are waiting for the governor’s signature.

The Utah Constitution gives Gov. Gary Herbert 20 days after the end of the legislative session to either sign or veto a bill, or the bill becomes law without his signature.

If HB 224 becomes law, there are a couple of implications for the Tooele County Government Study Committee, according to Pacheco, who serves on that committee.

If HB 224 becomes law, the Tooele County Government Study Committee’s recommendation to scratch the current three-member county commission and create a five-member council/manager form of government for the county will be placed on the November general election ballot without any further action, because the initial vote to create the study committee passed with a 65 percent vote,  according to Pacheco.

However, before the study committee’s recommendation can be placed on the ballot it must meet legal scrutiny by the county attorney for constitutional and statutory conflicts.

Also, if the study committee’s recommendation reaches the 2018 ballot in its current form, the transition plan as laid out in the study calls for the two county commissioners elected in 2018 to serve as full-time county commissioners in a three-member county commission for two years and then become part-time county council members for the remaining two years of their term, according to Pacheco.

The Tooele County Government Study Committee presented its final report to the Tooele County Clerk/Auditor Marilyn Gillette on Feb. 2. State code gave Gillette 10 days to pass the report on to Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead.

Broadhead has up to 45 days to return a report on the proposed optional plan to the county clerk, according to state code.

The attorney’s report is to include any provisions, if there are any, of the proposed optional for county government that, if implemented, would constitute a statutory or constitutional violation, according to state code.

Unless the violations are so integral to the proposed optional plan that, in the opinion of the county attorney, having previously changed them to avoid the violation would have affected the decision of a study committee member who favored the plan, the county attorney is to include with his report how the proposed plan may modified to avoid the violations, according to state code.

The study committee may then meet and revise the proposed plan to comply with the state code and constitution.

Tim Gillie

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim covers education, Tooele City government, business, real estate, politics and the state Legislature. He became a journalist after a long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America. Tim is a native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University.

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