It's odd to House Speaker Mel Brown that his colleagues change their minds the way they do.
During the legislative session that ended March 4, lawmakers passed seven bills - some nearly unanimously - that Gov. Mike Leavitt vetoed for various reasons. Philosophically, the legislative body supported these bills, said Brown, R-Union. "So I think it's a little curious . . . why, just because the governor vetoes something, do they change their mind?"
But the bulk of Utah's 104 lawmakers apparently don't want to take Leavitt to task and have a special meeting of the Legislature to override the governor's veto of seven bills passed this winter.
In a written poll over the past few days, the majority of lawmakers in the House and Senate voted against the override session. A two-thirds majority vote is required to overrule the governor and pass the vetoed bills into law.
Lawmakers were asked two ques-tions in the vote: do they support the override session, and which bills they would vote to override?
"There is no question there wasn't support on either question," said Sen. President Lane Beattie, R-West Bountiful, of the poll results.
The governor vetoed a handful of bills a few minutes before his midnight deadline March 24. They included bills that would have:
- Spent state funds to help pay for a lawsuit over creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.
- Restructure a panel created to assist in states-rights fights against the federal government.
- Provide Lagoon amusement park a sales-tax break.
- Established uniform dates for local bond elections.
- Regulated distribution of retail freezer space to ice-cream makers.
- Prohibited special legislative sessions on interim days.
- Made technical changes in the law governing business names.
Utah's GOP-controlled Legislature has never overridden Republican Leavitt, and many lawmakers say privately it never will.
Brown said he didn't feel strongly one way or the other about the override session but said lawmakers' decisions shouldn't get bogged down in politics.
"You hear people saying that it's a political slam to override the governor and I don't think that's the case, I think it's just part of the process," he said.
"I'm not frustrated," Brown said. "I just have a hard time understanding how people change their minds."
It seems after the 45-day session ends, legislators get back to their jobs and families and the issues that held so much importance during the session lose their punch. "People just aren't as apt to focus on things," Brown said.
Rep. Glenn Way, R-Spanish Fork, who sponsored two bills vetoed by Leavitt, said he heard much talk about how overriding the governor would embarrass the state's chief executive.
"I think this kind of attitude really hinders the process," Way said. "We don't get embarrassed when he vetoes our bills. Why should he be embarrassed if we override his vetoes? That's part of the way things happen."
Many of the vetoed issues probably will be readdressed next session, which is also part of the process, Brown said. That's what happened with a Brown-sponsored bill to develop a board to supervise preservation of the Utah State Capitol.
In 1997, lawmakers passed Brown's bill, but Leavitt vetoed it on grounds his office wouldn't have enough input on the board. In the 1998 session, Brown made some changes and the bill passed into law.
"Some of these issues are going to resurface again, and that's fine too."
Beattie agrees. "Some of these are very critical issues," he said.
He expects to hear more about the Escalante National Monument, for example. "We as a state do need to step up in defense of that lawsuit," he said.