Utah voters to decide Constitutional Amendment A

Oct 24, 2022, 3:42 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2022, 2:47 pm
Utah Constitutional Amendment A...
FILE: A voter drops a ballot into a box at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. (Scott G Winterton/ Deseret News)
(Scott G Winterton/ Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah voters are deciding whether to amend the Utah Constitution to allow the legislature more leeway with the money it spends during an emergency.

Right now, the legislature can appropriate up to one percent of the state’s budget. Voting “for” Constitutional Amendment A means you approve of them spending up to five percent.

A non-partisan voter pamphlet estimates that using last year’s budget, the legislative body’s limit is $277 million in emergency funding. If voters approve the amendment, up to $1.385 billion could be approved.

House Speaker Brad Wilson calls the added spending a “tool” for lawmakers. He says it is needed in case another emergency halts spending and thus state taxes from bringing in revenue — as COVID-19 did.

“When the economy comes to a screeching halt, the state has to cut the budget to balance the checkbook,” Wilson said. “And this provision of raising the ceiling to five percent is going to give us a lot more flexibility.”

An “against” vote on Constitutional Amendment A

Opponents argue the legislature already has the power to call itself into special session.  They say a voter-approved amendment in 2018 allowed for that. They also say this amendment would give the Republican supermajority legislature more ability to dictate spending priorities.

Prior to that change, the legislature and governor had to work together to call a special session to appropriate that much money.

What the cap doesn’t cover

The amendment also has some exclusions for when there’d be no cap on the spending in a legislature-called special session. One of those is “an appropriation of money that the state receives from the federal governement” to address an emergency.

Meaning, there would be no cap on what lawmakers can spend if Utah receives federal money, like it did with COVID-19 pandemic. That could open the door for funding major state projects with money that would only be a one-time deal.

It also can’t appropriate money that “decreases the amount of money previously authorized to be spent.”

Meaning, the legislature can cut any previous spending bills and it’s not included in the five percent cap.

“I wouldn’t characterize (expanding the cap) as giving the legislature more power,” said Speaker Wilson. “I think the question is do voters want to give the people they sent to the state capitol the tools they need to do their job in the event an emergency.”

Past Emergency Special Sessions

The legislature called itself into special session multiple times in 2020 and some of the agenda items were not related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In May of 2021, they called themselves in for two resoultions related to Critical Race Theory and making Utah a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary City.

Wilson argues that despite this potential new power, legislative checks remain.

“Any appropriation that’s done in a legislative-called special session still goes to the governor for his or her approval or veto,” he said.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved HJR 12, Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – Special Session Appropriations, in the 2021 General Session. Utah legislators approved the resolution with the required two-thirds majority. The Senate passed HJR12 unanimously, the House approved HJR12 with a vote of 68-5 with two absent.

That vote sent the proposal to the ballot for Utah’s voters to give  — or not give — the final okay.

Related reading:

Today’s Top Stories


This morning the Gary Sinise Foundation's Snowball Express made a pit stop at the new SLC Airport o...
Waverly Golden

Snowball Express arrives at Salt Lake City Airport

On Dec. 3 the Gary Sinise Foundation's Snowball Express made a pit stop at the new SLC Airport on its way to Orlando Walt Disney World. 
1 day ago
Cam Rising losing his helmet (Photo Credit, Wally Skalij, LA Times)...
Amanda Dickson

Opinion: The long and winding road to the championship

Never give up, not on each other, the children, or life. We may be down, but never out. Keep fighting for the things we hold dear. We believe in each other.
1 day ago
Former astronaut and Utah Sen. Jake Garn will be honored Saturday with an art installation tribute ...
Mark Jones

Former Utah Sen. Jake Garn to be honored with art tribute on Saturday

Former Utah Sen. Jake Garn will be honored with an art installation tribute Saturday at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
2 days ago
A west valley police car is pictured. Police are investigating a hit and run...
Mark Jones

Fire in West Valley City home contained to one room in basement

A fire inside a West Valley City home Friday was contained to one room in the basement, according to fire officials on scene.
2 days ago
Both Utah rail workers and Utah farmers expressed relief that a threatened rail strike was averted ...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

Union Pacific, Utah farmers, relieved threat of strike has passed

Union Pacific Railroad representatives said claims about days off, made by workers threatening to strike, were outright false.
2 days ago
Police in Moscow, Idaho say that a person listed on the lease of the house where 4 students were fo...
Elizabeth Wolfe and Mallika Kallingal, CNN

Moscow police say 6th person on lease isn’t involved in Idaho homicides

The four Idaho homicide victims were found stabbed to death on November 13 in an off-campus house in the college town.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Utah voters to decide Constitutional Amendment A