By TERESSA GENETTI-SCOTT
Although wildlife amendment Proposition 5 was hotly contested this election year, four of the six ballot propositions received little discussion and passed with at least 70 percent of the vote.
The propositions take affect on Jan. 1 and range from changes in legislature eligilibity to women’s property rights.
The proposition which will clarify legislative eligibility, Proposition 1, passed with 87 percent of the vote.
It amends the Utah Constitution to make it clear that eligibility requirements for state senators and representatives apply to the time frame immediately prior to candidate filing time.
The need for the proposition came up after some legislators questioned whether the eligibility could apply to any time during a candidate’s life.
Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake City, decided to sponsor the bill in order to preserve the original intent of the framers of the Utah Constitution.
In her argument for the proposition, she said, “This proposition preserves and strengthens the wise and time-tested principles that individuals should meet the minimum residency requirements before representing the state and their local constituent as legislators.”
Proposition 2, which passed with 70 percent of the vote, will update the Utah Constitution regarding property rights of women.
The proposition’s sponsor, Afton Bradshaw, R-Salt Lake City, said the amendment cleans up language of the Utah Constitution, which was crafted in 1896.
The proposition repeals Article XXII, Section 2 of the Utah Constitution which was an attempt by the constitutional framers to give women the right to acquire and dispose of property after marriage the same as while single.
However, Bradshaw said, “The actual language of the article appears to offer more protection to property owned by married women than to the property owned by married men.
Bradshaw said this would violate the Equal Protection Act. The act provides that “no State shall make or enforce any law which shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Bradshaw said repealing the article provides “for true equality in property rights for women and men.”
Proposition 3, which passed with 84 percent of the vote, will clarify the confusion about the use of “trust” lands granted to Utah when it became a state.
The proposition’s sponsor Kevin Garn, R-Layton, said, the change will remove confusion, avoid future losses through the misuse of trust lands and save taxpayers funds by eliminating the status of the trust lands.
When Utah was granted statehood, Congress enacted a law known as the “Enabling Act.” One of the conditions of the law prohibited Utah from collecting property taxes on land owned by the Federal Government.
In his argument for the proposition, Garn said the enabling act limited Utah’s property tax base because two-thirds of Utah property is owned by the federal government.
Constitutional language written after Utah was granted the trust lands through the National Enabling Act says all of the lands granted by Congress were “accepted and declared to be public lands of the state, and shall be held in trust for the people, to be disposed of as may be provided by the law, for the respective purposed for which they have been or may be granted, donated, devised or otherwise acquired.”
Garn said, “As a results of the failure to read the whole sentence, public school and other trust lands were given away and used or sold for much less than the fair market value, resulting in losses to the schools of hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Proposition 6, which passed with 74 percent of the vote, re-established a tax court in the state.
Several years ago, the Utah Supreme Court struck down a new law that created a tax court in Utah. The court was created as a means to get an “independent” hearing in state court in tax appeal cases.
The proposition’s sponsors Sen. Howard A. Stephenson, R-Draper, and Rep. John Valentine, R-Orem, said the tax commission does a good job with its duties, but that someone unconnected to the assessing function should review the cases.
In their written argument for the proposition, they said,”The tax judges will be able to hear all evidence in a case, and make a ruling based solely on the fact and law, without paying undo deference to the tax assessing body.”
The proposition is also retroactive back to July 1, 1994. This will apply to 31 tax appeals that were stopped by the Supreme Court’s ruling outlawing new court trials for tax cases.