The Pros and Cons of Utah’s Ballot Initiatives

Utah is at a historic point in history. Never has the state had so many ballot initiatives brought forth by citizens in the community. Three, potentially four, initiatives will be voted on in the General Election this coming November. Medical marijuana expansion, Medicaid expansion, and changes to both election boundaries and the caucus system are all issues to be decided on in the coming months. What policy implications do these initiatives have for Utah businesses and the community at large? This blog seeks to answer this question. Ballot initiative campaigns and informed experts provide the pros and cons to each initiative.

DISCLAIMER: We encourage members of Utah’s business community to actively participate in the political process. Any reference obtained from this blog to a specific initiative does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the Salt Lake Chamber. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Salt Lake Chamber. 

Medical Marijuana

PRO:

“Patients should not be treated as criminals, but that’s how Utah law currently treats those whose lives can be medically improved with cannabis. While the legislature has given incremental overtures to increasing access, these hollow efforts are ineffective and inadequate to address the problem. Following several attempts at legislative reform, the Utah Patients Coalition is now presenting Utah voters with the opportunity to do what elected officials have been unwilling to do.

Despite fearmongering and false claims by opponents, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act is a conservative, highly regulated program that provides patients the medication they need while minimizing the potential for abuse, diversion or recreational use. It restricts the number of dispensaries, prohibits advertising, removes conflicts of interest, provides for significant law enforcement oversight, empowers regulators and allows physicians to recommend this treatment option to their patients in desperate need of an alternative to addictive and deadline pharmaceuticals, including opioids.

Repeated polls show high support for medical cannabis that cuts across all demographics. We eagerly anticipate the November election and the opportunity for Utah voters to remedy the law to help thousands of patients across the state who are currently suffering in silence.”

— Connor Boyack, Advisor to Utah Patients Coalition

CON:

“The Medical Cannabis Initiative brings recreational marijuana to Utah.

  • It allows anyone of any age to qualify to receive a cannabis card and the qualifying illnesses are nearly unlimited with scant evidence to back them up.
  • There is no requirement to show ID when picking up the product.
  • Patients pick up whatever dispensaries sell them, not what is recommended by the “Physician.”
  • A “Physician” includes: Dentists, Podiatrists, PAs, Nurse Practitioners and Optometrists.
  • Smoking is allowed – no other “medicine” is smoked.
  • It is still illegal under federal law.
  • There is no local zoning control. Dispensaries, warehouses and processing plants are only restricted to being 300 feet from neighborhoods and 600 feet from schools, churches, parks and playgrounds.
  • No liability for providers who “recommend” that a patient have a medical card and no follow-up care required – would encourage bad providers.
  • Before July 1, 2020, the initiative allows anyone to purchase, possess and use marijuana under the affirmative defense clause by just claiming they would have a card in the future.
  • Unlimited possession in homes and ¼ lb. possession limit outside of homes (equivalent to 220 joints).
  • No sales tax on sales and in fact it will cost the state money – estimated $1.1 million to get started and $400,000 annually thereafter.
  • People can grow their own if they are not within 100 miles of a dispensary.

This is not about medicine, or patients, it is about recreational marijuana and big money, big business marijuana.”

Drug Safe Utah

Count My Vote

PRO:

“The caucus-convention method of nominating political candidates in Utah elections is outdated and dysfunctional. Many political party voters are unable to participate due to logistical constraints and other obstacles.

Because only a small group is empowered, a party’s broader membership is disenfranchised and overall voter participation is discouraged. While political parties should always remain free to hold caucuses and conventions, a direct primary election should serve as the only mechanism through which a candidate for elective office may appear with political party affiliation on the general-election ballot.

This issue has been debated publicly for many years, but now is the time for the people of Utah to decide. This initiative’s purpose is to institute a direct primary election that will improve voter participation, enhance party candidates’ access to the primary-election ballot, require political party nominees to show a sufficiently broad level of support in order to appear with party affiliation on the general-election ballot, and ensure the integrity and reliability of the election process through a uniformly administered state-run primary election.”

Count My Vote Campaign

CON:

“The Count My Vote campaign is a ruse based on the false narrative that the only way for a vote to count is in a Primary. The weakness of a Direct Primary is well documented. ‘CMV 2.1’ purports to fix legitimate issues caused by the “S.B. 54 compromise,” but will instead decrease voter participation, increase election and campaign costs, and hurt Utah voters.

Barry Schwartz writes about decision making in the Harvard Business Review, saying, “Marketers assume that the more choices they offer, the more likely customers will be able to find just the right thing. …Nevertheless, research now shows that there can be too much choice; when there is, consumers are less likely to buy anything at all, and if they do buy, they are less satisfied with their selection.” Under CMV 2.1 candidates need as little as 50 signatures to qualify for the Primary. Such a dismal hurdle will result in overcrowded fields with increased confusion and decreased voter participation and satisfaction.

The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget estimates costs to the state could increase $3.35 million per election cycle. That cost pales in comparison to amount candidates will need to spend to compete in bloated Primaries, as they battle to match dollar for dollar the spending of their opponents. Few candidate’s pocketbooks can survive that spending tsunami. Under such circumstances the priority becomes fundraising rather than battling in the marketplace of ideas.

The SLC Chamber’s mission is to “champion community prosperity.” CMV 2.1, however, does not.”

Keep My Voice Campaign

Utah Decides Healthcare

PRO:

“Utah voters should decide what to do with our tax dollars. For 5 years we’ve been leaving money on the table—nearly $800 million in federal funding per year is already set aside for Utah that we aren’t getting back. It’s money 33 other states already get, but we’ve been losing out on it for years. This initiative will bring those funds home and provide health coverage to more than 150,000 Utahns earning less than $17,000 per year.

