Would the Veto Override Be Constitutional?

“In the best case scenario, I think the legislature can meet and override the Governor’s veto the first day.”

I hear there is a growing effort to have the legislature override Sonny’s veto and have a quick end to the Special Session. The problem, however, is that our Constitution is farked. It makes little sense. The legislators are scrambling to see if they can override the veto, or if Sonny can refuse to transmit it to them during the time period of the Special Session (if he does, it is clear he’s playing games and they should nail him for it).

Below is my quick analysis of the situation. I believe that, based on my reading of the Constitution, a veto can happen the first day, though at worst, it can happen the second day. Here we go:

The relevant provisions of the Constitution are found in Article III, § 5, ¶ 13(c)-(d):

(c) The Governor shall have the duty to transmit any vetoed bill or resolution, together with the reasons for such veto, to the presiding officer of the house wherein it originated within three days from the date of veto if the General Assembly is in session on the date of transmission. If the General Assembly adjourns sine die or adjourns for more than 40 days, the Governor shall transmit any vetoed bill or resolution, together with the reasons for such veto, to the presiding officer of the house wherein it originated within 60 days of the date of such adjournment.

(d) During sessions of the General Assembly, any vetoed bill or resolution may upon receipt be immediately considered by the house wherein it originated for the purpose of overriding the veto. If two-thirds of the members to which such house is entitled vote to override the veto of the Governor, the same shall be immediately transmitted to the other house where it shall be immediately considered. Upon the vote to override the veto by two-thirds of the members to which such other house is entitled, such bill or resolution shall become law. All bills and resolutions vetoed during the last three days of the session and not considered for the purpose of overriding the veto and all bills and resolutions vetoed after the General Assembly has adjourned sine die may be considered at the next session of the General Assembly for the purpose of overriding the veto in the manner herein provided. If either house shall fail to override the Governor’s veto, neither house shall again consider such bill or resolution for the purpose of overriding such veto.

Let’s take these one at a time.

The Governor’s probable view: He calls the legislature back on the 41st day and claims to have till the 60th day to transmit the veto. That’s the plain and simple reading of the second sentence in ¶13(c). I do not, however, think that holds water.

Notice the first sentence in ¶13(c):

The Governor shall have the duty to transmit any vetoed bill or resolution . . . within three days from the date of veto if the General Assembly is in session on the date of transmission.

The issue is what is the “date of transmission.”

Sonny’s argument is going to be that the date of transmission had not happened before the legislature left, so that requires us to fall into the second sentence of §13(c), which gives sixty days from the date of adjournment. The legislature, I think, could argue that the “transmission” is the “vetoed bill . . .[and] . . . reasons,” something that came into being on the 39th day of the session. A “transmission” is something that is transmitted, that is to say it is a noun substituted for the vetoed legislation. As a result, the transmission began before the legislature ended and, as a result, must be transmitted

to the presiding officer of the house wherein it originated

within three days.

Likewise, just as with ¶13(d), it appears there are two different issues being addressed in ¶13(c). There are really only two veto scenarios — vetoes of legislation that occur when the legislature is in session and vetoes that occur after an adjournment sine die. Coincidentally, there are two sentences in ¶13(c) that fit perfectly both scenarios. Sentence one deals with legislation vetoed while the session met. Sentence two deals with legislation vetoed after the session adjourned sine die. The veto of the budget supplemental happened under the first scenario, hence the first sentence applies and Governor Perdue had three days to get the veto back to the “presiding officer of the house wherein [the bill] originated.”

That is, to be sure, somewhat of a nebulous argument. But, there is another argument too.

Let’s look at ¶13(d). That subparagraph has two specific subsections. Like with ¶13(c), the first involves what happens when the legislature is in session and the second involves what happens when the legislature has been out of session and comes back into session.

In the first instance:

During sessions of the General Assembly, any vetoed bill or resolution may upon receipt be immediately considered by the house wherein it originated for the purpose of overriding the veto.

In the second instance:

All bills and resolutions vetoed during the last three days of the session and not considered for the purpose of overriding the veto and all bills and resolutions vetoed after the General Assembly has adjourned sine die may be considered at the next session of the General Assembly for the purpose of overriding the veto

Notice what is not mentioned? The phrase “upon receipt” is left out altogether.

