Better Protections for Citizen Initiatives

In the 2018 election, Utah voters passed 3 initiatives regarding medicaid expansion, medical marijuana legalization, and independent redistricting. Throughout the lifetimes of these initiatives, a chorus of legislators bemoaned the use of initiatives, stating that they subvert the role of the legislature in the law-making process. Then with the passing of these three initiatives, they promptly took steps to change all three of them.

Legislators are correct that citizen initiatives are horribly inefficient and flawed alternatives to the normal legislative process, but they are an essential check on the power of a legislature that refuses to be responsive to the will of the electorate. The recent proliferation of initiatives in Utah is simply a symptom of voters’ lack of trust in the Legislature to take the state in the right direction.

What Can Be Done?

  • Increase the threshold to require at least a two-thirds majority of the legislature to repeal or amend citizen initiatives. This will incentivize the legislature to be more responsive in the first place, removing the need for an initiative, and make it harder for the legislature to change initiatives that the voters do approve.