Expanding Medicaid allows Utah taxpayers to support those in need while promoting individual responsibility and smart fiscal conservatism. This initiative proposes raising the sales tax on non-food items by just 0.15% to ensure our fellow Utahns have access to healthcare coverage.

Help Utah businesses by reducing cost shifting. When hospitals shift uncompensated costs to insurers, insurers pass on the added expense to Utah businesses and, ultimately, to their employees in the form of higher premiums. Expansion will reduce this “hidden health care tax” by reducing the amount of uncompensated care hospitals provide by about $814 million.

Help Utah businesses by shielding employers from higher tax penalties: Utah businesses will face $11-17 million less in tax penalties each year if qualifying employees are enrolled in Medicaid rather than the Marketplace.

Help Utah businesses by boosting Utah’s economy: Job and economic growth is not a prediction, it’s a reality – other states report tens of thousands of new jobs after expansion. Studies conducted in Utah estimate creation of 4,160 new jobs and $2.9 billion in new economic activity in our state.”

Utah Decides Healthcare Campaign

CON:

“Full Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, as envisioned by the ballot initiative, harms taxpayers, working families, businesses and Utah’s most vulnerable residents.

Expanding Medicaid under Obamacare harms taxpayers by forcing them to pay for a new Medicaid entitlement. States that have expanded Medicaid have seen tens of thousands more individuals enroll than expected, leaving lawmakers scrambling to cover budget shortfalls. In Utah, this likely means budget cuts to education, road improvements or public safety, and tax increases.

Expanding Medicaid under Obamacare harms working families by increasing taxes on basic purchases like clothing and utility bills. It forces low-income families to pay for Medicaid by making it harder for them to buy other basic necessities.

Expanding Medicaid under Obamacare harms businesses by making tens of thousands of employees’ healthcare dependent on maintaining a sufficiently low income. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this perverse incentive reduces the number of hours many employees work, leaving Utah businesses to struggle to find enough workers to fill jobs.

Expanding Medicaid under Obamacare harms Utah’s most vulnerable residents by reducing their access to healthcare. The federal government pays more money to states for covering able-bodied, single adults in the expansion population than it pays for covering poor children or disabled Utahns. As the state seeks to maximize federal funding under Medicaid expansion, the former will receive priority while the latter suffer on waiting lists for their healthcare.

Utah cannot afford the cost of expanding Medicaid and increasing federal control over Utahns’ healthcare decisions. Instead, we should seek to reform Medicaid to offer the kind of health coverage that we want for ourselves.”

Sutherland Institute

Better Boundaries

PRO:

“The Better Boundaries initiative was born from a simple idea – that voters should choose their politicians; politicians shouldn’t choose their voters. Utah’s current redistricting system, however, allows politicians to manipulate the process by selecting the people who vote for them without appropriate checks. This system creates an opportunity for gerrymandering, and has resulted in less competitive races and politicians who prioritize their own personal gains and those of special interests over the needs of constituents. Politicians should not get to choose to whom they are accountable.

One of the best ways to stop gerrymandering is to remove the ability to do so. The Better Boundaries initiative will create an independent redistricting commission, appointed jointly by the Governor and Legislature, to recommend maps to the Legislature for an up or down vote. The commission and the Legislature will be bound by “rules” that will thwart gerrymandering. The improved system will result in greater transparency, a check on incumbents’ conflict of interest and, ultimately, maps that better serve the needs of our communities.

Utah is heavily weighted towards one political party – the Better Boundaries initiative isn’t going to change that. The initiative will, however, make politicians more accountable to their constituents. In a democracy, politicians should have close ties to the people and should continually work hard to earn votes. But in a gerrymandered district, democracy breaks down. Better Boundaries is committed to making government more responsive to the needs of the people, thereby restoring faith in our representative democracy.”

Better Boundaries Campaign

CON:

“Not only should Legislators be allowed to redistrict, the founders of Utah thought it was important to give this authority exclusively to the Legislature and no other entity. This anchors the entire process in the voice of the people to whom we as legislators are accountable.

The thought that ‘legislators draw their districts so that they cannot be voted out’ is simply mathematically inaccurate. Since 1970 the average time in office for a Utah legislator is less than seven years. With redistricting occurring only once every ten years, how could legislators possibly be drawing districts that are ensuring they stay in office?

The ‘Better Boundaries Initiative’ is nothing more than a cleverly disguised partisan ploy to silence the voice of the people of Utah as represented by the Legislature. It unconstitutionally gives authority over redistricting to unelected individuals and the courts. Make no mistake about it, the backers of this initiative are not seeking to create a transparent, fair, and constitutionally sound redistricting process – we already have that. They are seeking to pack what is now a competitive congressional district with Democrat voters to create a single, safe, and solidly Democrat congressional district around Salt Lake City.

Appropriately named by its Salt Lake City Democrat supporters, the ‘Better Boundaries Initiative,’ begs the question: better boundaries for whom? Themselves.”

— Excerpt from an op-ed by Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, published July 12, 2018 at SenateSite.com


DISCLAIMER: We encourage members of Utah’s business community to actively participate in the political process. Any reference obtained from this blog to a specific initiative does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the Salt Lake Chamber. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Salt Lake Chamber. 

By |2018-07-13T11:05:04+00:00July 13th, 2018|Blog, Policy|0 Comments

Leave A Comment