Utah governor willing to call special session to stop UTA name change

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert told the Deseret News Wednesday he expects lawmakers to announce there won’t be a name change for the Utah Transit Authority and said he was willing to call a special legislative session if necessary to stop it.

“I’ve always been opposed to the name change. I think it was not a smart thing to do. It has nothing to do with the operation of UTA,” the governor said. “There’s absolutely no reason that I can see to change the name of UTA.”

He said in the interview with the newspaper that while he had not been briefed by lawmakers about their intentions, he was glad to see them coming around “to what I think is mainly just common sense.”

The lawmakers behind the legislation passed this winter that overhauls UTA and renames it the Transit District of Utah have scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference at the Capitol.

Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, the sponsor of SB136, said the law changing the name “is in place” and that lawmakers are “going to talk about expectations and clarify how UTA is moving forward.”

Harper said that may mean waiting on the name change until a new, three-member management team appointed by the governor before Nov. 1 is in place. The team was created by the legislation to replace the current UTA board and top bosses.

Herbert, however, said UTA should stay UTA. Even before the legislative session ended, he urged lawmakers to “push the pause button” on the name change, which UTA warned would cost $50 million to make.

“I know the number came out, $50 million, that some have scoffed at. It may be too high,” the governor said Wednesday. “But I’ve said even if it was just a million dollars, why would we spend any money on a name change?”

He said there’s in effect a loophole in the law, spelling out that the name change “doesn’t have to go forward unless there’s an appropriation of money.” And, Herbert said, UTA could always file paperwork to do business under its current name.

Still, the governor said if there needs to be more clarity about what name should be on the transit agency’s buses, light rail cars and commuter trains, he’s willing to call lawmakers back before the 2019 Legislature.

“We might want to even consider having a special session to just take that out,” Herbert said. “I’d work with the Legislature to take that out. We’ll see what happens today.”

The majority of Utahns like the service they’re getting from UTA, the governor said, and continuing to improve that is what will turn around how the public sees the transit agency, not a new name.

“It’s a monopoly. People act like, you know, well, if we just change the name, all of a sudden, the problems that arose and the negative perception of UTA will go away. People aren’t going to be fooled,” he said. “It’s just silly.”

What the public doesn’t like, the governor said, “is the infighting, the lack of transparency, some of the …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News


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