Herbert Vetoes Bill Springing from Swallow Investigation, Parental Review of Curriculum Items

Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R)
Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R)

Bumping up against the constitutional mandate to veto laws, it was announced that Governor Gary Herbert (Republican) will veto three bills from the 2014 legislative session.

HB 102 – Assessment Area Revisions from Representative Curt Webb (Republican – Logan), SB 257 – Parent Review of Instructional Measurements and Curriculum from Senator Howard Stephenson (Republican – Draper), and HB 414 – Legislative Subpoena Amendments from Representative Jim Dunnigan (Republican – Taylorsville) were all red-stamped late Wednesday by the governor.

“I try to work with the Legislature during the session to help shape the bills and then conduct a thorough review when the bills come to my desk to ensure those that are signed into law are in the best interest of the people,” said Herbert in a press release. “The people of our state have been very well served and I congratulate the Legislature on a productive session.”

HB 102 would have prevented the creation of new special assessment areas. Herbert noted in his response to the veto was in part due to the fact that “several rural counties have been working for years on projects to expand critical natural gas infrastructure… there are six projects planned this year that will favorably impact hundreds of families and millions of dollars in business investment,” and noted that HB 102 would prevent the creation of needed special assessment areas to access these wells.

SB 257 would have created a committee of parents specifically charged with reviewing test questions on computer adaptive tests. Senator Stephenson originally defended the bill on the Senate floor that the bill was designed to address concerns that the state STEM testing system “was similar to the Common Core system… [and that tests] may be biased or have an agenda attached to them.”

Herbert viewed the legislation as too broad, noting that parents should be involved with evaluating test materials, but on a more local level. Herbert went on to note that many school districts already have processes in place that are designed to allow parents to involve themselves in reviewing test materials.

The governor’s last outright veto was of HB 414.

Springing from the frustrations surrounding the inability for the special legislative investigation to subpoena witnesses in the John Swallow case, the legislature took action and attempted to grant itself the power to call witnesses with the full force of law. Governor Herbert stated that, though he understood the frustration that generated this bill, the actions of the legislature were too rash.

“History has repeatedly shown us that government response to scandals can often be excessive and overreaching. Regardless of the motives for passing HB 414, I cannot sign a bill that demands information from anyone, at any time, on any subject, for any purpose, and denies our citizens their fundamental constitutional rights of defense of due process.”

Herbert went on to note that the bill “ignores checks and balances” and that the bill “violates the open courts provision of the Utah Constitution.” The Governor would ultimately conclude that the bill moved through the legislative process “too quickly, and without public hearing or input.”

In addition, Herbert exercised a line-item veto of HB 3 – Appropriations Adjustments, noting that it was an accidental duplication of funding in the appropriations bill for SB 104 – Improvement of Reading Instruction from Senator Aaron Osmond (Republican – South Jordan).

Three bills did become law without the governor’s signature: HB 357 – Budgetary Amendments from Representative Ronda Menlove (Republican – Garland), SB 241 – County Jail Contracting Amendments from Senator Scott Jenkins (Republican – Plain City), and SB 269 – Annual Leave Program for State Employees from Senator Deidre Henderson (Republican – Spanish Fork).

If the legislature wishes to overturn any of the vetoes it will need to act by May 12th.

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