Utah referendum effort to repeal tax bill qualifies for the ballot; Utah Legislature votes to repeal it themselves

On January 28, 2020, a veto referendum targeting Utah Senate Bill 2001 qualified for the ballot.

A veto referendum is a type of citizen-initiated ballot measure that asks voters whether to uphold or repeal a law passed by the state legislature. There are 23 states that have a process for veto referendums at the statewide level.

SB 2001, titled Tax Restructuring Revisions, which the referendum effort sought to repeal, was designed to make changes to the state tax code including a decrease to the individual and corporate income tax rates and an increase to the sales tax on food. SB 2001 was sponsored by Republican Sen. Lyle Hillyard and was passed by the Utah Legislature in a special session on December 12, 2019.

Supporters of the referendum effort submitted 152,000 signatures on January 21. As of 7:40 a.m. on January 28, county clerks had verified 117,154 signatures. To qualify for the ballot, 115,869 valid signatures were required.

On January 23, Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R), Senate President Stuart Adams (R), and House Speaker Brad R. Wilson (R) announced that the legislature would repeal Senate Bill 2001 on January 27, the first day of the legislative session, therefore rendering the referendum effort moot. Herbert and legislative leaders said, “Once the repeal is signed into law, the legislature will begin work under the reinstated tax code to prepare the fiscal year 2021 state budget. Repealing SB 2001 will enable the legislature to draft the budget without the uncertainty of a referendum potentially changing the tax code midway through the budget year.”

Rep. Francis Gibson (R) and Sen. Lyle Hillyard (R) introduced House Bill 185 to repeal the tax bill. The House voted 70-1 in favor of HB 185 on January 28, 2020. Republican Rep. Keven Stratton voted against repealing the tax bill. The Senate voted unanimously to repeal the bill. Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) is expected to sign HB 185.

The legislature and Utah Director of Elections Justin Lee are working to clarify whether the referendum will appear on the ballot since the bill it was targeting has been repealed.

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