State Legislators Enter Debate Over Changes To Utah County Governance

Jul 29, 2019

Utah County Commissioners, from left to right, Nathan Ivie, Tanner Ainge and Bill Lee at the State of the County in January. State legislators are intervening with their own solution to break the stalemate between the commissioners over potential changes to Utah County governance.
Credit Daily Herald

State lawmakers from Utah County are proposing legislation requiring counties with large populations to adopt some form of government with separation of powers to allow for more regional representation. 

Republican Representative Brady Brammer of Pleasant Grove has announced that he and 17 other legislators from Utah County plan to introduce a bill in 2020 that would change the requirements for county governance provided by state law.

Dr. Michael Petersen, a political science lecturer for Utah State University, said the state plays an important role in establishing political subdivisions, or in other words, outlining how governments are formed in cities and counties.

“The state has the responsibility of establishing the choices of governance that can be followed by counties and municipalities," he said. "It’s the state legislature that really has the ultimate amount of power to make those kinds of choices for the county.”

 

The proposed law would require counties with a population of at least 500,000 to separate executive and legislative powers and would require elected officials to represent regional districts. Because of an increase in population there, the Utah County Good Governance Advisory Board is recommending a mayor-council system in that county, a system Petersen believes can be very effective.

 

“Particularly for large urban counties, the commissioner form of government really isn’t the best form,” he said, “For a county where you have a half million people or more, it ought to be operated more along the lines that a state operates.”

 

Not all members of the Utah County Commission agree. Commissioner Bill Lee and four others have filed a petition to expand the commission. The move legally blocks other commissioners from taking any other action while the petition is active. Last week the commission passed a resolution calling for the mayor-council option to be placed on the 2019 ballot, if the petition is not validated.  It is likely the resolution will be appealed.