Monday, January 16, 2012

Bipartisan Bill Would Push Neighborhood Caucuses

Posted By on January 16, 2012, 5:03 PM

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, and Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, are pushing a bill that would better advertise party caucuses and prohibit other public meetings to be held on the same day. “Until Utahns realize this is where the political decisions are made -- at local neighborhood party caucuses -- then the majority of Utah citizens are not going to have a strong voice in Utah politics.”---

This March, party caucuses will meet to elect delegates for state and county convention. It’s the system that has come under fire from some who believe hard-core party activists dominate the caucuses and then select extreme candidates at election time. For Powell, an immediate solution to this common complaint would be to raise awareness of the caucuses to get more Utahns involved. Since the meetings are one night, every two years, Powell and co-sponsor Mayne hope their bill would help more Utahns take advantage of the caucuses.

The bill is unique in that it would be the first-ever to amend the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act to specifically say when public meetings can’t be held in that it would not allow a city-council meeting or school-board meeting to be scheduled on a caucus night. It’s also unique in that a government entity—the Lieutenant Governor’s Office—would be advertising partisan meetings for the Utah Republican and Democratic parties. “Some people might say, ‘Why is the lieutenant governor getting involved in partisan notifications?’ The reason under the bill is because cities and school boards need to know the official word that this is the night they are not going to be able to hold meetings,” Powell says. “So the lieutenant governor needs to get that notice out.”

Powell says that with so much in Utah politics resting on caucuses and conventions, average Utahns need to get involved in the system, rather than avoid it out of the perception that they can’t have a voice in the system.

“We need to reverse that mentality,” Powell says. “If you really want to take the party back, you need to show up with your friends.”

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