SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah State Legislature has voted to override Gov. Gary Herbert's veto of Senate Bill 171.
The veto required a two-thirds majority vote, and the Senate voted 21-7 while the House voted 55-15 to override the Governor.
The bill allows lawmakers to defend laws passed by the legislature if they are challenged in court–even if the Attorney General chooses not to defend the law.
Gov. Herbert originally vetoed the bill, warning it could be problematic if two different attorneys represented the state in court.
But those in favor of the override believe it protects the power of the state legislature.
“Anybody who has an interest ought to be able to enter in and defend and express their feelings and be able to get a proper ruling from the court,” said Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton.
Those on the other side question the bill’s validity because they see it as infringing on the separation of powers.
“I can see this as the kickoff to political interference with lawsuits until the cows come home,” said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City.
Gov. Herbert released a statement following the legislature’s vote:
“Clearly the governor and the legislature disagree about the appropriate roles and functions of their respective branches of state government. We would encourage the legislature to intervene in a court case as soon as possible so that the Utah courts can quickly resolve these important constitutional issues.”
Attorney General Sean Reyes also voiced his displeasure with the vote in a statement.
"We believe in a carefully balanced democratic system of government where the legislature enacts laws, the executive branch enforces them, and courts interpret them. When one branch upsets that equilibrium, it threatens the harmony and integrity of the whole and erodes public confidence in the institutions.”
The legislature also voted to override the Governor’s veto on House Bill 198 – a bill requiring the Attorney General to provide lawmakers with legal opinions on request.
This was the first time the Utah Legislature met to override the Governor since 2011.