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September 23, 2017

"One of the big issues for us going forward into the future for Utah, as we've now become the fastest growing state in America, is water." Governor Herbert


ANNOUNCER:  KUED presents, the Governor's monthly news conference, an exchange between Utah reporters and Gov. Gary Herbert. 


CROWD: Good morning. 

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Great to be with you as always, and thank you for your attendance here today.

Let me begin by saying I had a great privilege a week ago to go back to Washington, D.C., and testify at Sen. Lamar Alexander's committee on health, education, labor and pensions. And the topic of discussion was, in fact, health care. We know that's an ongoing issue, and somewhat complex, and certainly fraught with a lot of emotion. But myself and four other governors had an opportunity to go there and talk about the concern we have about the collapse of the insurance market, the providers pulling out — particularly the individual market. And talk about what we thought would be some suggestions for solutions. And again, in a bipartisan way, trying to see if we can't get past the impasse we see in Washington, D.C., and find some real solutions.

I had the opportunity to talk about Utah and the successes we're having — uniquely so, in Utah. We have some of the lowest cost health care in America, and with one of the highest rated quality of health care. We can have something to share, I thought. And other states have something to share with us too. In fact, that's what we talked about was giving states more flexibility. And see if we can't, as the true laboratories of democracy, have 50 different innovative states out there trying to find practical solutions to the challenges of healthcare that we see in the country today. And so I can tell you that as of yesterday, as I have talked about the importance and really have argued for a block grant approach to this, to let states with their individual demographics, their cultures, and their politics really find their own solutions, as opposed to the one size fits all mentality that comes out of Washington, D.C. And to see the Graham Cassidy bill that was introduced yesterday with a block grant to the states I thought was very encouraging. Something I very much support. You can imagine again, with states having this opportunity in fact to do what they want to do.

Congress has got to determine how much are you willing to spend, for Medicaid, for healthcare. And then find a system that we can in fact apportion fairly to the respective states their proportion amounts of money. And I think most Americans are certainly in favor of fairness and so, the proportion amount of money we get in Utah should be proportionate to Idaho, to New York, to Massachusetts, to California, to Texas, and everything in between. And then let us do what we think we can do within some broad parameters to provide healthcare innovation to the marketplace. I find it frustrating, as I think the American public do, because we can't seem to come together. I know Republican side of the legislature says we want to repeal and replace, but the Democrat side says we want to modify, fix, and improve. And those are really two sides of the same coin, and really we could come together if we could get some leadership. So I think there's something with a block grant, the states can do what they want to do with the money, if they want to have more robust, liberal approach, states that want a more conservative approach, again, you can do your own thing in your respective states. And so I'm encouraging other governors to get behind this, we have probably about between 16, 17 governors now that are on board with this. I'm encouraged that the President and the Vice President came out yesterday in support of this effort. Very encouraging to hear the White House get behind this effort.

We need to have our own senators and our own congressional delegation take a look at this and hopefully get them behind it too. I know we need to have some hearings, Senator Hatch, in fact, well in fact his committee on finance would be one that would be where this would go for a hearing, I hope he can expedite this and get this done in a timely fashion, right away. I'm not suggesting by the way that this block grant proposal in its initial stages is perfect, but I think it is an improvement. And it does move us forward, so I hope we don't let perfect get in the way of betterment and good, and an improvement. So I'm excited about the possibilities, I think it's a great opportunity for the country and for the states to really take on the responsibility and take the lead when it comes to healthcare. So, I'm encouraged. We'll see what happens. 

MICHELLE PRICE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Governor, if all states would get to do their own thing, how do you envision Utah using that block grant? Would we keep the Obamacare framework and improve it, or would we just start over with a new system?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, probably yet to be determined. I don't think there'd be a lot of wholesale changes over what we're doing right now. I think what happens is that again if everybody has their fair share of the money, you know right now we have some states getting significantly more money, certainly the expansion states than what those who've not expanded. And some you know, like Massachusetts and California and New York are actually getting a higher percentage than even what their allotment you would think would be under a format that would require equity.

