Herbert told his GOP legislative colleagues time and again during the 2013 Legislature, which adjourned March 14, that he didn’t see the need for any new gun rights legislation this general session.
And, indeed, in the end, the lawmakers only sent Herbert HB76 – not the more controversial HB114 which said Utah’s gun laws are supreme over federal gun laws and local law officers didn’t need to enforce federal gun laws.
Still, the constitutional carry HB76 is a political hot potato for the governor.
Personally, I think in the end Herbert will veto HB76.
Why? Because not to veto it paints Herbert as the boy who cried wolf – he told lawmakers ad nauseam not to pass any new gun legislation.
And if he makes such a public warning, yet they do so anyway, what worth will any future gubernatorial warnings hold?
Very little, I’m guessing.
GOP legislators like their governor.
But how much to they respect him? How much do they respect his authority?
Herbert’s top aides recently started making news reporters who meet with the governor stand when he enters and leaves the room.
It’s not a big thing. But it tells me that his top aides don’t think Herbert is getting enough respect from the local media.
Remember, it was just two years ago that The Salt Lake Tribune in a rare front page editorial called Herbert “a political hack” if he didn’t veto the infamous HB477, the GRAMA “reform” bill of the 2011 Legislature.
I can’t remember any Utah governor called a political hack in a local newspaper editorial, much less on the front page.
So in recent years, quietly, behind the scenes, GOP legislators have been making jokes about Herbert, wondering when he will stand up and be counted.
They question his leadership; his resolve.
Herbert won an impressive four-year-term victory on his own last November. He’s been stepping out of the shadow of former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. for several years.
A HB76 veto will tell legislators and Utahns that Herbert is nobody’s second fiddle; he’s his own man.
Yes, he certainly can, and should, argue a HB76 veto on its own merits, personal politics aside.
After all, even many concealed weapons certificate trainers are against the bill, saying it could be dangerous for untrained Utahns to be able to carry even an unload weapon concealed, in a pocket or holster under a jacket.
And there is value in having Utahns who want to carry a concealed weapon obtaining at the least the minimum safety training that comes with such a permit – fewer folks accidently shooting off their kneecaps and toes.
It’s true that HB76 passed the House and Senate originally with veto-proof two-thirds majorities.
It passed the House 51-18; the Senate 22-7.
Fifty votes is a veto override in the House; it’s 20 in the Senate.
But, historically, a gubernatorial veto picks up a few votes in both houses in an override vote; lawmakers rethinking their previous “aye” vote as the public debate typically swings in the governor’s favor.
I haven’t seen any public opinion polling on HB76.
But UtahPolicy has asked its panel of experts and readers about gun rights bills several times during the 2013 Legislature.
Just last week we asked our experts and readers about HB76. More than 50 percent of the GOP experts and UPD readers said Herbert should veto the bill.
Among the Democratic experts the pro-veto majority ran higher than 95 percent.
While not a scientific survey of Utahns in general, the UPD polling of political thinkers and insiders does show support for a Herbert veto, and would take into account political considerations that Herbert and his top aides are no doubt working through right now.
By the state Constitution, Herbert has until April 3 to veto a bill, sign it into law, or allow it to become law without his signature.
Herbert recently told media reporters that he is disinclined to allow any bill to become law without his signature, saying he should take a stand, and has, only using the unsign option one time before.
He’s also promised “to take a hard look” at any gun rights legislation this session.
I see a veto on HB76; an override session with lawmakers falling just short of overriding what could be one of Herbert’s most telling actions so far in his leadership of the state.
The merits or problems with HB76 aside, Utah governors almost always look good to voters when they stand up against the state Legislature – and I see nothing different about the constitutional carry bill this time around.