National Press Club

States should do more, Washington less, Utah Gov. Herbert says at Oct. 2 Club luncheon

October 2, 2015 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver | HeatherForsgrenWeaver@gmail.com

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, chair of the National Governors Association, said that states should have more responsibilites and the federal government fewer at an Oct. 2 National Press Club luncheon.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, chair of the National Governors Association, said that states should have more responsibilites and the federal government fewer at an Oct. 2 National Press Club luncheon.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

States and the federal government need to reset the balance of power by allowing states to do more and Washington to do less, Gov. Gary Herbert, chair of the National Governors Association, told a National Press Club luncheon audience on Oct. 2.

The federal government does too much because the American people are demanding it, Herbert said.

“I think in many cases, particularly here in this city in Washington, it is because we the people are asking them to do more than the Constitution ever understood them to do,” he said. “We are asking for Washington to do too many things for too many people.”

While states’rights is associated with conservative politics, the Utah Republican stressed “this is not about ideology, this is about getting results.”

The founding fathers envisioned the states handling most issues, Herbert said, noting in The Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote “the powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those that remain with the state governments are numerous and indefinite.”

The governor highlighted his initiative known as “States: Finding Solutions, Improving Lives.” The project “highlights governors’ solutions to some of the country’s most pressing problems and has three objectives: enhance a collaborative state-federal partnership, highlight state solutions and share best practices,” NGA said in a press release.

States are laboratories where ideas can be tested and then exported to other states, but “every state is a little bit different,” Herbert said. “What works in Utah may not work in other states.”

Once a state solves a problem, other states have “the chance to emulate, copy, revise, approve or reject,” Herbert said.

One area where Utah has innovated -- and other states are noticing -- is balancing LGBT anti-discrimination laws while protecting religious liberties.

“It is an emotional issue on all sides -- not just both sides,” Herbert said.

It was important to bring all interests to the table, Herbert said. He said he would not sign a bill that only protected the LGBT community or only protected religious liberties, so he was sent a bill that did both.

The measure contained a provision that allows county clerks, some of whom he said were elected prior to the law changing and do not believe in same-sex marriage, to opt-out of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as long as someone in the county clerk’s office issues the licenses.

It was a “workable solution for Utah,” Herbert said, noting that “people can come together under very difficult circumstances.”

Herbert stayed on message throughout his presentation, even ending his answer to the last question with a wish.

“I am just hopeful that Congress and the people in Washington, D.C., will listen to the states," he said. "Let’s work together for the good of the American people.”