So I would expect that we'd end up having the ability to fill in some gaps that we certainly have here in our own healthcare program here, so it'd be a significant, I think step up for us. We wouldn't have to ask for waivers, which is always, you know, we've got waivers in there now we've been waiting for a year to get approved and still don't have it approved. The idea of having work-related requirements, we're going to give you healthcare but also give you ability if you're able bodied to get training and education so you can get a job. There's a lot of things we could do better I think, if we had the flexibility. And not have to go hat in hand on bended knee, saying, please let us do something a little more innovative and creative.

ROD DECKER, KUTV2: Are you planning to call a special session?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Yes, I am planning to call a special session next Wednesday. The issue that we'll have on the call will be that of giving authorization legislatively to the cities to close streets on certain needs. Of course, this has to do with the Rio Grande road that's been closed temporarily, this will allow it to be closed permanently as we need to do. So that's something that we will be talking about and put on the call I'm sure for next Wednesday.

ROD DECKER, KUTV2: Will you address the money? The bill has been reported at 67 million dollars for Operation Rio Grande, or thereabouts. Will you address that? 

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well there's certainly a financial aspect to this and a state responsibility, we're stepping up in ways we've not done in the past, and putting resources towards this issue of homelessness and particularly the criminal element of law enforcement. But in talking to our office of management and budget, we think we can cash flow this, and this is probably better addressed in the general session. As we go through our budgetary process in a more robust manner. So I don't think we're going to need to have that on the call for next Wednesday.

BOB BERNICK, UTAHPOLICY.COM: What about a power that you have already but to expand your powers of calling it an emergency so you might've been able to step in when Mayor Jackie Biskupski for a couple of days refused to close the street. But do you need to deal with that? Do you need greater powers?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: You know the speakers mentioned that. Speaker Hughes, and I think it is a good catch in that the governor ought to have emergency powers at least equal if not surpass those of cities and counties, for obvious reasons. But I don't know that that needs to be addressed in a special session, I don't expect any significant emergency between now and next 2018 session starting the end of January. And I think it takes a little more robust discussion and public input before we do something of that big of a change. So I don't anticipate it being on the call necessarily, this Wednesday, I guess that's still yet to be determined but I think it would be better addressed in a general session. 

ROD DECKER, KUTV2: Last March, when you signed 0.05, I think it was March, you said, this is not, the final bill we want. I'm going to call a special session in August or September. Here we have a special session in September, will 0.05 be on the call? 

GOVERNOR HERBERT: I don't think so, we did talk about that and at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. We've had number of hearings on it, certainly there's been some discussions back and forth. I think the legislature is more inclined to want to address this in the upcoming general session. Again, it probably requires a little more robust thinking. I think there's a couple of different options out there. I think there's a desire to modify, probably follow more of the Colorado model. Colorado as you know, has a 0.05, but they don't have as stiff of penalties on 0.05 to 0.08. After 0.08, then the penalties get a little more stiff. And so, I think there's probably a desire to take a look at that and see if there's some modification capabilities there. Probably some other thoughts that have bubbled up, but I think it's more, probably better to rather than in a two or three or four, hour block of time, it probably requires more attention. As a reminder, this does not go into effect until December 30th of 2018, so we've got plenty of time to have a general session, and if we need it another special session after that. But I think we can address it in the upcoming 2018 session.

BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: So are you in support of tiered DUI system, like you mentioned, the 0.05 to 0.08 is one thing, 0.08 to whatever is another? 

GOVERNOR HERBERT: It has appeal to me. The two-tiered approach, similar to what's been done in Colorado on the penalty aspect of it. And so I think that's at least where I have I think a sense that that's probably the right place to land. I know others have difference of opinion. Interestingly enough, we talked to our law enforcement and they say, it appears that we, in fact, are having an impact on DUIs, where people think it's already taken effect. Now we'll have to look at the data and see if that's, in fact, the case. But again, I think the way to address that's in the general session.

