WASHINGTON TERRACE — After Utah lawmakers’ decisions to tweak voter-approved propositions related to medical marijuana and Medicaid, Margaret Kluthe hopes they don’t take aim at Proposition 4, meant to crack down on gerrymandering.
“That would do a little bit to ease the pain of having the other two propositions kind of sliced and diced up,” said Kluthe, who’s from South Ogden. “I hope you honor Proposition 4.”
Lawmakers approved replacement legislation earlier this month for Proposition 3, scaling back the measure meant to increase the pool of people covered by Medicaid. Some were opposed to the change, and it was a big focus at a town hall meeting held Tuesday night by Sen. Ann Millner and Rep. Kelly Miles. Most speaking out defended the original language in Proposition 3, and it prompted Kluthe’s defense of Proposition 4, which would change the way legislative districts are formed to make the process more impartial.
Bobbe Dabling also defended Proposition 4, expressing fear it would be weakened like the Medicaid measure and Proposition 2, a measure legalizing medical marijuana that lawmakers altered late last year. “I’m terribly afraid about what’s going to happen there because I’m not going to be represented again,” she said, likening tweaks to the voter-approved propositions as counter to the will of the people.
Tim Fiveash, also at Tuesday’s meeting, offered tougher words in blasting lawmaker’s changes and defending the original language in Proposition 3 and Proposition 2. He was involved in collecting signatures to get the two propositions, approved by voters last November, on the Utah ballot. Voters also approved Proposition 4 last November.
“You just spit in our face and are saying what we did does not matter,” Fiveash said.
Millner and Miles didn’t offer insights into the future of Proposition 4, but they defended their votes to change Proposition 3, the Medicaid measure. Tuesday’s town hall gathering, held at the Pleasant Valley Branch library in Washington Terrace, drew about 50 people.
For Millner, a Republican from Ogden, her vote aimed at making any change “financially sustainable” for Utah over the long haul. A 0.15-percent sales tax hike is outlined in the original proposition language to cover the cost of expanding Medicaid, the government health program geared to those in need, but state studies show that won’t generate enough to keep it going.
Miles, a Republican from southern Weber County, acknowledged there was a “clear mandate” from the public via the Proposition 3 vote to expand Medicaid coverage. But he defended his vote to tweak the measure’s language, saying he also has to vote in line with his underlying philosophical principles.
“I have certain Republican principles that are at my core and I’m going to support those,” he said. The public vote in favor of Proposition 3 weighs in his thinking, he said, but so does “my experience, my education, my background.”
Lawmakers also faced pointed questions Tuesday about the influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in how they vote. “Who’s influencing you?” asked Jessica Fiveash, Tim Fiveash’s wife.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but I make my own decisions,” Millner said.
Miles offered a similar answer, saying he treats the LDS Church as any other lobbyist pushing for change in the Utah Legislature.
The query into the influence of the LDS Church followed questions posed by Millner and Miles to audience members about their views on the proposal to allow sales of beer with higher alcohol content. Lawmakers are debating whether to allow beer with 4.8 percent alcohol in Utah stores, up from 3.2 percent, the current limit, a change that the church opposes.
Those who spoke Tuesday signaled support for the change. “I think the question is, why can’t we have it?” said Jessica Fiveash.