As expected, it appears the Utah Legislature will not make an attempt this spring to override two vetoes by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
Legislative sources said Friday that a poll of the 104 lawmakers found neither the House nor the Senate had the necessary two-thirds majority required for an override session.
As required by rule, after Huntsman vetoed HB353 and HB156, legislative leaders polled their members via e-mail to see if override support existed.
HB353 would have provided a civil cause of action to sue a video-game retailer if the retailer advertised he didn't sell mature-rated games to minors but then went ahead and sold such games to those under 18.
HB156 would have allowed rural landowners to build a house or two on large plots of farmland without having to follow local subdivision ordinances.
Huntsman said HB353 had constitutional free speech concerns, while HB156 could have caused safe drinking water and sewage problems.
But House Majority Leader Kevin Garn, R-Layton, said Friday that before GOP leaders give up on HB156, sponsored by Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan, they want an understanding that Huntsman could call lawmakers back into a short special session later this year.
"We think we can work something out on that one," said Garn.
National free speech and video gaming groups openly lobbied Huntsman to veto HB353. And after GOP Attorney General Mark Shurtleff agreed there could be constitutional issues with the measure, the governor's arguments there seem solid, other lawmakers said.
However, Rep. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork, sponsor of HB353, said he sent out a letter to his 74 House colleagues refuting some of the "misunderstandings" about his bill detailed in Huntsman's veto letter. Morley says his bill did not have constitutional problems.
Other than that, Morley said he has not tried to contact individual legislators seeking their support for an override session.
In the past, some sponsors of vetoed bills have conducted a quick lobbying effort of fellow members, trying to get them to agree to an override session.
And on occasion a governor has agreed to a quick, interim-day special session to deal with a bill that he vetoed.
There was another wrinkle in any override session this year, however — money.
Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said he believes he could get a two-thirds vote for an override, but if the House couldn't find two-thirds to override a vetoed bill sponsored by a House member (and both were), "we aren't going to go out on a limb if they don't want to do it."
Legislative leaders had already decided that there will be no interim study day in April. The cancellation saves the state more than $25,000. Lawmakers must call themselves into a veto override session by May 11 or lose the chance. Only the governor may call the Legislature into a regular special session.
But if legislators called themselves into an override session, that $25,000 savings would be lost.
Garn said if Huntsman agrees to call a short special session later in the year, on an interim study day when legislators are already at the Capitol, then a modified bill on the farmland homes could be passed without incurring any further cost to the state.
Huntsman has vetoed only a few bills during his years in office. And this year he signed all but two of the 400-plus bills and resolutions passed by the 2009 Legislature.
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