George Pyle: In a single veto, Herbert gives some hope of making Utah politics rational

Gary Herbert’s carpal tunnel syndrome is probably not exacerbated by vetoing bills any more than it is by signing them. So it’s too bad he doesn’t veto more often.

In a flurry of post-legislative penmanship, the governor of Utah Monday signed off on 119 bills. Among them, sadly, was House Bill 136, the Legislature’s unconstitutional, anti-woman, anti-science and just plan mean measure that will ban abortions when fetal development has gone beyond 18 weeks.

Some women aren’t even aware they are pregnant at 18 weeks. And even the amazing scanners and other tools for diagnosing fetal health — or the lack thereof — do not or cannot do their work that soon. The law, if not struck down by the courts, will put the power of the state into a woman’s — a family’s — most intimate and painful moments.

Small government? It is nothing of the sort.

But it is another one of the message bills favored by the retrograde (it’s unfair to conservatives to call it conservative) wing of the Legislature that is more than willing to squander millions in taxpayer funds to send lawyers into federal court to lose, so they can say they tried to do something that most Utahns didn’t want them to do.

These same folks hijack the process to pass some bills and kill others with the aim of protecting the tiny minority of us who define themselves by their toys — guns, dirty cars, off-road vehicles — more than by their humanity.

But Herbert did throw one bone to the forces of common sense and moderation. It might be a small silver lining, but it stood out because it was, so far, his only veto of the year.

The governor said “I forbid” to Senate Bill 123. That’s the bill that would empower the power structure of political parties (i.e., Republican delegates) to fill any future vacancies in the Utah delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. (Which might matter sometime soon if Rep. Chris Stewart is rewarded for his sycophancy to President Mussolini with a Pentagon job.)

The veto was a welcome defense of the change in Utah election law given the nicknames Count My Vote and SB54. That is the relatively new system that allows candidates for partisan public office to get on a primary ballot by gaining signatures on petitions instead of — or in addition to — the Utah Exceptionalism that limited access to the causus/convention system that is populated by, and rewarding to, true believers of the political fringe.

By continuing to stand guard over SB54, Herbert is acting in the interest of the people and of good, truly representative government. And, not coincidentally, he is defending his own political future, or those of his relatively moderate Republican mold who might come after him (looking at you, Spencer Cox), who do much better in the more open primary system than in the self-perpetuating Putin-style oligarchy of the caucuses.

The realistic hope is that, as more seats in the Legislature and in Congress are filled by people who rose to office by appealing to the widest possible swath of Utah voters, and not by folks who had to compete to be the furthest off to the radical right or the loony left, there will be fewer HB136s, fewer Stand Your Ground intensifiers, fewer measures written by toxic industry, by biological illiterates or by self-styled constitutional scholars who hate the Constitution.

That way, when you have a governor who apparently has almost no ink in his veto pen, it won’t matter so much. Because we won’t be looking at nearly as many bills that so desperately need to be vetoed.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune staff. George Pyle.

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, should have vetoed that last doughnut. gpyle@sltrib.com