Herbert, Corroon at odds over controversial bill approvals

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert gave official and final approval Wednesday to a pair of controversial bills passed by Utah lawmakers. One he signed, the other he allowed to become law without his signature.

Now he's getting some criticism for both moves.


In the 2010 legislative session, Herbert signed more than 400 bills and vetoed just three. On some of those decisions -- for instance, regarding stream access and the tobacco tax -- his Democratic challenger argues the governor made the wrong decision.

Herbert has signed one of this year's most contentious bills about stream access, allowing landowners to post signs and close access to most rivers and streams crossing private land. His spokesman, Angie Welling, says the decision returns the law to the way it was prior to a key 2008 court ruling.

"It puts everyone on equal footing. It puts the private property rights on the same footing as access to public waters," she said. "He hopes it levels the playing field and we can move forward."

Both sides lobbied hard, including sportsmen who marched up the Capitol steps, gear in hand, to make their case.

Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of the Outdoor Industry Association, said, "This legislation causes direct harm to Utah's national reputation as a quality recreation destination."

His group says the move does disservice to a $4 billion, 65,000-job Utah industry struggling to recover from recession and "causes direct harm" to Utah's reputation.

Herbert's Democratic challenger in the upcoming gubernatorial race says he would have vetoed it.


"We have a strong outdoor industry in the state of Utah, which is important to all of us, and I think we've now turned that upside down," said Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.

Rather than sign a $1-per-pack tobacco tax hike, which will generate millions for the state, Herbert let it go into law without his signature.

"I don't think it was a tax issue, I think it was a health issue, and I would have signed it," Corroon said. "I think it shows honestly a lack of leadership by not taking a stand one way or the other."

Welling, on the other hand, says Herbert didn't veto it because that would be fiscally irresponsible.

"He couldn't sign it either because principally he still remains opposed to it, so this should be seen as a symbol of his continued opposition to any tax increases," she said.

Welling also announced Wednesday the governor intends to call a special session in May or June. She said Herbert wants to make changes in the so-called E-verify bill, which requires Utah businesses to screen employees for the legal right to work.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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