Gov. Gary Herbert says a proposed rule to ban the practice of conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth may require some fine-tuning after it was met with opposition from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints earlier this month.
The Church said while it opposes conversion therapy, the proposed rule does not include adequate parental or religious protections.
Herbert acknowledged those concerns Thursday during his monthly KUED news conference and said “they should be able to be worked out.”
He added that he expects a rule will be adopted “sometime in the near future.”
The governor had asked the state Division of Professional Licensing to craft a rule banning the widely debunked practice of conversion therapy — meant to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — on minors. Earlier this year, a bill that aimed to do the same was changed significantly by socially-conservativelawmakers before it was ultimately abandoned.
Asked about former Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr.’s potential foray into the 2020 race for Utah governor, Herbert said he would continue to support the bid of Lt. Governor Spencer Cox.
“I didn’t know about Ambassador Huntsman maybe considering this, but I’m not going to pull back my support (of Cox),” Herbert said. He added that he would “not speak against anybody else” in the race.
Herbert described his predecessor as a “supreme diplomat” who would make a good U.S. secretary of state.
“It’s good for the people of Utah to have good choices” on the ballot, Herbert said. “That’s what elections are about – competition of the best ideas.”
Herbert signaled support for a handful of potential changes to the state tax code lawmakers are currently considering, including restoring the full food tax and adding sales taxes to new services.
“Some things that aren’t being taxed probably ought to be taxed, and we ought to provide in that process a significant tax cut to the people of Utah,” he said.
Critics say restoring the state sales tax on groceries to its full 4.85% rate would disproportionately hurt low-income Utahns, who spend a higher percentage of their income on food. A proposal from the two co-chairs of a tax reform task force would provide grocery tax credits to lower-income families, a move Herbert said he would support.
“With tax credits (and) different options we have in the tax code, that can actually be arranged so that if we put the sales tax back on food, that those that are vulnerable don’t have to pay it,” he said.
The governor said if lawmakers in the state House and Senate can reach a consensus on a tax reform package, he may call a December special session in order to have new tax policies in place by 2020.
Lawmakers are also discussing potentially removing the earmark on income taxes for public education – a constitutional mandate that would ultimately require voter approval to repeal.
Herbert acknowledged that public education advocates would feel “short changed” if the earmark is removed. He said he would only support its removal “if and only if” the Legislature can work with stakeholders to guarantee a revenue stream for education.