Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Legislators urged to forgo veto session

Senate President Donald Hines and House Speaker Joe Salter said Tuesday they will be asking colleagues to vote against holding a legislative session to consider overriding Gov. Kathleen Blanco's veto of 14 bills and 10 items in the state's $30 billion operating budget.

Hines said he will send a letter to all senators today, asking them to vote against holding the session Aug. 7-11. Salter said he also is asking House
members to vote down the session, which is automatically scheduled, though lawmakers have the option to scrub it.

Both legislative leaders pointed out that many lawmakers will be out of town attending the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, to be held this year in Boston Aug. 5-9, roughly the same week as the veto session.

The state Constitution provides for a veto session every year, but none has ever been held. Each year, legislators have voted by mail ballot to cancel the sessions. A majority vote of one chamber to scrub the session kills it.

Even if a majority of House and Senate members vote to hold the session, two-thirds of the Legislature must vote to override a veto. "I don't expect us to have one," Hines said.

One measure vetoed by Governor Blanco, House Bill 845, generated controversy because it granted unearned, unpaid-for retirement benefits to a small group of employees in the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. The LASERS Board of Trustees urged the governor to veto it.