Salt Lake City, UT – Utah Governor Gary Herbert has vetoed House Bill 363, Health Education Amendments. The bill would have imposed an abstinence-only curriculum for Utah high schools that provide sex education. It would have also allowed them to choose not to provide sex education at all.
The veto was announced in a news release just before 8 p.m. on Friday evening. The bill had drawn strong public response and thousands of letters to the governor's office. Allyson Isom, the governor's spokesperson, says more than 90-percent of those letters and e-mails asked the governor to veto the bill.
"What's been striking about the correspondence that we've been receiving is that it's not template or spam content. It's individually and uniquely crafted and often very heartfelt, from parents, from educators, from those who care about Utah's kids and public policy," Isom said in an interview with KUER.
Isom says Herbert consulted with Representative Bill Wright, the original sponsor of the bill, along with other legislative and community leaders before he decided to veto the bill.
Governor Herbert may be taking a substantial political risk with the veto as he campaigns for re-election. Conservative activists within the Republican Party have urged him to sign the bill. Even Democratic State Representative Joel Briscoe accused the governor of political maneuvering by announcing it on a Friday after the state's Republican caucuses.
"Why did it occur," Briscoe asked, "at 8 o'clock p.m. on a Friday night, one day after Republican delegates were selected? Makes you wonder whether they thought they had good intelligence and thought they were safe."
Isom says the governor made his decision for public policy and not for political reasons.
The Utah legislature can call itself into a special session to override a gubernatorial veto. But House Bill 363 passed the House and the Senate with less than the two-thirds majorities that would be required to override Herbert's veto.