“Were both shaking,” laughed Dee Burningham, referring to himself and his brother, UEG Chairman Kim Burningham, about getting the required signatures for a citizens’ initiative by April 15. Dee is coordinating signature gathering in Senate District 23 and for Davis County as a whole.
“If you look at the numbers (of signatures) you say, ‘How are we going to make it?’ But we have people all over the state working,” said Dee.
The group has been working for months to get voters’ signatures so that the UEG initiative can be placed on the ballot in November. Among proposals in the initiative is a commission to hear ethics complaints against sitting legislators. This point became particularly sticky during the 2010 session. Ultimately, the Legislature passed its own measure regarding formation of an ethics commission through an amendment process.
During the session, Kim Burningham said if the Legislature didn’t pass an acceptable bill, the UEG would press forward with its campaign. Now, with only a week to go, the push is on.
“That last week I will be available to go wherever,” said Dee. “I can say in Davis County I fully expect we’ll make it, if we can just get those who are working to complete their signature gathering.”
Dee said the requirement of having to get 26 of 29 Senate districts on board is a very high standard. “It’s made it so that four Senate districts could block it, even though all the other counties might want it,” he said. “It means that people in one part of the state could prohibit other parts of Utah from doing something.”
Now with the bill that the Legislature passed on allowing signatures to be removed, Dee said it makes it even more difficult.
Even though Dee’s District 23 has achieved its required number of signatures, he said no one should relax. “We don’t want to brag about meeting the requirement,” he said. “We have to meet the requirement for other areas too.”
He said they also have to get more signatures than required to cover any disqualified signatures a county recorder might find. “We know that 5 percent to 6 percent of the signatures won’t be valid because of incorrect information or lack of information,” said Dee. “In a place like Salt Lake it would be a nightmare for the county clerk to try and look up missing information. But they can’t certify a signature if it can’t be verified.”
Currently, Kim and others are in St. George trying to beef up that area of the state. In the meantime, Dee said the biggest hope for reaching their goal is for signature gatherers not to give up.
“We want everybody to finish what they started,” he said. “They can’t think anyone is finished. We have to have our super goal which is 10 percent of voters statewide.”
Dee said they have met some resistance with a few businesses not allowing them to gather signatures at their stores. He said a lobbyist for Associated Grocers recommended its managers not allow it because it is too controversial.