However, the wrangling is not over. The lieutenant governor’s office still maintains that Utah statutes prohibit combining the signatures gathered before April 15 with the new ones obtained since that deadline passed.
“Our best reading of the law says they have to have the ballots qualified for the next general election,” said Lt. Gov. Greg Bell. “The UEG put on its petition that it was for the 2010 election. We think the signatures received after the April 15 deadline are not valid.”
But UEG attorney, David Irvine adamantly disagrees. “The lieutenant governor is claiming that because UEG did not submit sufficient signatures by April 15, nothing we have done ‘counts,’ and we must start over,” he said in a statement. “This is disingenuous, because he knows full well that if we failed to qualify within whatever time is allowed, the subject cannot be raised again via an initiative within two years from Aug. 12, 2009. Therefore, the earliest possible date for another petition on the same subject to be lawfully circulated would be 2014.”
Irvine said he reads the law differently. “(The statute) simply states that signature packets must be submitted on or before April 15 before the regular general election,” he said, and the other portion of the law states, “the sponsors shall qualify the petition for the regular general election ballot no later than one year after the application is filed.”
A letter from the Attorney General’s office, sent in June responding to the UEG notes, “The sponsors must ‘qualify’ the petition within the year; it does not say sponsors have one year to gather signatures. Indeed, the statute makes a clear distinction between ‘collecting’ signatures and ‘qualifying’ the petition for the ballot.”
Irvine contends the statutes must be read in such a way as to harmonize. “Moreover, the Utah Supreme Court has held — over and over — that the ‘sacrosanct’ right of the voters to exercise their co-equal legislative power with the Legislature shall be liberally construed and vigorously protected against legislative encroachment.”
Bell said he is not purposely trying to stop the initiative, but just following the law.
“Everything I’ve done along the way has been reasoned and legally supported,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the substance of the initiative. It’s not that I’m trying to defeat this.”
In spite of that, the UEG has already promised a legal battle.
“The best reason for going to law school is so that you don’t have to be flim-flamed by other lawyers,” said Irvine.