- Associated Press - Saturday, February 18, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - As the Utah Legislature heads into the second half of the 2017 session, lawmakers are doubling down on efforts to get their bills through both chambers. But the final say will ultimately go to Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, who can opt to veto bills if he doesn’t agree with them.

Herbert, in an interview with The Associated Press, spoke about where he stands on issues making their way to his desk:

TAX EXEMPTIONS FOR MANUFACTURING EQUIPMENT

Herbert kicked off the session by asking Utah lawmakers to considering reigning in or repealing more than 100 tax credits and exemptions the state offers to collect more money for schools and other government services. Legislators have somewhat taken the call to heart - they’re resisting and scaling back some exemptions and credits, including a solar panel credit that legislators say leaves the state missing out on $20 million a year. But lawmakers are also considering new ones, including a proposal that would exempt manufacturing equipment and tools from state sales tax - which would leave the state missing out on $50 million to $60 million annually. Herbert told the AP he doesn’t know whether he would approve that plan or not, but if the state does add a new exemption, it’s important to also remove one. At a news conference on Thursday, Herbert told reporters he is willing to veto bills that give more exemptions, though he wouldn’t specify which bills.

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

Utah lawmakers are considering a resolution that calls for a convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution and require the federal budget be balanced every year. The convention of the states is one of two ways to propose amendments to the Constitution. But it has never been used - and critics worry that if such a gathering ever took place, it could become a runaway convention where sacred, important protections could be changed too. “I think that’s the fear everybody should have,” Herbert told the AP. The governor said there are less concerning ways to require a balanced budget, such as getting Congress to pass a law, than by calling a convention of the states.

POLYGAMY BAN

Utah’s polygamy ban withstood a recent court challenge from the family on the TV show “Sister Wives,” but one lawmaker is considering changes that would allow those convicted under the bigamy law to face harsher penalties if they also commit other crimes such as domestic abuse. Republican Rep. Mike Noel of Kanab is sponsoring it and says his changes would help the law withstand any future challenge and those in polygamous groups who commit abuses would be held accountable. The governor said he’ll consider Noel’s bill, but he said need a compelling reason to enhance these penalties.


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