House Speaker Greg Hughes says he doesn’t expect lawmakers to sue Governor Gary Herbert over the special election to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz, but he does think the governor overstepped his bounds. Lawmakers had talked about a lawsuit after Gov. Herbert refused to call the legislature into session to set the procedure to fill Chaffetz’s seat. Instead, Herbert set up the process to choose a replacement once he steps down on June 30. I warned my colleagues that during our conversations with the governor that if we could not work this out in a reasonable way, this is a battle we could not win,” said Hughes. “I warned my colleagues that this is one of the problems with not being able to call ourselves into a special session like 35 other states.”
Hughes and other lawmakers say the governor isn’t following the law because, technically, there won’t be a vacancy in Chaffetz’s seat until he leaves on June 30. Additionally, Chaffetz has no legal obligation to honor that date, meaning there’s an election for a vacancy that hasn’t happened yet.
“This is what happens when you have an executive branch freelancing trying to create a process. This is why we have committee hearings, why we have debate and votes.”
But, the bigger issue according to Hughes is the separation of powers. He says the legislature is supposed to be a separate but equal branch of government, but he says that’s not the dynamic that played out in setting the process to replace Chaffetz.