S.B. 55, a bill now pending in the Utah State Senate, would require each state agency to perform a formal rule-making procedure before it could accept any electronic signatures in the course of its operations. The bill is widely-understood to be an effort by the state’s top election official, Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell, to reverse a recent decision by the state Supreme Court (Anderson v. Bell) that allows electronic signatures on official ballot access petitions and to make sure that such electronic signatures aren’t allowed on initiative, referendum or recall petitions either.
LB 566, a bill now pending in the Nebraska Legislature, would do precisely the opposite of S.B. 55, authorizing the use of electronic signatures on initiative, referendum, and recall petitions in that state.
After its approval by the Senate Business and Labor Committee on February 15, 2011, S.B. 55 was placed on the “Second Reading Calendar” of the State Senate. A week later, on February 22nd, it was “circled,” or placed on hold, where it remained until yesterday, March 7th, when it was transferred to the Senate Rules Committee.
Its further consideration now depends on having a senator, presumably its sponsor, Utah State Senator Stephen Urquhart, request the “lifting” of the bill from the Rules Committee. A motion in the State Senate to lift a bill from the Rules Committee requires a two-thirds vote of a quorum of the Senate.
Should S.B. 55 be lifted from the Rules Committee, it would need to be read for a second and then a third time in the Senate in order to be passed by that body. Or, as is common at the end of a legislative session, if the normal rules are suspended, it could be passed by a single vote corresponding to both a second and third reading, but only after a successful two-thirds vote to lift it from the Rules Committee.
If all this happens, the electronic signatures bill would then need to be considered and passed by the Utah State House of Representatives and signed by Utah Governor Gary Herbert in order to become law.
The entire Utah State Legislature is set to adjourn on Thursday, March 10th.