BOB BERNICK, UTAHPOLICY.COM: Governor, you were just talking about a special session, and you calling them, as you know of course, only you can call a special session, you set the agenda. There's going to be an amendment, I'm told in the next session of the legislature that would go before the voters that would say that the legislature itself can call itself into special session. You don't get to veto that, it's an amendment, but what are your feelings about that? 

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well they already can call themselves into special session for a veto override. So, they do have that capability. I would be concerned about a legislature that can just call themselves into a special session, which means we have no end.

One of the great assets and benefits we have in developing policy in Utah compared to some other states is we have a 45-day session that ends at midnight, sign or die. You actually have a restricted period of time. And so you have to get your work done, we do a lot of work in those 45 days, we address 800, 900 bills, pass around 500. That's a pretty good work load. And we know we have to not waste time. And we have to get to it, because we end up 45 days later being done. And have to go home. If they can call themselves back into session there is no pressure to have finality. And I'd be concerned about people saying, well let's come back and come back and come back and pretty soon you have the efforts of maybe a full time legislative session. I see that in states like California, I don't think that works very good for California, and the governors there have said that same thing. 

So, I would be a little careful about that. We'll have to see what the debate is, and the discussion. And ultimately if in fact they put that on as something for the people to vote on and change the constitution, the people will speak and we'll respond. 

ROD DECKER, KUTV2: The, back to DUI, the sponsor of the bill — the original sponsor — said he would have included tiered penalties in his original bill except he believes that the federal law prohibits that. And if you do that, you lose your highway money, and he says Colorado's just a bunch of scofflaws and they're getting away with it. Have you looked at whether a tiered system comports with federal law? 

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, I think that's probably part of the discussion. Obviously, Colorado would have a different opinion than the legislator who calls them scofflaws, so, and if they're getting the money, you know, whether we need to have a federal fix or some kind of modification, but I think the idea of a two-tiered system of penalty is probably something that has some wisdom. Another way to approach it, which has come out of the legislature is why don't we wait until two or three other states have this same 0.05, and we'll join with them at the same time so we're not just alone in our approach, so that's maybe another way to address it. But you know, that's part of the discussion and I expect we'll have a robust healthy discussion and debate in the 2018 session.

ROD DECKER, KUTV2: You might, you might pass a bill that says, excuse me, you might pass a bill that says, we'll have 0.05, but we're going to be the second state or the third state or whatever, and it'll just sit there unused until we have a couple others join.

GOVERNOR HERBERT: That certainly is an option that's been suggested.

BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: Governor, just as Christine Durham is retiring in November, she has distinction of being the first woman and now the last woman on the Utah Supreme Court. Your thoughts on her retirement, and will you replace her with another woman 

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, I don't think she'll be the last woman because there's going to be a lot of time in the next hundred years to have replacements on the Supreme Court, so I don't think she'll be the last one. But I don't ever pick somebody based on their gender, or their ethnicity, I pick the best person possible to serve on the bench, whether it's the Supreme Court, or the appellate court, or the district courts. And so I think the same process would be true once we go through a process of nomination, and when I go through the interviews as people, in fact, go through the hurdles and I'll end up getting probably typically around five different nominees that will come to visit with me. We will look at their resumes, their backgrounds, their judicial philosophy and demeanor, and we will pick the best person we can possibly get to be on the Supreme Court 

BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: Is there a problem though with the judiciary not being diverse enough to represent the people who actually, to reflect the body that largely goes through this system, which is minorities 

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well first, we want to have the best people on the bench. It shouldn't matter what your gender is, or your ethnicity, we want somebody who's capable and qualified to sit on the bench in a very significantly important capacity. That being said, if we want more diversity we need to have more people go to law school with diverse backgrounds.

So that means we need to have more Hispanic attorneys, we need to have more women attorneys, we have more of whatever ethnicity you want to have. And the more of those we have that will be in the pool, the more likelihood we're going to have that the ones who are the best qualified happen to be a more diverse group. We see that changing. Again, we had a nice article in the Salt Lake Tribune that talked about for the first time the appellate court has the majority female. And that's not something we said hey, let's go out and make them majority female, we picked the best qualified people, it just happened to be that I've appointed now all these women on the appellate court. But it's because they're the best qualified, not because they're female.  

