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Utah House Speaker Says He Wants to Balance Gov’s Emergency Powers, Not Override Order

A photo of the Utah State Capitol at night.
Lee Hale
State lawmakers plan to discuss several bills early next year to balance the governor’s emergency powers.

The Utah state Legislature plans to consider several bills early next year to place limits on the governor’s emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic. But leadership has opted not to call a special session to override COVID-19 restrictions and institute their own.

Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said instead, leaders have chosen to give feedback directly to the governor.

“A lot of lawmakers felt like their feedback was listened to and heard by the executive branch during some of the feedback sessions that we've had,” Wilson said.

He said lawmakers are also bringing bills to the next general session that would give them more say.

“Our code is actually not as clear as it could be right now about after a state of emergency expires in 30 days — can the governor reissue a state of emergency or not?” Wilson said. “I think it's clear the intent of the code is that after 30 days, the Legislature should be consulted and asked to renew that.”

Lawmakers have so far refused to renew states of emergency, and Gov. Gary Herbert has been issuing new ones as old ones expire.

When the Legislature reconvenes, the state will also have a new leader: Governor-elect Spencer Cox. Wilson said he thinks Cox, who’s currently the lieutenant governor, will be more open to feedback from lawmakers.

“The lieutenant governor came and spent over four hours with the majority caucus a little over a week ago, trying to understand their perspective,” Wilson said. “In my legislative career, I’ve never had a governor or lieutenant governor come and spend that much time with our caucus.”

The general session starts Jan. 19.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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