SALT LAKE CITY – Utah House and Senate Democrats have requested a special session of the Legislature to resolve the conflict over two voucher bills passed in the 2007 General Session.
HB 148 passed by one vote in the House, and late in the session HB 174 was drafted to clean it up. Now, questions involve whether the recently qualified referendum would affect only the first bill or both. Democrats want to resolve the issue in a special session.
A copy of the letter to Gov. Jon Huntsman seeking the action is below:
May 8, 2007
The Honorable Jon Huntsman, Jr.
Governor of the State of Utah
E220 State Capitol Complex
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114
Dear Gov. Huntsman:
We understand that you will not be calling a special session in May, deciding rather to hold the voucher referendum vote in November. We think that a special session is imperative to cleanup the statutory confusion over the conflicting language in the voucher bills passed last legislative session.
The two voucher bills, HB 148 and HB 174, were inextricably linked, and as near as we can tell, nobody, including legislative counsel, anticipated the odd result of the latter bill being able to stand as a separate mandate to implement a voucher law. Throughout the presentation and debate of the bill, it was proposed as a cleanup of HB 148, and votes of many who otherwise would have voted against the bill, were made on the basis that addressed some of the problems with HB 148.
Further, and we believe most important (and consistent with your remarks), the public knows that the referendum on vouchers was on the question of whether Utah should allow vouchers for private schools. That will properly be the focus of the election. Any technical issues from different interpretations of the legislation are extraneous to this basic issue that the people of Utah have the right to express themselves on. We should not be wasting state resources and the people’s energy on a red herring.
Please place this cleanup on a special-session agenda. As you have said, the voice and vote of the people of Utah should be the foundation for the future of vouchers in Utah.
We welcome any further discussion on this issue, and hope you will help provide some certainty on this matter by providing a way to clean up conflicting interpretations of whether vouchers should be implemented in the middle of a referendum called by the people.
Ralph Becker Mike Dmitrich
On behalf of Utah Democratic Legislators
Cc: Utah State School Board, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, Utah legislators