Here’s what Gov. Butch Otter’s vetoes mean: Makeup artists who make brides beautiful on their wedding days won’t be allowed to work legally in Idaho. Businesses that 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 Idahoans will still pay six cents for every dollar at the grocery checkout line.
Unfortunately, these bad public policies will continue to exist despite overwhelming support in the Legislature for reform, and it is entirely because the Idaho 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 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.
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. Idaho is one of only six states in the country that does not have this ability.
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 vetoes after the session has ended. To have the appropriate separation of powers we need this tool. Idaho’s Legislature is a part-time governing body. We get our work done in a span of a few months. The compressed time frames make 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. It passed 28-6 in 2014 and unanimously in 2016. But despite the overwhelming support in the Senate, I have been unable to get a hearing on it in the House. Constitutional amendments need to pass the Legislature with a two-thirds majority in each chamber, and then they need to be approved by the people in a general election. This is where you can get involved. Contact your legislators, friends and neighbors to 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 the proper balance in state government.
Steve Vick is an Idaho state senator for District 2, Kootenai County.