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Rolly: Legislators flip-flop on their own intent
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Legislature made sure it would be prepared for a Utah Supreme Court fight on its own legislative intent.

If the appeals in the lawsuit filed by Utahns for Ethical Government (UEG) are eventually ruled on by the Utah Supreme Court, the Legislature is ready. The Legislative Management Committee directed the Legislature's lawyers to draft an amicus brief in the lawsuit.

The dispute involves a state statute governing initiative petitions and whether UEG obtained enough signatures on its petition to put an ethics reform initiative on the ballot.

The statute says petitioners must have the required number of signatures within a year of the time they begin gathering, or by April 15. UEG did not have the signatures by April 15, 2011, but did make the quota by August, a year after they started.

The Utah Election Office ruled UEG failed to qualify because it didn't meet the quota by April 15. But a state judge agreed with UEG that the statute allowed them the greater time period.

The state has appealed that decision, and legislative leaders want lawmakers to weigh in on the suit, clarifying that the Legislature's intent to impose the April 15 deadline.

These would be the same leaders who went ballistic last year because the Supreme Court had ruled on a public records lawsuit by relying on (drum roll, please) legislative intent.

That was one of the arguments made by leaders when they hurriedly passed a bill gutting Utah's open records law last year, then reinstated it in the face of public outrage.

At the time, legislators said the Supreme Court allowed the release of records involving sexual harassment allegations against a Salt Lake County government supervisor, even though the statute defined that type of record as private. The court relied on intent language to make an exception.

Legislative leaders at the time said the literal wording of the statute should be the factor, not the Legislature's intent.

But now, because the lower court interpreted the statute in a way the Legislature didn't like, the Supreme Court should consider (another drum roll) the Legislature's intent.

Breaking out in song • Monte Peterson, owner of Peterson's Marketplace in Riverton, is a better grocer than virtuoso, but he drew a standing ovation during the recent annual meeting of Associated Food Stores.

The cooperative of about 400 independent grocers in the Intermountain West reported a $5.9 million first-ever profit this year, after posting losses since the 2009 purchase of the Utah Albertsons stores, renamed Fresh Market.

Peterson, co-op board chairman, couldn't contain his pleasure on the turnaround in a speech before an audience of 450 people. He ended his address with lyrics by Johnny Nash, which Peterson sang a cappella.

"I see clearly now, the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.

"It's gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiny day."

Before he and the board get too comfortable with the positive turn-around, they should be reminded that the song was featured in the road movie "Thelma and Louise."

They ended up driving off a cliff.

prolly@sltrib.com

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