Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced Thursday that he will sign the controversial bill that lowers the legal blood-alcohol limit to .05 percent, stressing repeatedly it is an issue of public safety.
Herbert, who made the announcement during his monthly press conference on, said the decision came after thorough research and in consultation with multiple stakeholders.
The governor said he will call a special session by September, however, to address some provisions of the law, which is the first in the county to lower the standard for impaired drivers from 0.08 percent.
"I don't believe the legislation is finished. We will still need more thorough consideration on how this new standard is applied," Herbert said, adding that the issue will be taken up during interim legislative meetings in which the public will have an opportunity to be heard.
Although his office has been "inundated" with calls and the state targeted as punitive in a national advertising campaign by the National Beverage Institute, Herbert said his first charge as governor is to keep residents and visitors safe.
"Everybody agrees that public safety has got to be at the forefront of what we decide to do when we develop policy. Really, the role of government is, in fact, to make sure that we have safety — in our neighborhoods, on the streets and the things we do in life."
He later added that be believes lowering the legal blood alcohol limit is good policy.
The governor insisted the lower limit in Utah does not make Utah "weird."
He pointed out that 85 percent of the world's population currently lives in countries with laws that have .05 percent blood-alcohol limits or less, including France and Italy.
Herbert bristled at the suggestion that the law is a religious or Mormon issue because of the state's predominant religion that encourages its members not to drink alcohol.
"There's not many Mormons in Rome and they're doing it there also," he said.