MICHAEL ORTON, UTAHPOLITICALCAPITOL.COM: Recently, Governor, the state has issued advisories on some of our waterways and water resources. About five, including the Jordan River, and they actually closed Blackridge Reservoir. This has been an ongoing toxicity problem, I guess the attitude has been, well, when the temperatures fall this will solve itself. But the problem has been ongoing and increasing, so given that this is you know, an ongoing problem, or appears to be, we're also looking at many municipalities with systems and technologies that are over 50 years old in their water treatment efforts. So does this suggest that cities and towns and municipalities are going to have to prepare for taxation for infrastructure? Because they want to keep their water safe for recreation and their community.

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well, one of the big issues for us going forward into the future for Utah, as we've now become the fastest growing state in America, is water. It is the only limiting factor to growth that we have in the state. We live in a high desert area, and so water's always been a factor. And how we conserve and utilize water, how we develop our water resources going forward, are significantly important issues 

Clearly, if we have outdated systems, if we have some unfortunate toxicity, and polluting of water, we've got to find ways to correct that, we don't have water to waste. And so there's going to be probably some costs, certainly some review. I know for our department of natural resources, which is kind of over the water allocations for the state of Utah, our water engineers, and certainly with our department of environmental quality working together in concert saying, we need to make sure we protect our water sources and our water sheds, make sure we conserve what we have.

We have the Slow the Flow, Save H2O campaign going on. And what do we do to develop additional sources of water to accommodate the growth over the next 50 years when we have a population which is going to double? So it's a significantly important issue, we are going to be working with our, we call them our water buffalos, our different water districts, our local municipalities, they've involved with water, as well as the state. So, it's an important issue that we are certainly cognizant of, and are working on 

ERIK NEILSEN, KUED: Should the Republican Party drop its lawsuit on SB54?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: I think they would be wise to do that. It's again, SB54 as you recall was put in place as a compromise with the count my vote people who wanted to have just a general primary election, and the legislature that said, we're concerned about this going to the public, and the polling showed that it had about a 70% approval. And you would've lost the caucus convention system entirely.

So in the spirit of compromise and finding a way to go together in kind of a win win situation, we had Senate Bill 54. I signed it, believing that was a good compromise, and people of good will maybe having a little different points of view, came together in the Senate Bill 54 in a dual pathway. The disappointment to me has been the divisiveness it's caused as a Republican in the Republican Party. The accusations back and forth that I'm more pure than you are, and this is a bad way to do this, and I don't have to be obligated to uphold this compromise, because I was not a part of it, some of the things that's come out of our discussions with our central committee and delegates and others running for office has been disappointing.

In fact I've said, in hindsight, I wished I'd vetoed Senate Bill 54, just because of this backbiting and divisiveness. That being said I signed it because I thought it was a good compromise. And the Republican Party has spent a lot of money in litigation, they are significantly upside down when it comes to $450,000 in debt. And that's disappointing to me as a Republican, because we should be the party of fiscal responsibility. And that shows a lack of budgetary management skills. So I don't, we've lost in court on this issue. I don't know that we're going to win in the appellate court. But we're just two or three weeks away from doing it, so for me I don't really care at this point. Let's get it through the courts, let's see what they say, and then react to that. But once we get beyond that, you know, I think Senate Bill 54 ought to stay as the law of the land unless somehow the courts overturn it.

BOB BERNICK, UTAHPOLICY.COM: You would veto a repeal if it came to your desk?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: I would, I think that's been dealt in good faith. And to step back on that, and I don't think there's, at least my sense is that the legislative body as the majority would not want to repeal it. They dealt in good faith. They felt like they did the right thing. And I think they would feel like it was a betrayal of their agreement to repeal.

LEE DAVIDSON, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: Have you talked to Rob Anderson, the chairman of the party, about whether he should unilaterally drop the lawsuit?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: I haven't talked to him about that issue. I have talked with him about the last central committee meeting and how things turned out. The lieutenant governor was there, I was out of town. And the cost. I'm trying to raise money to help get the party back on solid footing, we'll be doing that, we've given money and we'll be giving more money. I've got my gala coming up, which will raise some money which we'll be able to use to help fund some of the party's operational needs.

