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Herbert: DUI limit stays put, abortion bill needs changes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that while there may be some tweaks to Utah's strict new DUI threshold, the law set to take effect Dec. 30 is here to stay.

Herbert told reporters that the 0.05 percent blood alcohol limit taking effect Dec. 30 won't be repealed or delayed, and there's evidence showing people can become impaired at that blood alcohol level.

Herbert, a Republican, also said he wants changes to a Utah lawmaker's proposal this year barring abortions sought because a fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Some highlights from Herbert's press conference Thursday:


The 0.05 percent blood alcohol limit was criticized by members of Utah's restaurant and hospitality industry who said it would punish responsible drinkers and harm the state's reputation. Herbert signed off on the law last year but said he intended to call legislators into a special session to create a tiered penalty system so that those with a blood alcohol level between 0.05 to 0.08 percent would face a lighter punishment. That never happened because legislators and state officials couldn't agree on changes. The governor, like other supporters of the law, says there's evidence that people become impaired at 0.05 percent and police won't pull drivers over unless they're showing signs of impairment. Herbert also seemed open to supporting a bill this year that would allow someone whose blood alcohol level is above 0.05 percent to carry a weapon but not use it unless it's in self-defense. The governor said people should be punished for behavior, not what they're carrying in their pocket.


The governor, who once said he worried about a medical pot law turning into "Dr. Feelgood" handing out "doobies," said that most people agree that if marijuana seems to helping those in pain, there should be a way to let people use it like a medicine. Herbert said he doesn't like the idea of anyone being able to self-medicate or grow their own marijuana, and if a medical marijuana ballot initiative in the works is passed by voters this year, lawmakers may need to make some changes to the law. The governor pointed out that Utah is in the alcohol business and said it should probably be in the marijuana business too so there's control over where people get the drug and how much they're given.


Herbert said he's concerned about a bill barring abortions sought because a fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome because the Legislature's lawyers have warned it's likely unconstitutional. Bill sponsor Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, a Republican, contends abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome are "a eugenic-like eradication" and discrimination against a group of people. The governor Thursday re-iterated he opposes abortion and doesn't like the idea of discriminating against anyone in any fashion, but he's worried about passing an unconstitutional law. He said he's working with Lisonbee to find a way to somehow make the proposal constitutional, but he didn't know how they'd get there.

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