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House members hold joint caucus to call for separation of powers

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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.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Glen Mills

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For this Beetdigger and Ute it’s an honor to be doing what he loves in his home state! Glen is an award-winning journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team in June 2013. You can catch him anchoring ABC4 News at 5 and 6, Monday through Friday. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent, keeping you up to date on issues that impact your life at the city, state and national level. His political reports run throughout the week, and he hosts Inside Utah Politics, Sunday mornings at 8. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...
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