Deseret News, Feb 24, 2006
Buttars' bills may face vetoes
Huntsman skeptical of evolution and school-gay-club measures
By Lisa Riley Roche and Jennifer Toomer-Cook
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said for the first time Thursday that he'd
veto a pair of controversial bills aimed at banning so-called
gay-straight alliances in public high schools and at controlling what
students are taught about evolution.
"If they look and feel like they did in earlier incarnations, I
will veto them. We'll have to see what they look like when they reach
my desk," Huntsman told the Deseret Morning News following his monthly
press conference televised on KUED Channel 7.
"In fairness, with all bills, I wait until they get to our
office because in some cases they never make it that far," the
governor said. "In many cases, they change so dramatically en route."
During the half-hour news conference, Huntsman said the bills
have been "largely watered down and diluted into fairly benign
statements" and may never get through the Legislature.
Both bills are sponsored by Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan,
who said he was surprised at the governor's veto threat. "Why doesn't
he like them? What's wrong with them?" Buttars asked. "I find it
amazing he'd make those kind of comments, and he's never asked to talk
The governor, who had earlier raised concerns about the need
for Buttars' bills, had talked early on in the 45-day session about
avoiding so-called message bills and staying focused on more important
"These are no message bills," Buttars said. "These are solid
pieces of legislation that involve morality. Morality isn't a 'message
A vote on overriding vetoes of those bills "would be very
close," Buttars said.
SB96, which would have teachers refrain from telling students
as fact that humans evolved from apes, has already passed the Senate
but has yet to be heard in the House. House Majority Whip Steve
Urquhart, R-St. George, has said he cannot support the bill.
SB97 passed the Utah Senate Thursday on a final third vote of
17-11 after Buttars requested all senators cast votes, a move that
required Senate President John Valentine to be plucked from a meeting
in the Governor's Office, Buttars said.
The vote on the bill, which seeks to allow school boards to
approve or deny clubs without fear of lawsuits, was preceded with an
apology to an openly gay colleague about strong language regarding the
"homosexual agenda" in Wednesday night's debate.
"On a personal level, I wish to express my respect, regard,
esteem and affection to my colleague, Sen. Scott McCoy, and regret the
personal implications that came out of yesterday's discussion," said
Sen. Gregory Bell, R-Fruit Heights. "Above all, the importance of a
person has to be kept paramount. And not just a person, but people. I
hope in some measure that will express the feeling of those in this
McCoy challenged the bill as giving school boards no direction
and putting the whole state, rather than the taxpayers of a local
school district, on the hook to pay for legal challenges to local
The bill goes to the House for debate.
Huntsman, who made economic development a centerpiece of his
campaign, said after the taping of his news conference that he did not
believe the controversy surrounding the bills was hurting the state's
efforts to attract new businesses.
The debates over the bills are counteracted, the governor said,
in other ways, including the success of Utah athletes in the 2006
Winter Games going on in Torino, Italy.
"There are a lot of good messages coming out of our state. I
think they're overwhelmingly positive," he said. "People actually see
a lot of good in our state. All states have their idiosyncracies."
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