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Utah Legislature: Message bills' cost worries Herbert

Defending measures in court could come with hefty price tag

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert warned lawmakers Thursday against "tilting at windmills and braying at the moon" through so-called message bills with hefty legal price tags.

"I think there is a need to send messages on occasion," the governor said during the taping of his monthly news conference on KUED Channel 7. He said he, too, is concerned about what he called federal government overreach.

"We need to make sure we speak up and say to the federal government, 'We're going to challenge you here. Your overreach is too much. We're going to fight you on this,' " he said. "I don't mind the message."

But Herbert said he's looking closely at the potential legal tab that would come with telling the federal government to butt out of a wide range of issues, from registering Utah-made guns to health care.

"We need to have a realization of what the costs will be in implementing any kind of legislation, particularly that will be controversial," the governor said. "I don't want to be just tilting at windmills and braying at the moon. We don't have a lot of extra cash."

Herbert said he has yet to decide whether to veto one of the most prominent message bills, SB11. Sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, the bill calls for Utah to take over the registration of guns made in the state.

The governor said he won't make up his mind until the Friday deadline because he's still sorting out conflicting information on the potential legal costs.

"I just don't want to end up having a million-dollar cost attached to it where we have a slim chance of winning. I think we have a slim chance of even getting to the Supreme Court, which is the intent of this legislation," he said.

Lawmakers need to consider the unintended consequences of their actions, Herbert suggested.

"We ought to think through this a little big more methodically," he told reporters after the taping. "People get, you know, that mob mentality and the emotion of the moment, and sometimes we pass legislation that may not be exactly what we hoped it would be."

Also Thursday, Herbert defended his decision not to join other states in asking for more Medicaid funds, saying, "We didn't need it." He said instead, Utahns should take care of their own. "We can't always make that first phone call to the welfare office or the government," the governor said.

And he said it might be time to consider ending affirmative action programs, as a proposed amendment to the state constitution this session would do.

"People are concerned about, is this too soon? But it's been going on for a long, long time," Herbert said. "I think our society is becoming color blind. There's always going to be a few bigots out there in society, there always have been and probably always will. But there's going to come a time in our future where affirmative action and quotas aren't necessary."