Leges’ Anger Misplaced

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by CB Forgotston

VETO StampThe media is full of stories about the anger of various leges over Bobby Jindal’s recent vetoes.

The primary source of their anger is Jindal’s line-item vetoes of funding added by the leges to the state Operating Budget.

The fact that the governor has unfettered power to veto such items without fear of an override can be traced to the leges’ own lack of political courage.

Each year, the leges wait until the last minute to finalize the budget. That gives the governor (any governor) the ability to wait until after the session is over to issue his vetoes.

Though a veto override session is automatically held unless a majority of either body of the lege vote that none is needed, there hasn’t been one since the 1974 Constitution was adopted.

Simple_Solution_TrainingSolution

The solution to the problem is simple.

By law, the leges get the governor’s proposed budget in February, prior to the Regular Sessions’ beginning. They should immediately begin serious, daily, joint House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees hearings.

That way the leges have a thorough understanding of exactly what is and isn’t in the budget and began making preparations for changes when the budget is officially introduced on the first day of the Regular Session.

Once the session officially starts, the House Appropriations Committee should hold formal hearings, make necessary changes that were discussed in the previous month(s) and send the budget to the House Floor for debate the third week of the session.

During the Appropriations Committee hearings the committee should meet at least 5 days a week. The House Wednesday and Thursday committees should not meet during the first two weeks of the session to avoid any conflicts.

After the House passes the budget during the third week of the session the Senate Finance Committee should immediately begin deliberations and get the budget to the Senate Floor, timely.

The goal is to get the final budget to the governor in a timely manner wherein he must issue his line-item vetoes within 10 days of receiving it and still have enough time left during the session to consider overriding the vetoes.

Balance of power

There’s no single thing that would do more to balance the power between the Lege and Executive Branches than to reduce the line-item veto authority of the governor.

Hawks’ effort

During the 2013 Regular Session, the “Fiscal Hawks” proposed doing exactly what is described above via a constitutional amendment.   It died in the Senate Finance Committee. ( See HB 436 here.)

If the leges really want independence and don’t want to find themselves angry following the session, no legal mandate is needed.

Action needed

The failure of the leges to exercise the power they already have makes their current anger a bit shallow and is mostly to pander to their disappointed constituents. It’s not the governor who is the problem, it is them.

To the constituents who are currently upset over the budget vetoes, demand that your leges simply pass the budget more timely each session. No new laws are needed.

It takes political courage to do the right thing.

C.B.

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