The Republican House and Senate will consider overriding a veto by Gov. Norm Bangerter, the first time in seven years the GOP-dominated Legislature has seriously considered overriding the Republican governor's veto.
"I can't remember a veto override of Gov. Bangerter," said House Speaker Craig Moody, R-Sandy, who has been a member of the House for all of the governor's seven years in office.The vetoed bill, HB101, would have clarified that the Legislature's attorney could seek declaratory judgments from courts. Moody says the bill was sought by legislative leadership to clarify that the Legislature can sue to force enforcement of a law it has passed.
Bangerter, in his veto message, said he agrees with Attorney General PaulVan Dam's assessment that the Legislature's interest in representing itself in court "intrudes upon the duties and responsibilities of the executive branch."
"We believe he vetoed this bill based on a turf issue, the executive vs. the legislative branch," Moody said. "It clearly isn't a partisan issue, since most legislators are of the same party as the governor."
The Legislature will meet in a special session April 17 to adopt a bonding package - which failed in the final minutes of the regular session that ended Feb. 27 - and to change an old homicide statute that some believe would allow a woman to be charged with murder for having an illegal abortion.
Bangerter and GOP legislative leaders met for more than an hour and a half Tuesday evening discussing the special session, saying at the end of the private meeting that only the bonding bill - probably in the neighborhood of $85 million - and the homicide change will be on the agenda.
Human Services won't get any more money in the special session, although all agree the need is there. "I don't know where you'd get the (extra) money (for Human Services)," said Bangerter. "We're still dealing with projected revenue (for next year). Until we get some hard numbers I can't see taking money away from one program to give to another."
In that April 17 special session - which may slop over into April 18 or longer - lawmakers can vote to override any vetoed measure. It takes two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate to override. Considering that Republicans hold healthy majorities - although not two-thirds majorities - in both bodies, they've been less than eager to override a veto of their own governor in years past. But it may be different this year, Moody said.
"There are some strong feelings that this bill (HB101) shouldn't have been vetoed. We'll see what the (GOP) caucuses want to do," he said. The fact that the bill was sponsored by House Majority Whip Byron Harward, R-Provo, has something to do with the chances for a veto override.
The bill in question is an outgrowth of a fight between legislative leaders and Van Dam last year. At that time, Van Dam opined that a domestic violence law, just adopted by the 1990 Legislature and signed into law by Bangerter, was unconstitutional because it deprived the abusive spouse of constitutional right of property without due process of law. The law said a police officer could force an abusive husband out of his house for up to 96 hours until his domestic violence citation was heard by a judge.
Van Dam's opinion resulted in county attorneys across the state instructing police officers not to enforce the new law. That resulted in a de facto "super veto" of a law by the attorney general, claimed M. Gay Taylor, legislative general counsel, without a court ever ruling on the law's constitutionality.
Bangerter vetoed HB101 last week, in part, because Van Dam told him the state Constitution says the attorney general is the only attorney who can represent the state in court. Thus, the Legislature's attorney shouldn't be in court seeking a declaratory judgment.
The veto that legislative leaders are unhappy about:
A clarification that the Legislature's attorney can sue to force enforcement of a law the Legislature has passed.
One reason Gov. Norm Bangerter vetoed the bill is the attorney general's office says the state Constitution allows only the attorney general to represent the state in court.