Here’s what Gov. Butch Otter’s vetoes mean to everyday Idahoans: Entrepreneurial makeup artists who make brides beautiful on their wedding days won’t be legally allowed to work in Idaho. Businesses that want to demonstrate curling irons will continue to be prohibited by law from doing so. Idahoans who have never been charged with a crime can lose their property in a proceeding known as civil asset forfeiture. And, of course, Idahoans will still pay six cents for every dollar at the grocery checkout line, only to have their sales tax money returned to them months after they needed it.
Unfortunately, these bad public policies will continue to exist despite overwhelming support in the Legislature for reform, and it is entirely because Idaho’s constitution doesn’t allow the Legislature an opportunity to override the governor’s vetoes after the legislative session has ended. The governor has 10 days following the session to veto legislation, but by then, the Legislature has long been adjourned. Only the governor has the power to call lawmakers back into session, and he won’t do that to have his own vetoes second-guessed. Idaho is one of only six states in the United States that does not have the ability to override a governor’s veto after the legislative session has ended.
When our founding fathers created this country’s government they devised a system of three equal branches of government to provide for checks and balances. I believe Idaho is missing a key component to assure that the legislative branch of government maintains its check on the executive branch: the ability to override a governor’s veto after the legislative session has ended. This has been highlighted this year with the governor vetoing several very popular bills that were passed with veto proof margins in the Legislature.
Long before this happened, I attempted to address the situation with a very reasonable constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to come back into session and hold a vote on whether to override the governor’s veto’s after the session has ended. To have the appropriate balance in the separation of powers we need this tool. Idaho’s Legislature is a part-time governing body. We attempt to get our work done in a span of a few months. The compressed timeframes we deal with makes it inevitable that important pieces of legislation will be passed at the end of the session, increasing the odds that the Legislature will have adjourned before the governor has acted on all the bills presented to him.
I have had good success getting this constitutional amendment through the Senate. SJR 106 passed 28 to 6 in 2014, and SJR 101 passed unanimously in 2016. But despite the overwhelming support in the Senate, I have been unable to get a hearing on it in the House of Representatives. Constitutional amendments need to pass the Legislature with two thirds of the members of each house voting in favor and then they need to be approved by a vote of the people in a general election. This is where the citizens need to get involved.
Write your legislators and contact your friends and neighbors and encourage them to get behind this effort. Our current system gives one person too much power. Your elected representatives are the closest to you and understand their communities the best. It is imperative that they and you, the people, have a strong voice in state government. This simple and necessary change to the Constitution will help get us closer to what are the proper checks and balances in state government.
Written by Sen. Steve Vick, who represents Idaho’s District 2 in Kootenai County.