Gov. Mike Leavitt keeps a straight face when he says he doesn't yet know which of the 458 bills passed by the 1998 Legislature he might veto.

But truth of the matter is, Leavitt is already sharpening his veto pencil, and he's got some good ideas of where to start. Some of the bills he makes no bones about: He doesn't like them.Among those bills he has publicly criticized are two by Rep. Dennis Iverson, R-Washington, and a Leavitt appointee. One bill appropriates $75,000 toward a legal battle being waged by rural Utah counties against the Clinton administration over the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Leavitt has steadfastly refused to join the lawsuit, saying the "reason for the state not to participate in those lawsuits is a sound one."

The other bill is an amendment to a "constitutional defense fund," a pool of state money established to challenge the federal government over infringements of state rights. Iverson's bill makes it possible the money could be used by rural counties to actually sue the state.

"I'll be taking a very hard look at that bill," Leavitt promised.

House Speaker Mel Brown got wind Leavitt was waving the veto pen above a bill to create a board to coordinate preservation of the Utah State Capitol. Not enough input from the governor's office, Leavitt said privately.

In last-minute negotiations, legislative leadership and Leavitt agreed to a 15-member board so heavy with obvious joint agreement that Brown had to chuckle. "I think we've got a consensus now," he said.

Sources have told the Deseret News that Leavitt is also unhappy with amendments to a child-care bill that allows a day-care provider to watch up to nine children in her home without a state license.

Another bill that could be targeted is one having to do with state agencies in rural Utah having the right to contract for certain telecommunications services.

Typically, Leavitt vetoes four or five bills every session, as well as a half dozen or so spending items. He predicted 50 or 60 bills would receive "real scrutiny," another 15 or so would be given "due diligence" and a handful would feel the brunt of his veto.

But look for Leavitt to wait awhile. The longer lawmakers are away from Capitol Hill, the more reticent they will be to come back and override the veto. Leavitt has until March 24 to veto bills.