Utah Legislature's veto override session coming as soon as next week
SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers will hold a rare override session as soon as next Monday to consider reversing Gov. Gary Herbert's vetoes.
Herbert rejected four bills from the 2011 Legislature, including legislation that would have ended the state's Monday through Thursday work week.
But House and Senate leaders say the most likely bill to be overridden deals with earmarking some 30 percent of new tax revenues to pay for transportation projects.
Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said Monday that bill, SB229, is seen by lawmakers as a way to ensure the state has the necessary infrastructure to encourage economic development.
"Without that transportation factor, it's been proven that businesses will not continue to grow or come in," Waddoups said, citing the Mountain View corridor and other projects as legislative priorities.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said the gas-tax revenue has not been enough to provide "a reliable revenue stream for maintenance as well as the economic development that comes with a commitment to transportation."
The governor said when he vetoed the bill late last month that the earmark would mean less money for other state needs, including economic development, and slow the state's ability to respond to financial difficulties.
Herbert also vetoed HB328, which would have put the state back on a five-day work week; SB294, which would have changed health insurance plans and costs; and SB305, which would have used a web-based tool to align schools with the needs of the business community.
A poll of lawmakers showed the required two-thirds of both the House and the Senate wanted an override session, but Waddoups said that doesn't mean they'll overturn any of the governor's actions.
Lawmakers will be able to consider all four of the bills vetoed by the governor during the override session. They're being asked to choose between two dates, April 25 and May 2, for what will be the first veto override session since April 2004.
Herbert's office had no comment on the override session Monday because the governor had not yet been officially notified.
University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said an override session is something any governor would rather avoid.
"This could potentially become more politically messy than anybody would really like," Burbank said, noting lawmakers already have been grumbling about Herbert's handling of other issues last session.
Especially since the governor already called them back into special session to repeal one of the most controversial bills passed last session, HB477, which would have overhauled the state's open records law.
Herbert, who is up for reelection next year, also created a rift with some of his most conservative fellow Republicans by signing a guest worker bill for immigrants in the state illegally.
If those tensions don't surface during the override session — and if the Legislature's actions are limited to bills voters see as technical — Burbank said Herbert won't be hurt politically.
"I don't think it will be taken as a sign of real weakness on the part of the governor," he said. "I doubt people will see a broader political message."
Waddoups said the override session should be a boost to the governor.
"It should strengthen him because what this shows is he has a different point of view sometimes," the Senate leader said. "He's willing to stand up and say, 'No, I disagree.'"
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