Utah to vote in 2022 on increasing the limit on appropriations the state legislature can make in an emergency session

The Utah State Legislature adjourned its 2021 session on March 5, 2021, after approving a constitutional amendment that would increase the limit on appropriations the state legislature can make in an emergency session. It would increase the limit on appropriations from 1% to 5% of the total amount appropriated by the Legislature for the immediately preceding completed fiscal year. It would also eliminate the limit on how much spending the legislature could cut during a special session. The measure would also exempt federal funding from the appropriations limit. Voters will decide the amendment on November 8, 2022.

In Utah, both chambers of the state legislature need to pass a constitutional amendment by a two-thirds vote during one legislative session to refer it to the ballot.

The amendment was introduced into the legislature as House Joint Resolution 12 on February 9, 2021. The House approved the measure on February 25, 2021, by a vote of 68 to 5 with two members absent or not voting. The Senate passed the measure unanimously on March 5, 2021.

The amendment was proposed in response to special legislative sessions in 2020 convened to deal with the COVID-19 emergency declarations. Voters approved an amendment in 2018 to allow the legislature to call a special session. The 2018 amendment also put the 1% limit on appropriations and cuts. State Rep. Bradley G. Last, the measure’s sponsor, said, “What we learned in that process is that we didn’t give ourselves enough flexibility. […] As you will recall we had to call ourselves into special session several times in order to accomplish what we needed to accomplish last year. So we came to a little better understanding of the emergency situation that might present itself.”

Between 2000 and 2020, 39 constitutional amendments were referred to the ballot by the state legislature, of which 89.74% (35) were approved and 10.26% (4) were defeated.