The conflict between Utah’s governor and state Legislature escalated Thursday after Rep. Jason Chaffetz officially announced his plans to leave Congress, with legislative leadership threatening legal action over how the vacancy is filled. Gov. Gary Herbert has said he will not call a special session of the Legislature for state lawmakers to set the process for replacing Chaffetz, R-Utah, when he steps down June 30. In response, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, issued a statement warning Herbert that “the path forward with the least amount of legal risk would be for the governor to call a special session to allow lawmakers to add appropriate election language to the state code.”
Niederhauser also cited Article I of the U.S. Constitution as evidence that “the times, places and manner of our elections are clearly a legislative responsibility,” a contention echoed by Greg Hartley, chief of staff for House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper.
“This is a separation of powers issue,” Hartley said in statement. “The House and Senate majority caucuses are unanimous in their support for a special session.”
Hughes is “committed to defending the legislative process and calls on Gov. Herbert to convene a special session of the Legislature to vote a clearly defined process into law,” Hartley said.