But, you know, I don't know that he should in fact just unilaterally do it. Again, there's resolutions passed by the state central committee, which he is somewhat I think obligated to in fact enforce, unless there's a change of vote in the central committee. So I just think he's probably wise to just whatever the central committee says, he should kind of implement. And go forward, and I think that's, there's been no decision made on the repeal as of last Saturday, so I think that the appeal will go forward, and he ought not to intervene.

MICHELLE PRICE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Governor, you had a phone call with Secretary Zinke around the time you submitted his monument report to the president. Do you have any indications if he's going to recommend changes to Grand Staircase? Or what recommendations he has for Bears Ears, what size of monument he's…

GOVERNOR HERBERT: The Grand Staircase Escalante, he indicated to me as has been said by a number of people, and I'm one of them, that if there's ever an example of abuse of the Antiquities Act, and an overreach, it's the Grand Staircase Escalante. Again, we were lied to by the Clinton administration. Our governor, Governor Leavitt, found out about it by reading in the newspaper. Even though the day before they'd said it wasn't going to happen. 1.9 million acres and yet the Antiquities Act says the smallest area possible to protect the objects that need protection. And you won't find 1.9 million acres in the Grand Staircase Escalante that need protection. Doesn't mean they're not BLM lands, it doesn't mean the BLM doesn't manage them, but to have the enhanced protection of a monument was I think overreach.

So I think that, and I don't know what they're going to do, but I know that at least he's indicated that was an overreach. I think there's the possibility of carving it up into smaller monuments, you know two or three. That would actually protect that areas that need protection. And so we'll have to see what his recommendations, what the President does.

I believe on the Bears Ears the indication there seems to be one of shrinking the size down, but making sure we keep protections in place with the BLM properties, namely recreational areas and protections, you don't have to have a monument to do that. And the biggest thing for I think a lot of us is to, in fact, through legislation, give the Native Americans more say in the management of the lands they consider sacred. So as I meet with a number of the Native American Indians, they would like that. And the only way we can do that is legislatively, so. I think we can find a way to have the win-win that everybody would like to find there, and have the protections necessary, maybe a smaller monument. But also empower the Native Americans in their ability to manage it. Not just a recommendation, not just suggestion, but actually have control over what happens to the land.

MICHAEL ORTON, UTAHPOLITICALCAPITOL.COM: When you say that it has to be done legislatively, Governor, given the fact that the tribes are poised to really litigate this situation and the indication is that any changes are really going to have to be made by Congress. What input other than the tribal input, will the state have other than what it's already had with the secretary?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well I think that the Native Americans, again, we will be having this ongoing dialogue and discussion, I met with the Navajo tribe and leadership, the Vice President Nez here just a couple of weeks ago down in Monticello.

REPORTER: In White Mesa?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Yeah, and we talked about this very issue, and you want to have more control, more say, and they would say yes. That has to happen legislatively, it's kind of a repeal and replace I guess if you think about it. But if they litigate, it may be litigating at least in my view, against their own best interest. Let's see if we can, in fact, give you more control. More authority to have a say on your sacred lands there.

The fact that there's a monument or not a monument doesn't mean that you can go out there and develop the land. There's not really any energy out there, that's a myth, that we're going to say let's open it up for oil and drilling, because there's no oil there. It's very marginal for energy development. So already the BLM has been restricting access to some of the artifacts that are there. Some of the ancient dwellings. I mean they restrict the number of people that go down to visit. And the archeologists tell us the biggest thing we need to have for protection is less people going to these sites. Yet a monument attracts people to go to the sites. It's counterproductive. So, I think we can come together in a common-sense approach.

ERIK NEILSEN, KUED: Governor, thank you very much for your time this month and we look forward to seeing you next month.

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Thank you very much.

ANNOUNCER: This has been the governor's monthly news conference, an archive of transcripts, video, and audio is available online. Please visit Thanks for joining us.

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