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Grant v. Herbert

Supreme Court of Utah

August 7, 2019

Bart Grant, [1] Petitioners,
v.
Governor Gary R. Herbert, Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, Director of Elections Justin Lee, and Members of the 62nd Utah State Legislature, Respondents.

          On Petition for Extraordinary Relief

          Bart Grant, Monroe, Steven G. Maxfield, Kanosh, Daniel Newby, Taylorsville, pro se petitioners

          Sean D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., Tyler R. Green, Solic. Gen., Stanford E. Purser, Deputy Solic. Gen., Salt Lake City, for respondents Governor Gary R. Herbert, Lieutenant Governor Spencer J. Cox, and Director of Elections Justin Lee

          Eric N. Weeks, Christine R. Gilbert, Lee A. Killian, Salt Lake City, for respondents Members of the 62nd Utah State Legislature

          Justice Petersen authored the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice Himonas, and Judge Appleby joined.

          Having recused himself, Justice Pearce does not participate herein. Court of Appeals Judge Kate Appleby sat.

          OPINION

          PETERSEN, JUSTICE

         INTRODUCTION

         ¶1 In the 2018 general election, Utah voters approved a citizens' initiative that legalized medical cannabis. Before the law's effective date, Governor Gary R. Herbert called for a special session of the Utah Legislature. During the special session, the legislature replaced the initiative with its own statute: House Bill 3001. The day H.B. 3001 passed, some of the Petitioners in this case filed a referendum application with Lieutenant Governor Spencer J. Cox. If successful, the application would have allowed H.B. 3001 to be put to a vote of the people. But the application was not successful. The Lieutenant Governor denied it because he determined one of the referendum sponsors did not meet the applicable statutory requirements, and because both the Utah House of Representatives and the Utah Senate passed H.B. 3001 by more than a two-thirds vote. Under the Utah Constitution, when both houses of the legislature pass a bill by a supermajority, it is referendum-proof.

         ¶2 Petitioners bypassed the district court and brought this petition for extraordinary relief directly to us. They argue that the actions of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Utah Legislature are unconstitutional in a number of ways. For the reasons explained below, we dismiss the petition.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶3 The Utah Constitution gives the "legal voters of the State of Utah" the right to "initiate any desired legislation and cause it to be submitted to the people for adoption upon a majority vote of those voting on the legislation, as provided by statute." Utah Const. art. VI, § 1(2)(a)(i).

         ¶4 The initiative at issue here is the Utah Medical Cannabis Act. After determining that the initiative had received a sufficient number of verified signatures, the Lieutenant Governor ordered that the Utah Medical Cannabis Act be placed on the 2018 general election ballot as Proposition 2. Utah voters passed Proposition 2, and it went into effect on December 1, 2018.

         ¶5 The day before Proposition 2's effective date, the Governor called for a special session of the Utah Legislature. The special session was convened on December 3, 2018, to consider, along with two other topics, "[a]mending the Utah Medical Cannabis Act and related provisions." During the one-day special session, H.B. 3001, also titled the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, was introduced. The bill amended many of the provisions of Proposition 2.[2] When legislators voted on H.B. 3001, it passed by a two-thirds supermajority in both houses.

         ¶6 The Governor signed H.B. 3001 into law the same day. Immediately, Petitioners Steven G. Maxfield, Daniel Newby, Bart Grant, and Sharla Christie, as well as Lelia M. Grant, filed a referendum application with the Lieutenant Governor. While an initiative is the means by which voters can place voter-initiated legislation on the ballot, a referendum is the means by which voters can place a law passed by the legislature on the ballot for approval or rejection by the people. See id. art. VI, § 1(2)(a)(i)(B). A referendum application begins this process.

         ¶7 Petitioners' referendum application sought to place H.B. 3001 on the ballot for voters to approve or reject.[3] However, the Lieutenant Governor denied Petitioners' application because he found that Petitioner Newby did not meet the applicable statutory requirements, and because both houses of the legislature passed H.B. 3001 by a two-thirds supermajority.

         ¶8 Petitioners timely filed a petition for extraordinary relief with this court. We exercise jurisdiction ...


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