Panel kills bill to let lawmakers live outside districts
Politics • Sponsor said he was trying to create a situation as exists with congressional races.
Published: January 25, 2012 05:51PM
Updated: January 26, 2012 04:35PM
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Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo State Auditor-elect John Dougall says he will retain most of the employees in the office, although it is one of the few agencies where he has the power to hire and fire all staffers at will. In this file photo, the state Republican lawmaker from Highland, speaks on the House floor.

Legislators decided Thursday that it is still a good idea to require state lawmakers to live in the districts they represent.

The House Government Operations Committee voted unanimously Thursday to table, or essentially kill, a proposed amendment to the Utah Constitution that would have allowed legislators to live outside their districts as long as they lived in the state.

That would have been similar to the U.S. Constitution, which allows U.S. House members to live outside their districts as long as they live in their home states.

That allowed Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to be elected twice while living outside the 3rd Congressional District he represents. Rep. Jim Matheson, R-Utah, has decided to run outside his new home district this year — as have six other Utah congressional candidates so far. Despite that, running outside of one’s district is historically rare.

“I think representatives need to live in districts where they are elected,” said Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove.

Frank was the lawmaker forced to resign last year after he discovered he inadvertently lived outside the district. He lived in Cedar Hills at the time, and residents there thought all of the city was in his district — but discovered an error which put part of the city outside it. He was reappointed this year when his replacement, Rep. Holly Richardson resigned, and after he moved into his district.

Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork, introduced the proposed constitutional amendment, HJR11, he said mostly to allow a discussion about whether it is best to mandate that candidates live in their district, or allow voters a chance to elect an outsider if they choose.

“I assume most of the time they [voters] will choose someone who lives in or near their district. But what this would do is allow them some other option if they choose to exercise it,” he said.

Numerous committee members said they feel it is wise to continue the requirement for lawmakers to live in their district. “I don’t think this is going anywhere,” said Rep. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, who made the motion to table it. The amendment would have required passage by two-thirds majorities in the Senate and House, plus approval by voters.

Dougall said he did not mind that his bill died, and merely sought dialogue. He said some bill are heart-felt and it hurts if they fail.

“This is not one of those,” he said.