Salt Lake City, Utah- (ABC4 Utah) – The special election to replace Representative Jason Chaffetz is bringing legislative republicans and democrats together in a way you may not expect.
Both sides are calling out Governor Gary Herbert for the way he’s handling it.
Legislative leaders believe the governor overstepped his authority by unilaterally setting the agenda for the special election.
That lead to a rare sight at the Capitol on Tuesday. House republicans and democrats teamed up for a joint caucus.
They are calling for a separation of power between the executive and legislative branches, because they say the governor’s handling of the special election was an abuse of power.
“We’ll work on it. It’s not a matter of if, it’s only a matter of when. And, what we’re in the process of right now is gathering as much information as possible,” said Speaker of the House Greg Hughes, (R) Draper.
The information gathered so far was compiled in a report being shared with lawmakers.
It includes time lines, and a legal opinion from the nonpartisan legislative council. It concludes the legislature has authority over the details of a special election.
“When there is just a blank, when there is a void in the law right now, as there is for filling a vacancy in Congress I think it’s hazardous, I think it’s really thin ice for the governor to say I’m just going to borrow and apply the normal legislative procedure, which is what he’s doing on an accelerated time frame,” said House Minority Leader Brian King, (D) Salt Lake City.
One opinion that isn’t part of the report is from the attorney general. The governor blocked the release of that. It’s another point of contention for the legislature.
“The governor is invoking an executive privilege, where the attorney general is not able to provide this information to the legislative branch, and to the public as he always has,” Hughes said.
The governor claims attorney/client privilege, and the Lt. Governor’s Office maintains the process is on solid legal ground.
“We’ve talked to the Department of Justice, we’ve talked to the U.S. House of Representatives, and they all have indicated that what we are doing is completely within the statute and they will seat the member,” said Director of Elections Mark Thomas.
One possibility is taking it to the Utah Supreme Court to try to get the attorney general’s opinion, but no official action was taken at the caucus.
The newly formed United Utah Party was denied a spot on the ballot. The party is expected to file a lawsuit any day.