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Cox says he won't veto any bills passed in special session

Posted at 4:04 PM, Nov 11, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox told FOX 13 on Thursday he will not veto any bills the Utah State Legislature passed in special session this week.

"We had lots of negotiations behind the scenes to try to improve bills, to try to make them better," the governor said in a brief interview following a Veterans Day ceremony he attended.

Asked if any bills gave him concern, the governor replied: "We feel good about the bills that were passed, and we’ll be signing them as soon as they come to us."

The legislature passed a series of bills that included changing the name of Dixie State University to Utah Tech University, and a watered-down bill that grants some workplace exemptions for COVID-19 vaccine mandates. But the biggest controversy was over redistricting.

On Wednesday night, more than 200 people protested outside the Utah State Capitol. They were angry the legislature ignored a voter-created independent redistricting commission's maps in favor of their own. The group called on Gov. Cox to. veto the maps.

He told FOX 13 he would not.

"I have had some concerns about the maps. We’ve shared those with legislators, but we’re not going to veto any of those bills, we’ll be signing those bills," Gov. Cox said. "Some of them are better than others. We did have some bipartisan support for the House and Senate maps, which I think is very positive. That’s where change happens is at the House and Senate level. So it was good to see Democrats and Republicans come together on those maps."

Better Boundaries, the group that sponsored Proposition 4, which voters approved to create the Independent Redistricting Commission, has already threatened a citizen ballot initiative on the redistricting maps. House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, told FOX 13 he also expected there might be a lawsuit over the maps.

"You can be sued for anything these days. So if that occurs, we’re confident we’ll be successful in court," the Speaker said.

Asked about the threat of a ballot initiative, the Speaker indicated they were welcome to try.

"The truth is, any ballot initiative still has to comport with the Utah State Constitution," he said. "The constitution says the legislature has this responsibility. They can run ballot initiatives, but ultimately the final decision, because of our constitution, will always rest with the legislature."

Speaker Wilson said he was pleased with the bills that passed. He supported changing the name of Dixie State University to Utah Tech University. On the COVID-19 workplace vaccine exemptions, the Speaker said they had negotiated with Gov. Cox, who had previously threatened a veto if they tried to interfere with the rights of private employers to mandate the vaccine. The bill, which prohibits firing someone if they claim a religious, medical or personal exemption, was tweaked to still allow employees to be fired if a company cannot "reassign" them to another role.

"I think the overall intent of this bill was to give individuals that don’t want to be forced to put a vaccine in their body some options that their employers need to follow, in most cases," he said.