Proposed bill could reverse change of government election |

Proposed bill could reverse change of government election

by Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Threatening to undo a change in the form of government in Summit County supported by voters in November, a bill introduced Thursday on Utah’s Capitol Hill by a Coalville lawmaker would prohibit voters from morphing their county commissions into controversial councils with hired managers.

State Republican Rep. Mel Brown’s House Bill 348 would authorize voters "to petition for and then vote on a repeal of a previously adopted optional plan to return the county’s form of government to the form the county operated under before the optional plan was adopted."

"It looks to me to be just payback for (Brown) getting elected by the eastern part of the county," said Pinebrook resident Steve Dougherty, who pushed hard last year for passage of the change in form of government. "It’s so poignantly directed at a retaking of the courthouse by the minority."

Brown’s bill would also eliminate the ability of counties to adopt the council/manager form of government approved by Summit County voters and prohibit the election of county officers on a non-partisan basis.

"It’s disappointing that [Brown] would now come back and target the manager form of government," Dougherty said. "Simply to protect people in county government who don’t want change."

Instead of the current 3-member Summit County Commission, in November, 51 percent of the electorate voted to change the board to a 5-member council with an appointed manager.

To govern counties, HB348 would change state law to require either county commissions, which hold executive and legislative powers, or county councils, which function as legislative branches with executive mayors elected by citizens.

Ten percent of the voters in Summit County could petition to change the new form of government adopted last year if Brown’s bill is passed during the Legislature’s 2007 general session.

"[Brown] is not serving his constituents," Dougherty said, adding that he encouraged state Democratic Rep. Christine Johnson, who represents portions of the Snyderville Basin, to oppose the bill. "A big chunk of her district is under attack so she better stand up to this."

HB348 would change the law to allow registered voters to initiate a process for repealing an optional form of government like what was approved in the county in November and is slated to take effect in 2009.

"If a majority of voters voting on the proposal to repeal the optional plan vote in favor of repealing & the optional plan is repealed," Brown’s bill states.

According to HB348, the optional form of government would disband the following January.

"The county officers under the form of government to which the county reverts, who are different than the county officers under the repealed optional plan, shall be elected at the regular general election &," the bill states.

While a majority of Summit County’s voters last year supported Proposition 1 to change the form of government, South Summit resident Mike Marty lead the charge to defeat the ballot measure.

"I’m not a Mel Brown fan but now I think I could fall in love with him," Marty said after he was told about HB348 on Friday. "I think I could become a Republican."

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