Gov. Gary Herbert only vetoed one bill during the recent legislative session, but Utah lawmakers are mulling a special session to overrule that veto.
The bill, S.B. 123, deals with replacing members of Congress who leave office mid-term. For U.S. House vacancies, it would allow political parties to select which candidates from their party appear on the primary ballot in a special election — but without a path for candidates to gather signatures as in regular elections.
In case of a U.S. Senate vacancy, the bill would allow the Legislature to temporarily fill the post by nominating three people of the same political party as the previous senator. The governor would appoint his or her choice from that pool of three candidates to hold the post until the next general election.
Herbert said he vetoed the proposal because it “significantly limits participation and choice in elections to fill vacancies” in the U.S. House, and therefore “limits the ability of Utah voters to choose their congressional representatives.”
He also said the bill’s process to allow lawmakers to put forward three names for temporary U.S. Senate replacements “creates ambiguities.”
House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President Stuart Adams are meeting with the governor to see if there’s room for compromise.
“Whether we override or not, it’s an issue that we need to address,” Adams said. “We hope to use this bill as an opportunity to have the discussions to see if we can’t find some common ground.”
Adams said legislative leaders are polling members through Friday to see if they have the votes to overrule Herbert’s veto. Two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers would have to vote to override the veto.
Legislators and Herbert have tangled over special congressional elections ever since former Congressman Jason Chaffetz resigned in 2017.
That year, lawmakers wanted to set the special election to replace Chaffetz, but Herbert called the election without their input and set it in conjunction with municipal elections happening that year.
Lawmakers also held a rare veto override session in 2018, where they reinstated two laws also stemming from the special election dust-up. One requires the attorney general to hand over his legal opinions to lawmakers upon request and the other allows the legislature to intervene in state lawsuits.