Davis County’s anti-fluoride contingency was dealt a crippling blow Monday as 2nd District Judge Glen Dawson ruled there would be no fluoride revote in the November general election.
“I direct the county clerk not to place the question on the ballot,” Dawson said during a morning teleconference with attorneys.
Davis County Commissioner Michael Cragun held out the possibility that the county might appeal Dawson’s ruling but said that decision was in the hands of the County Attorney’s Office and Davis elections chief clerk/auditor Steve Rawlings.
“I was a little bit surprised (by the ruling),” said Cragun, who hasn’t taken sides in the fluoride debate.
While disheartening for fluoride foes, proponents of the cavity-fighting element were all smiles, after Dawson sided with Utahns for Better Dental Health, which had argued a fluoride revote was illegal.
“You know, I’m really pleased because for the people of Davis County it’s a real win,” said Beth Beck, director of Davis County’s chapter of Utahns for Better Dental Health. “It’s a real win because people can know it’s OK to go ahead with fluoridation plans, and they’ll know their teeth will be clean.”
The Davis County Commission and Rawlings had decided to place the fluoride issue on the ballot this year after receiving a petition signed by 9,650 residents requesting a revote.
In November 2000 county voters decided by a 52 percent-to-48 percent margin to have fluoride added to their drinking water supply.
The petition was labeled a “citizens initiative,” and backers expected that a second vote would overturn the 2000 decision in favor of fluoride.
Dawson, however, said the petition was “legally insufficient” to merit initiative status. Furthermore, under state law, counties can place the fluoride issue to a popular vote. However, once fluoride has been approved, Utah law makes no provision for a county to hold a vote to remove the element, Dawson said.
Moreover, since the petition seeks to change an existing law, it might be better served as a referendum, except, under Utah law a referendum must by filed 35 days after the existing law was enacted and the petition missed that deadline, Dawson said.
Furthermore, the petition seeks to change a state law, because fluoridation in individual counties is governed by state code, not municipal law. The petition then is flawed because it seeks to change a state law through a county vote, Dawson said. Instead, if the petition was going to be subject to state initiative law, as spelled out in the Utah Constitution, then the whole state would have to vote on how counties can go about removing existing fluoride systems from their water supply.
Cragun said the next step for fluoride opponents – sans a successful appeal of Dawson’s ruling – would be to petition the Utah Legislature to enact a law giving counties the authority to hold a vote about whether to remove existing fluoride systems from their water supply.
LeeAnn Hansen, who along with her husband initiated the revote petition, agreed.
“Of course we’re disappointed,” she said. “I think we will need to do something at the State Legislature.”