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Utah Gov. Spencer Cox plans to sign S.B. 84

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol on Friday, March 3, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/AP
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol on Friday, March 3, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

At his monthly press conference Thursday morning, the governor said he doesn’t plan to veto more bills from Utah’s recent legislative session. He said he's a yes on a controversial bill Summit County officials have called on him to veto.

Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday he’s going to sign Senate Bill 84.

That’s the bill over which Summit County sued the state and developer Dakota Pacific Real Estate Wednesday. It would allow Dakota Pacific to build a mixed-use development in Kimball Junction, without county approval, even though current zoning only allows tech offices.

“I'm planning on signing that bill,” Cox said. “We've had discussions with the city [sic]. I understand their concerns, and ultimately, that's going to be worked out in a court of law. And we need housing; this is really important. It's important in Summit County.”

Citing the pending litigation, Cox said he would not comment further.

County officials met with the governor last week to express concerns about the bill. But with a supermajority in the legislature able to override vetoes, County Council Chair Roger Armstrong said Cox is in a difficult position.

“I find the governor to be a guy who's fairly reasonable, and I think that he's looking at this and not liking what he sees,” Armstrong said. “But he's got to balance the politics all the way around and decide what he's going to do.”

The county’s lawsuit is likely to halt any action at the Summit Tech Park property for years, but Armstrong said suing is the right thing to do.

“When I was a kid, I got 35 cents a day for lunch. And about twice a week, there was a bully that would take my 35 cents for lunch, and that kept going for probably about a month,” he said. “And I kept waiting because I figured, maybe I'd try a different route—I'd try all kinds of things and see if I could figure out a way to get by it—tried to be funny with him, try and talk to them. Sometimes reason doesn't work. Sometimes if you keep getting hit in the face, no matter what you do, you have to try and stop it.”

Cox addressed a range of topics during his press conference, from state legislation to potential floods this spring.

When asked about House Bill 467, “Abortion Changes,” which bans abortion clinics, he pushed back on the notion that this is a de facto total ban on abortions.

“This bill clarifies that, so that those abortions can continue: they will continue in a hospital setting,” Cox said, “but there was nothing that would prevent those from continuing.”

He said that Utah’s older trigger law was a near total abortion ban but that the new law, signed Wednesday, allows hospitals to perform abortions in cases involving rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother. Abortions in other cases are still legal up to 18 weeks into the pregnancy.

During the legislative session, the governor had a working list of bills he would veto if passed. That included House Bill 527, “Mining Operations Amendments,” which would have shielded an open-pit limestone mine in Parleys Canyon from Salt Lake County oversight.

On the Parleys mine bill, Cox said he would have sided with the county, but it died in committee.

“Right now, I don't have any for sure vetoes on that list, but there are several we're still looking at,” Cox said.

The county’s lawsuit could take years to resolve.

Updated: March 17, 2023 at 3:15 PM MDT
Cox signed S.B. 84 into law March 17.
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