Monday, February 28, 2011

S.B. 55 is still on hold and nobody knows why except its sponsor, who isn’t saying

S.B. 55, now pending in the Utah State Senate, “requires a governmental agency to adopt a policy concerning electronic signatures before the governmental agency may accept an electronic signature.” It is widely understood to represent an effort by the state’s Lieutenant Governor, Greg Bell, to reverse last year’s Utah Supreme Court decision in Anderson v. Bell that required his office to accept electronic signatures on independent gubernatorial candidate Farley Anderson’s ballot access petition. It is also understood to be intended to preempt the possibility of letting people in Utah electronically sign initiative or referendum petitions.

While most of the bills pending a few days ago on the Utah Senate’s Second Reading Calendar have been considered by that body, S.B. 55 remains, as it has been for several days, “circled,” or put on hold, as of 4:00 pm Mountain Standard Time on February 28th. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking down for consideration of the bill. After March 2nd, there are no more committee hearings, so if S.B. 55 does pass the Senate, it may have to be taken directly to the House floor without consideration in a House committee. The legislature itself is set to adjourn on March 10th. If the bill is still circled then, it will die, unpassed.

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Senator Stephen Urquhart, hasn’t said why the bill is circled or how long it will stay in that status. The bill’s sponsor in the Utah House of Representatives, Bradley Daw, said through a spokesperson that he “has no idea why it’s circled.” He also said that he thought the bill would be “fairly easy to pass in the House.”

Senator Urquhart’s intern, Abby Pike, told Etopia News today that she would ask her boss about the bill, but there’s been no word yet from him or her as this article was posted around 4:00 pm Mountain Standard Time on Monday, February 28th.

Asked for a comment on the bill from Utah Governor Gary Herbert, the governor’s spokesperson said that as “a general position, we can’t comment on bills until they reach the governor’s desk,” due to the fact that until then the bill’s final content is unknown. The spokesperson referred the inquiry to the Lieutenant Governor’s office, which has already stated its intention not to accept electronic signatures if S.B. 55 is passed and has commended Senator Urquhart for “running” this bill through the legislature.

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