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Lawmakers could control January start date of session under proposed constitutional amendment

Currently, Utah Legislature must begin on fourth Monday of the month

The 2020 Utah Legislature begins at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020.
The 2020 Utah Legislature begins at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A proposed amendment to the Utah Constitution intended to give lawmakers more flexibility about when to start the annual 45-day general session of the Utah Legislature is headed to a vote on the Senate floor.

SJR3, sponsored by Senate Majority Assistant Whip Ann Milner, R-Ogden, was unanimously advanced by the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee Thursday. A constitutional amendment requires voter approval in addition to two-thirds support in both the House and Senate.

“I know there are many times that having a little bit of flexibility would be helpful,” Milner said, adding her amendment would still maintain what she termed “guardrails,” requiring a January start date and limiting the session to 45 days, not counting holidays.

Currently, the constitution sets the fourth Monday in January as the start date for the session, “unless convening at the seat of government is not feasible due to epidemic, natural or human-caused disaster, enemy attack, or other public catastrophe.”

The Utah Constitution was changed in 2008 to move the start date from the third Monday in January after Utah lawmakers were criticized for beginning their annual legislative session on the same day as the Martin Luther King Day holiday.