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Overriding Importance

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The session-long battle between the legislative and executive branches raged on Wednesday as the House took up Gary Elkins’ proposed constitutional amendment calling for the Legislature to convene in a three-day special session immediately following the expiration of the period during which the governor can veto bills for the purpose of overriding his vetoes. As expected, the proposal passed, but not before getting shot up a little. Will Hartnett, clever fellow that he is, offered that most devilish of amendments, changing “shall” to “may.” “I became concerned that we would have to be here if there is a line item veto,” Hartnett said. “We wouldn’t have to come when we don’t think we can get a 2/3 vote [to override]. It’ws a real burden to drag us down here for one day.” The amendment raised all sorts of questions, which, of course, is exactly what Hartnett–who eventually voted against the Elkins proposal–intended. If the override session is not mandatory, then what mechanism is there for the Legislature to decide whether to convene? Does somebody poll the House? Do members sign a petition? “My intention is to pass a statute,” Hartnett said. “My intent is that we control our own destiny.” But what would happen if the governor vetoed the statute? Then there would be no override session. Hartnett’s amendment was resoundingly defeated, but he made his point, which is that the veto session is really optional, because a lot of members may decide not to come, if they have no interest in overriding a particular veto–and if fewer than 2/3 of the members show up, there won’t be enough votes to override anyway. It was a shrewd piece of work.

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