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Lawmakers expected to consider overriding governor's vetoes

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers are weighing whether to call an override session now that Gov. Gary Herbert has vetoed a pair of bills intended to give more power to the legislative branch.

Legislative leaders will first have to determine if there's the necessary support from two-thirds of both the House and Senate to attempt to overturn the governor's action. A poll of members should be conducted shortly.

The deadline for holding an override session isn't until May 7.

"It's probably too early to tell," Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said Wednesday, the final day for Herbert to deal with bills passed by the 2018 Legislature that ended March 8.

The governor ended up signing a total of 498 pieces of legislation, allowing two bills to become law without his signature, and vetoing a total of three bills along with several budget line items.

Adams was the sponsor of one of the bills about legislative powers vetoed by the governor on Tuesday, SB171, which would have allowed the Legislature to intervene in lawsuits filed against the state.

Also vetoed was HB198, which would have required the Utah Attorney General's Office to provide legal opinions to the Legislature. That became an issue during last year's friction between the governor and lawmakers over the special congressional election.

Both bills passed with strong support, but the governor raised concerns about the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Herbert said SB171 "intrudes on a function that is inherently and exclusively in the domain of the Executive Branch" and warned, "intervention by the Legislature would only disrupt judicial proceedings."

Adams said he disagrees that his bill violates the separation of powers and that the Legislature needs "to be defended. We need to make sure we maintain all the options available to us."

As for directing the attorney general to give the Legislature legal opinions upon request, he said it was better to put that in statute "and be able to clarify" what could be expected.

Last year, the governor blocked the release of an opinion sought by the Legislature from the attorney general. Lawmakers wanted Herbert to call them into special session to set up the special election to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

Herbert said in his veto letter that HB198 "poses a signficant threat to the ability of the Executive Branch to receive legal counsel from the Attorney General" and interferes with that office's ability to determine when conflicts of interest exist.

A resolution passed by the 2018 Legislature that did not go to the governor sends a question to the November ballot about whether lawmakers should be able to call themselves into a special legislative session.