Gov. Norm Bangerter didn't have the usual tough choices to make Tuesday - the last day he had to veto or sign bills passed by last month's Legislature.
The governor was expected not to veto any bills for philosophical differences, but about five bills were on the chopping block because of technical concerns, said Francine Giani, his press secretary.Bangerter may also let a number of bills become law without his signature - the typical way of showing mild displeasure.
One of those concerns legislative intent language on a road in southern Salt Lake County. The Supplemental Appropriations Act, the catch-all bill allocating additional money in the current year's budget, says that 72nd South - the so-called Jordan Boulevard - should be extended from Seventh West to 13th West.
But, according to Gene Findlay, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, lawmakers didn't specifically appropriate any money for the work in that act. Accordingly, he asked Bangerter to veto the measure. Lawmakers had discussed taking the money for the $1.1 million expansion of 72nd South out of the appropriation for the West Valley Highway, a separate project that Bangerter wants. But they didn't say that in the act, and Bangerter doesn't want to dilute West Valley Highway funding.
In addition, UDOT officials don't like the idea of lawmakers telling them which roads will be improved when - especially if no money comes with the order. The main reason for the non-partisan Transportation Commission is to keep road building and maintenance out of the pork barrel politics of the Legislature.
Intent language isn't law, and Bangerter's transportation executives could just ignore it. But that tends to make lawmakers grumpy, they don't like department bosses ignoring their wishes. The argument is rather silly, in any case, since the 72nd South extension will be built in a couple of years, UDOT officials promise.
Lawmakers passed 344 bills and resolutions during their 45-day session, and so the governor's pen has been busy the past several days signing all those measures. Lawmakers failed to act on 439 bills and resolutions, saving the governor the trouble of making a decision on those.
Bangerter did veto two measures during the session, but worked out a compromise with his GOP colleagues in the House and Senate over those measures.
Bangerter locked horns with Sen. LeRay McAllister, R-Provo; Rep. Evan Olsen, R-Young Ward; and other conservative Republicans over administrative rulemaking - the normally boring process where state bureaucrats make rules pursuant to state law.
McAllister and Olsen, the co-chairmen of the administrative rules oversight committee, got legislators to agree to two bills. One would have restricted executive rulemaking to specific areas. The other would force reauthorization of every rule by lawmakers each year. The latter would allow lawmakers to kill a rule they didn't like by not reauthorizing it.
The governor vetoed those bills and a new bill was passed that allows the yearly sunsetting of rules by lawmakers but also allows Bangerter to reimpose any rule killed for a year if he believes the sunsetted rule is vital. The next legislative session would then debate the disputed rule again.