Gov. Gary Herbert covered a range of topics at his monthly press conference on KUED Thursday, including health care, the national monument review and special legislative sessions.
National Monument Review
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may recommend that the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument be split up into several smaller monuments.
At his monthly press conference on KUED Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert said Zinke feels that the Clinton administration went too far when it created the 1.9-million-acre monument.
“(Zinke) has indicated that was an overreach,” said Herbert. “I think there’s a possibility of carving it up into smaller monuments, two or three, that actually protects the areas that need protection. So we’ll have to see what his recommendation is (and) what the president does.”
While he doesn’t know exactly what Zinke is recommending to President Trump, Herbert said he expects the Bears Ears National Monument to be shrunk.
Gov. Herbert will call the Utah legislature into a special session next week to deal with an issue related to the crackdown on crime downtown.
Herbert said the legislature needs to authorize cities to close streets under certain circumstances.
“This will allow (Rio Grande Street) to be closed permanently as we need,” Herbert said Thursday.
Plans for a special session come after last month’s public back-and-forth between House Speaker Greg Hughes and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. They disagreed over closing part of Rio Grande Street to create a safe space for homeless people seeking services.
Biskupski signed a lease agreement with the state last week, allowing a portion of Rio Grande Street to close to cars and pedestrians.
Though the legislature will allow cities greater flexibility to close streets during next week’s special session, Herbert said lawmakers shouldn’t get used to it.
Legislators and the Governor have had several clashes this year on the balance of power between branches of state government.
As a result, some lawmakers have suggested an amendment that would allow the legislature to call itself into a special session. On Thursday, Gov. Herbert said that’s a bad idea.
“If they can call themselves into session, there is no pressure to have finality,” the governor said. “I’d be concerned about people saying, ‘let’s come back, and come back, and come back,’ and pretty soon, you have the efforts of a full-time legislative session.”
Lawmakers protested earlier this year when Herbert called for a special election to replace former Congressman Jason Chaffetz. They had called for an additional session, so they could set the election’s parameters.
The Governor has also decided to hold off on a special session to tweak a new law lowering the legal blood alcohol limit to .05 percent. Herbert had said he would call a session in late summer, but now says because the law doesn’t go into effect until the end of 2018, changes can wait until January's legislative session.
Herbert threw his support behind a last-ditch Republican effort in Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Senators say the Graham-Cassidy bill would provide states with block grants, essentially letting each state create its own health care system.
“With a block grant, the states can do what they want to do with the money,” said Herbert, who was in Washington DC last week urging members of a U.S. Senate committee to give more control over health care markets to the states.
Herbert said block grants for health care would allow states across the political spectrum more flexibility.