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Committee shuts down legislator-eligibility resolution

by Eric S. Peterson
- Posted // 2012-01-25 -

Rep. John Dougall, R-Highland, proposed a long-shot resolution to amend the Utah Constitution to allow legislators to have the option to run for a district that they don’t reside in. “We had an unfortunate error last year when one of my colleagues found out through a bureaucratic error that he was living outside his district,” Dougall said in reference to Rep. Craig Frank's, R-Cedar Hills, forced resignation in 2011. “[But] he represented his district well for many years—so to what extent does residency really matter?”

Dougall’s House Joint Resolution 10 would have allowed candidates simply to be a resident of Utah, and run for office in any district of their choosing, much in the same way congressional candidates are allowed to run for office in districts other than the ones in which they reside.

The bill, Dougall said, was partly in response to the incident from the 2011 Legislature when it was discovered that Rep. Frank was not legally able to remain in the House since election records indicated that he had technically been living outside of his district’s borders. Dougall acknowledged at the beginning of his presentation that the resolution was a long shot.

“Sometimes you have a bill and your heart is really set on it and you’re really demoralized if it dies—this is not that bill,” Dougall said. Which was fortunate for Dougall, since the resolution was unanimously tabled and shut down by the committee, who seemed reluctant to seek an amendment to the state Constitution.

“I can see some isolated incidents here, but quite frankly, I think the statute has served us well,” said Rep. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, who sponsored the motion to table the legislation.

While Dougall argued that invariably voters are competent enough to pick the best candidate and would likely vote for candidates who lived in their district anyways -- ultimately, the committee disagreed and tabled the motion, meaning that if the legislation is not put on the next committee agenda, it would likely be sent back to the Legislature’s Rules Committee and mothballed.

Even Rep. Frank, who had returned to the Legislature this session after taking back the seat he was forced out of last session, from retiring Rep. Holly Richardson, R-Pleasant Grove, said he did not support the legislation. “Representatives who are closest to the people … serve the people the best,” Frank said.

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