Gov. Gary Herbert issued his first veto of 2017 for a bill that would’ve scrapped a requirement to appoint an equal number of Democrats and Republicans to several state boards and commissions.
In a letter to House and Senate leaders, the governor wrote that he felt obligated to veto House Bill 11 not because he disagreed with its objective, but because it was not the version he had negotiated.
He said he agreed to preserve partisan requirements for the Water and Air Quality boards, as well as the Public Service and Alcohol and Beverage Control commissions — bodies which make decisions on much more sensitive, political issues.
However, as the bill made its way through the legislature, those boards were re-added to a list that were being amended — attracting loud opposition from Democrats.
“The object of having polarity points of view on these boards and commissions is to get the best ideas from the public," says Sen. Gene Davis, who along with other members of his caucus, panned the bill as an attempt to undermine political diversity.
“Because remember they’re setting rules and regulations and they’re not elected officials,” he added.
Ultimately, the governor said that public confidence “may be increased through symbolic partisan makeup” on select boards. The bill had sought to exempt a total of 28 of about 70 state boards that still require party affiliation to be taken into account.
Republican Rep. Norm Thurston, the bill’s sponsor, says he’s disappointed by the veto, arguing the legislation had broad support, even from the governor.
“There were some details of this bill that there was disagreement about, but I don’t think the disagreement is about the general policy, I think it’s just about the details,” he says. “So we’ll just see how we go forward.”
Thurston said he didn’t know what may happen next, but he hasn't ruled out re-introducing the legislation again at some point.
Read the governor's veto letter via Scribd.