April 01, 2009
House passes veto override resolution

I'm a little surprised that this got taken up so (relatively) quickly, but not at all surprised that it passed.

The House today passed a measure that would allow Texas voters to decide whether to allow the Legislature to override gubernatorial vetoes in short sessions after regular legislative sessions.

The House voted 131 to 16 to approve a resolution by state Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, that would put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The resolution now goes to the Senate.

Elkins said that although the Legislature has the authority to override a gubernatorial veto, legislators rarely get that opportunity because the session is typically over by the time the governor vetoes most bills.

"This will bring the power back to the people," Elkins told his colleagues.

The House passed a similar measure in 2007, but it died in a Senate committee.

The measure is HJR29. All 16 No votes were Republicans, including former Speaker Tom Craddick. And yes, this was authored by Gary "What's Medicaid?" Elkins. He was the author in 2007, too.

I don't know if it's due to April Fool's Day or what, but apparently Burka has had a change of heart on this.

Is this a good idea? When this came up two years ago, I was opposed to the amendment. My reason was that Texas has a constitutionally weak governor, and this proposal would further weaken the governor. Rick Perry, however, has changed the nature of the governor's office. His lengthy tenure has allowed him to appoint all of the officials who oversee the executive agencies. He is a very strong governor, at least in his ability to control the actions of the executive branch through what amounts to a de facto cabinet form of government. This amendment is needed to restore a balance of power. For example, the Legislature, which controls the purse strings, can pass a statute making Texas eligible for stimulus funds for unemployment insurance, but the governor can veto the statute.

I was ambivalent about this in 2007, and I think I've come to Burka's viewpoint now. The way things work, the Lege's veto power is more a theoretical one than a real one; as the Observer notes, the last actual veto override was in 1979. So yeah, I do think this would restore some balance, and as such if it does make it through to the November ballot, I'll vote for it.

That's assuming it gets that far, of course. Burka thinks the Senate version of this measure, SJR14 by Wentworth, will never come to a vote because Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst won't allow it. It hasn't been scheduled for a committee hearing yet, so who knows. RG Ratcliffe has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 01, 2009 to That's our Lege
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