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Bill would ban local governments from meeting during caucuses

Published January 21, 2012 7:45 pm

Legislature • Goal is to increase attendance at caucus meetings.
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Two state legislators say they plan to introduce a bill that would ban local government groups — from city and county councils to school boards — from meeting when major political parties are holding their neighborhood caucuses.

The goal is to reduce scheduling conflicts and increase attendance at the caucus meetings, where attendees vote for county and state delegates. The delegates then attend state and county conventions, where they choose their party's candidates for every office that is up for election in November.

The sponsors of the measure, Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, and Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, said the legislation would be the first to amend the state Open and Public Meetings Act to specify when public bodies would not be allowed to meet.

The candidates chosen by the caucus-convention process win the November election in Utah "in virtually all cases," according to a statement from Powell and Mayne.

"Whether you are Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated or anything else, I believe it is your patriotic duty in this state to at least be at your neighborhood caucus for one night every two years," Mayne said.

Powell told The Salt Lake Tribune that caucuses are for everyone, not just party activists. He said "unaffiliated" is the most popular choice when voters register and that those Utahns are not attending the meetings.

"They can and should still participate in the neighborhood caucus," Powell said. "I believe Utah's caucus day is the real election day."

The bill, titled Utah's Real-Election-Day Education for Neighborhood Caucuses Act, also would require the lieutenant governor to publicize the date and time of the neighborhood caucuses. This year, the Democrats are holding their caucus meetings on March 13 and the Republicans on March 15.

Other parties will announce their caucus dates individually.

In West Valley City, Mayor Mike Winder has proposed that the City Council pass a resolution saying West Valley will not hold council, committee or other meetings on the nights that political parties hold their caucuses.

The resolution also would call on other governments, religious organizations, businesses and community groups to adjust their schedules to avoid conflicting with the caucuses.

The proposed West Valley resolution is scheduled for a vote at the council regular meeting on Tuesday. The proposed bill is slated to be introduced at the opening of next week's legislative session.

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC