This week’s veto session will feature the politics of the arena on Capitol Hill, with divisive and headline-grabbing issues pitting two branches of government against each other in an epic exchange that has gone on for decades.
The conservative shift in the legislature, the evolving role of the governor in Baton Rouge politics, and the overall bitter mood of the electorate all come up against this singular event.
Since such a special session has never taken place, you must expect the unexpected. But session planners are up to the challenge and have a ready-made framework.
What is the procedure for the floors?
As we already know, all bills will start in the House and so will the Senate. From there, things get a bit more complicated.
To kick off the veto override process, Senate Speaker Page Cortez said a first reconsideration motion must be brought from the room, which will require a majority vote.
A second motion will then be needed to move the bill to final adoption (following a governor’s veto), which will require a two-thirds vote. This second motion is debated and Members may speak. “For this step, it’s basically the same procedure as the final pass,” Cortez said.
As for other legislation, the process will not allow resolutions, which is disappointing news for lawmakers who wanted to draft a resolution of condolence for the late Governor Edwin Edwards, who died last week.
Are all vetoes eligible for a waiver?
While the Constitution states that all vetoed bills can be part of a notwithstanding session, there is contradictory language in the law that will be revealed during the special session.
The question is about the veto timing, with some claiming that all bills vetoed by Governor John Bel Edwards in the regular session are banned – and those vetoed after sine die are a fair game. .
House Majority Leader Blake Miguez said he was concerned that an interpretation might be applied to his legislation that would have prohibited election officials from receiving donations from private entities and non-profit groups. The bill was vetoed by the governor before the end of the regular session, along with two other measures.
Miguez said that a general opinion of a prosecutor on the matter had been issued and that it indicated that all bills to which the veto was subject are eligible. Failure to do so would be a “tortured interpretation of the constitutional article and a distortion of its clear terms”, according to the opinion, which only offers an interpretation of the laws in force.
In part, there is an argument that lawmakers have already had the opportunity to override these earlier vetoes during the regular session. In addition, when the governor informed the legislature of his veto, before his own deadline, he only listed the bills that he has vetoed since sine die.
Depending on how the problem evolves, lawmakers may end up dragging the judiciary into this struggle between the legislature and the executive. (It’s probably worth noting here that the legislative branch creates the budgets for the executive and judicial branches. I’m just saying.)
How many times can a move fail?
Another question lawmakers are trying to answer this week is whether a failed reconsideration (final passage) motion can be reconsidered.
There is case law that explains that the governor only has one chance to veto a bill, so lawmakers should only have one chance to overturn the same one. But since that decision was made, during the tenure of former Governor Buddy Roemer, senators have voted to overturn a veto after first failing – then passing – a reconsideration motion.
The Senate’s decision to consider a second reconsideration motion in the Roemer years, despite previous case law, has never been challenged in court.
This week’s lawmakers might find participating in a veto session was the easier part. The devil is in the details when it comes to providing a waiver.