Representative Christine Watkins is the sponsor of HB 172.
The Utah Legislature is considering giving counties the option to make six elected county positions hired positions. The positions of treasurer, clerk, auditor, surveyor, recorder and assessor are on the table as positions that could be potentially hired instead of elected.
The sponsor of HB 172 acknowledged the challenges counties are facing finding “qualified individuals to run for public office.”
Rep. Christine Watkins (R), representing four rural counties, wants to give the people in each county the ability to change how their local government works best for them. “This bill isn’t required,” she said. “The process to enact this change is similar to changing your form of government.”
Counties would either have to vote to study this issue or commissioners would need to vote to study it. After the study period has taken place, it would then go on the ballot requiring voters to weigh in at least once.
“Some counties, especially rural counties, need the option to hire professionals rather than asking them to run a campaign every four years,” Watkins explained. “Right now, we require that all these positions are elected and counties don’t have the ability to decide how they want their government structured.”
Critics of the bill worry that it takes away the voice of the people. Watkins explained, “The citizens of each county get to vote on this at least once. We’re not trying to take away their voice.”
The bill will be up discussion during the 45-day legislative session that started last week and ends March 14.