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Governor Gary Herbert calls sex ed bill he vetoed 'solution in search of a problem'

Published: Thursday, March 29 2012 6:56 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday the bill he vetoed that would have limited sex education in Utah public schools was "a solution in search of a problem" that didn't need to be revisited by lawmakers.

"I've had nobody ever come up to me and say, "You know what, we have a real problem with a school sex education, change it,'" Herbert said during the taping of his monthly press conference on KUED Ch. 7.

The governor said lawmakers have "heard the voice of the people. They certainly saw what I've done with this piece of legislation. We'll see what they do next year, if anything."

The controversial bill, HB363, would have limited sex education to abstinence-only instead of allowing parents to opt-in their children for instruction on human sexuality. The issue attracted hundreds of protesters to the Capitol, along with emails and calls to the governor's office urging a veto.

In his veto, Herbert said the bill went "too far in constricting parental options." He said the current law respects the need to stress abstinence "as the only sure method to avoid the negative effects of premarital sexual activity."

Thursday, the governor said the bill was an overreach, "the government stepping up and saying we know better. I don't think that's good policy as a conservative. I want to give parents more choice and more options, which they had and was being taken away."

Asked if his veto was a message to lawmakers to move on from the issue, Herbert said, "that's right." He said his office had not been approached to participate in a legislative effort to come up with other changes to sex education.

"If there's an issue out there, the Legislature will have to bring it forward and we'll see what happens," Herbert said. "I don't care whether they take it up or not."

Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he hopes to start a discussion on what changes are needed to the current law next month.

Osmond said the focus will be on finding a way to make information now taught beyond abstinence available online to reduce influence from outside sources and ensure uniformity.

"If the governor is encouraging the Legislature not to do anything, certainly I'm anxious about that," he said, adding he respects the governor's feelings.

"I know others feel the way he does," Osmond said. "I just don't agree with it."

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com

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