So, when a bill is vetoed in the last three days of a session and the legislature did not get the transmittal, when it comes back in session for any reason, it may consider “all bills and resolutions vetoed” in the previous session’s last three days or after the session had adjourned sine die.

“Wait,” you say. “Maybe the drafters of the constitution meant to imply in the second sentence that transmittal was still required, even though they did not say so.”

Well, one way you look to see if that is the case is consistency of word usage.

Let’s look at ¶13(c) again:

First sentence:

The Governor shall have the duty to transmit . . . within three days

Second sentence:

. . . the Governor shall transmit any vetoed bill or resolution . . . within 60 days

So, both affirmatively require that the Governor “shall transmit” the vetoed legislation within a time frame.

And now let’s look at ¶13(d) again:

First sentence:

During sessions of the General Assembly, any vetoed bill or resolution may upon receipt be immediately considered by the house wherein it originated for the purpose of overriding the veto.

Fourth sentence:

All bills and resolutions vetoed during the last three days of the session and not considered for the purpose of overriding the veto and all bills and resolutions vetoed after the General Assembly has adjourned sine die may be considered at the next session

The drafter of ¶13(d) was most likely the drafter of ¶13(c) and so would have made consistent word choices. In fact, in paragraph ¶13(c), the phrase “shall transmit” is a necessary obligation on the part of the Governor in both sentences dealing with transmission of vetos.

However, in ¶13(d), with the phrase “may be considered” is used on both occasions governing when vetoes can be overridden, only in the first instance — when the legislature is still in session does the phrase “upon receipt” appear.

This makes it very likely that while the Governor’s transmittal must occur for a veto to be overridden during a legislative session, no such transmittal need have occurred if the legislature has adjourned sine die and later come into session again.

In the best case scenario, I think the legislature can meet and override the Governor’s veto the first day. In the worst case scenario, because the Governor vetoed the legislation on the 39th day, the transmission was formed and the three day window necessitates that the legislature convene on a Monday, recess till Tuesday, and then override the veto.

Lastly, let me say that we’ll see just how petty the Governor is if he waits until sometime after the 40th day after adjournment to call a special session. That’ll mean he is more interested in playing constitutional games than in actually dealing with the budget situation.

16 comments

  1. I think most people’s understanding of how the process works is that if the Governor vetoes a bill the legislature can try to override that veto. Even if Sonny may have a squirrelly way to prevent the legislature from undertaking the vote, the public won’t buy it.

    This type of behavior must be why Sonny avoided specifics at all costs during his first term and re-election campaign. If the voters actually got to know the real Sonny (petty, mean, holier than thou) I don’t think they’d put up with him for long.

  2. Erick says:

    Chris, not only do I think you are right, I think a Georgia Supreme Court that takes some pride in our constitution being alive will find that the Governor does not have as much lattitude as he thinks he does after having called a press conference to announce to the world that he had vetoed the budget.

  3. griftdrift says:

    “The problem, however, is that our Constitution is farked”

    Erick, for all the times that was have disagreed, my agreeance on this one might almost make the tally equal.

  4. Doug Deal says:

    Erick,

    I think the constitution gives the Governor enough wiggle room to do pretty much whatever he wants, unless the legislature is united against him. The Senate, aka “the Governor’s Boys” in the Senate can declare House action unconstitutional and ignore it. A united legislature, however, would be a different story.

    You would think whoever drafted that section of the constitution would have tried a thought experiment or two to see how well it holds water. I used to write constitutions/bylaws and such for various organizations, and it’s not that hard to dream up “unlikely” but possible scenarios.

  5. Erick says:

    I used to write constitutions/bylaws and such for various organizations, and it’s not that hard to dream up “unlikely” but possible scenarios.

    Same here and completely agreed.

  6. Bull Moose says:

    Erick man, that’s incredible analysis.

    I think most people that are following this issue probably think the Governor is playing petty games.

    That’s a shame. Our state deserves better than this crap.

    So what about a mass walk out at the state convention? Send a message.

  7. Icarus says:

    Wow,

    That’s the first time I’ve been called “unsalvageably incoherent” after so few beers.

  8. banoctopus says:

    Hmmm. I can’t believe that Banoctopus was deleted from Wikipedia. How odd that they wouldn’t appreciate my friend’s attempt to define my band name. Interesting. Did you enjoy the definition of it anyway?

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