ICYMI: Assembly history seems poised to repeat itself

general assemblyMy latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Thursday. In it, I took a look back at the last time there was a suit involving a gubernatorial veto: the 1996 George Allen case. The circumstances were striking similar: a governor of one party facing a legislature of another.

What goes around comes around.

Although the players today might not want to acknowledge it, the arguments being made by Republicans in the legislature are the same as those made 18 years ago by the Democrats in the legislature. You just have to read the reports – here’s one – from the time to see them.

Perhaps even more to the point here is the root of that 1996 suit. From the above article:

Although no specific money items are at stake, the feud is rooted partly in Allen’s veto of budget language last spring that required him to apply for nearly $7 million in federal Goals 2000 school aid.

Allen refused to apply for the money, saying it comes with burdensome federal regulations. Democrats failed to override the veto, but threatened a court suit, claiming Allen exceeded his constitutional authority.

Does that sound familiar? A non-monetary item in the budget – like the MIRC – was vetoed by the governor. But Speaker of the House Tom Moss didn’t use the maneuver that current Speaker Bill Howell did: actually rule that the veto was unconstitutional and not allow a vote on it.

As best I can determine, the issue of vetoing language not attached to appropriations has never really been decided by the Virginia Supreme Court. The latest thing I found is in this paper (pdf) from 1997, which includes this:

Governor Allen, in his 1996 veto message to the General Assembly regarding the biennial budget bill, chastised the legislature for making certain provisions beyond the reach of the Governor’s veto. Governor Allen and the office of the Attorney General attempted to bring this issue before the Virginia Supreme Court along with the general litigation over the partial enrollment of the “caboose” budget bill, House Bill 29. The Virginia Supreme Court declined to decide the issue of whether free-standing legislation in the appropriation bills are subject to gubernatorial vetoes.

In any event, I think this thing is going to court.

My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot nor am I paid for my contributions to the paper.