The relevant part of the Utah legislative code is 20A-7 Part 2; here’s a PDF of the whole thing.

When to file

  1. Per 20A-7-206, signatures have to be turned in no later than “the February 15… immediately after the application is filed”, so the earliest date to file for the 2022 election would be T Feb 16 2021. Signature-gathering could begin approximately 6 weeks later, in early April. (See next section for details.)
  2. That same section says that signatures have to be turned in no later than “316 days after the day on which the application for the initiative petition is filed”, so if the application is filed on T Feb 16 2021 then the 316 days ends on W Dec 29 2021. Filing on T Feb 16 2021 would seem to create the best window for signature-gathering: early April 2021 – Dec 29 2021.
  3. It is possible to file later, but to get on the 2022 ballot signatures are due no later than Feb 15 2022, so the latest day to file to get the full 316-day window would be M April 5 2021 (which is 316 days before Feb 15 2022). However, there’s no obvious benefit to doing this because the 316-day signature-gathering window would be mid May 2021 – Feb 15 2022 and that seems less good than early April 2021 – Dec 28 2021 (because April to mid-May is much better for signature-gathering than January to mid-February).
  4. One other consideration here is that the legislative session ends every year in mid-March: it starts on the 4th Monday in January (e.g., M Jan 25 2021) and ends 46 calendar days later (45 days not including Presidents’ Day, so that’s F March 12 2021). So waiting until the legislative session ends to file means waiting until M March 15 2021 to file, in which case the 316-day window would be early May 2021 until the end of January 2022.

Filing process (before signature gathering) in 2021

  1. Per 20A-7-202, the proposed law is filed with the Lt Gov’s office along with 5 notarized signatures and various other statements. The Lt Gov can reject the petition (note especially that it can be rejected if “the law proposed by the initiative is identical or substantially similar to a law proposed by an initiative for which signatures were submitted to the county clerks and lieutenant governor for certification within two years preceding the date on which the application for the new initiative is filed”) but let’s assume that it gets the green light.
  2. Per 20A-7-202.5, the Lt Gov has 3 working days to send the proposed law to the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst. So a measure filed on T Feb 16 would be sent to LFA by F Feb 19.
  3. That same section says that LFA has 25 calendar days to complete a fiscal estimate; 25 days after F Feb 19 is T March 16. Note that LFA actually took a few days longer than 25 calendar days with our measure in 2019; there appears to be no recourse here other than waiting.
  4. LFA provides the fiscal estimate to the Lt Gov’s office, which emails it to us on that same day, i.e., T March 16. At that point we have an option of revising the measure, which would trigger an additional delay of at least 3 working days plus 25 calendar days. But let’s assume that no revision is necessary.
  5. Per 20A-7-204.1, we have to hold and record 7 public hearings on the measure no earlier than the day after the fiscal estimate is released, i.e., no earlier than W March 17. There are a lot of public notice steps to take before these hearings, they’ve gotten more onerous than in the past, and they’re confusing (see (2)(b)(iii) in particular) so lots of attention needs to be paid to these public notice steps, but acting early enough on these should prevent a delay in the hearings.
  6. After we submit records of the public hearings (say by M March 22), the Lt Gov’s office will provide us with a sample petition packet per 20A-7-204(2). That will take a few days, so let’s say F March 26.
  7. Printing petitions will take about a week, so let’s say F April 2.
  8. The formal process outlined in 20A-7-204(5) is for us to return the printed petitions to the Lt Gov’s office, which will take up to five working days to number the packets, in which case they’d be returned to us on F April 9 and we could begin gathering signatures then. However, the Lt Gov’s office had us sign an agreement that allowed us to number our own packets, so if that happens again then we could begin gathering signatures as early as Sat April 3.

Signature-gathering in 2021

  1. Per 20A-7-206, each signature packet has to be turned in no later than 30 days after the date of the first signature, e.g., May 31 for a packet started May 1, or July 1 for a packet started June 1.
  2. That same section says that county clerks have 30 days after submission of a packet to validate the signatures in that packet. (Our experience is that they often do this faster.) Then 20A-7-205 says that the signer has 90 days after that to petition to have their name removed. [These 30- and 90-day windows change to 21- and 45-day windows for packets received on or after Dec 1.] After this 120-day window the signatures will be “locked in”, i.e., signatures submitted by T Aug 31 must be validated by Th Sept 30, and for signatures validated on Th Sept 30 the voter has until W Dec 29 to remove their signature.

Summary for 2021

  1. File on T Feb 16.
  2. Lt Gov sends measure to LFA on F Feb 19 for fiscal estimate.
  3. Fiscal estimate is returned on T March 16. During that time we plan and advertise the public hearings.
  4. We hold public hearings ASAP after T March 16, ideally finishing on or before Sun March 21 so that we can submit the recordings on M March 22. (You could try to schedule all the hearings as early as W March 17 and then submit the recordings on Th March 18, but it might be wise to give it a few days in case LFA is delayed in releasing the fiscal estimate.)
  5. Lt Gov takes a week (maybe less) to produce a sample petition packet, let’s say by F March 26.
  6. We take a week to print and number the petition packets, let’s say by F April 2.
  7. Signature gathering begins on Saturday April 3 2021. That gives us 2-4 weeks to gather signatures (and signature-gatherers!) on college campuses before the school year ends. (In chronological order for 2021: at BYU classes end on W April 14, with commencement on Th April 22; at SUU classes end on F April 16, with commencement on F April 23; at Weber State classes end on M April 26, with commencement on F April 30; at Utah State and the U of U classes end on T April 27, with commencement on Th/F May 6/7; at UVU classes end on W April 28, with commencement on Th May 6; at SLCC classes end on Th April 29, with commencement on F May 7; and at Westminster classes end on F May 7, with commencement on Sat May 15. Note that Dixie State info is not posted yet but is likely to be similar to Utah State and UVU.)
  8. If we gather 20,000 signatures in each of April, May, June, July, August, and September then we’ll have a total of 120,000 signatures. These signatures will be “locked in” before the close of the signature-gathering window on W Dec 29, plus we can spend October, November, and December gathering additional signatures as needed.

Comparison with 2019 effort

In 2019 we started gathering signatures in early July, so starting in early April gives us 3 extra months of good weather for gathering signatures.

Where does that extra time come from? Relative to this plan for 2021, in 2019 we had an extra 1.5 months of bad-weather signature-gathering because signatures were due T Feb 18. (In 2021 they will be due on W Dec 29.) And in 2019 we lost about 1.5 months because we filed late and—especially—because we had to modify and re-file our measure.