Gov. Herbert vetoes 3 bills, including 1 stemming from Swallow investigation

Published: Wednesday, April 2 2014 12:25 p.m. MDT

Gov. Gary Herbert is interviewed at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 13, 2014. Herbert vetoed legislation stemming from the investigation into former Attorney General John Swallow on Wednesday, the first bill he's rejected from the 2014 Legislature.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed three bills Wednesday, including one of the pieces of legislation stemming from the investigation into former Attorney General John Swallow.

HB414, which would have given the Legislature power to enforce subpoenas, was "a little bit of an overreaction" to the problems experienced by a House special committee investigating Swallow, the governor said.

Herbert also vetoed SB257, which would have expanded the responsibilities of a parents panel to include the review of complaints related to instructional materials and curriculum.

The other bill vetoed by the governor was HB102, which would have put a moratorium on creating new special assessment areas but had the unintended effect of blocking six natural gas projects in rural areas of the state.

Wednesday was the final day for the governor to take action on bills passed during the 2014 Legislature. Lawmakers passed 486 bills and resolutions during the session.

Lawmakers have until May 12 to hold a veto override session. Members of the House and Senate will be polled to see if the two-thirds support needed to reverse the governor's decision is there.

"We'll see if they feel enough passion about coming in on one of those issues," said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy. Lawmakers will have until April 14 to let their leaders know what they want to do, he said.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said while it's too soon to tell what the sentiment toward an override session will be, the legislative subpoena bill in particular "has great importance to the legislative branch."

The sponsor of HB414, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, also served as chairman of the House investigative committee into Swallow that produced a report saying the former attorney general had put a "for sale" sign on the office.

During the House investigation, several targets of subpoenas ignored or refused to comply with the orders issued by the committee, forcing costly court proceedings that helped drive up the cost to $4 million.

HB414, part of a package of bills arising from the House investigation into Swallow, called for challenges to legislative subpoenas to be made before a legislative committee, not the courts, and created criminal penalties for not complying.

"One of the strategies of those we were investigating was to delay and run up the tab," Dunnigan said. "What we're trying to do is address a problem and an issue so the next time somebody has to go through this, they don't have the pushbacks and the delays."

But the governor said shifting the appeals process from the courts to a legislative committee is a violation of the civil rights of those being issued subpoenas by lawmakers.

"It's kind of akin to the fox guarding the henhouse, and it just isn't right," Herbert told KSL NewsRadio's "The Doug Wright Show." "There needs to be some ability for the individual to go to court."

The governor was asked to veto SB257 by the State School Board, Utah Parent Teacher Association and individual members of the parents panel. All expressed concern the bill would undermine curriculum decisions made at the district level.

Herbert said while he appreciates the call for increased parent participation, those discussions "should happen with teachers and elected school board members, community councils and charter officials — at a local level."

The sponsor of SB257, Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said an override of the veto would be unlikely because the bill didn't pass by a two-thirds majority in the House.

Stephenson said he expects to try again in a future session because "it's crucial that we have a way of having a third-party panel review concerns about Utah's public school instructional materials."

State School Board Chairman David Crandall said now that the bill has been vetoed, he expects the board to consider internal policy changes related to the review of parents' complaints.

"We would at least discuss that, and it would be my hope that we would create a process whereby some of those concerns could be addressed in a formal, organized way," Crandall said.

Herbert also issued a line-item veto on HB3 to correct a repeat entry in the state budget. Another three bills will go into law without his signature because of what he said were fixes that sponsors agreed to make.

Those bills are HB357, which the governor said needs to further clarify state budgeting; SB241, that due to a "drafting error" allows county sheriffs to release state inmates housed in local facilities; and SB269, that creates a $13.5 million structural budgetary imbalance for an annual leave program for state employees.

Contributing: Dennis Romboy, Benjamin Wood

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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