Thursday, May 23, 2024

Make The Veto Worth The Paper It’s Written On

"I'm this close to going over the General Assembly and twisting some arms. Literally."

We interrupt your regularly scheduled bashing of Arkansas Republicans and their ridiculous ideas for a moment of praise for one Republican lawmaker.

First, an observation.

I have two kids — a twelve-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter.  Despite the gender difference and the nearly ten-year age gap between the kids, parenting them is remarkably similar.  Case in point, telling either of them to do something that they don’t want to do inevitably results in this conversation:

Me: You need to go to bed.

Either kid: No, I don’t want to.

Me: It doesn’t matter if you want to; it’s time to go to bed.

Either kid: [/goes to bed, if somewhat angrily]

This exchange always amuses me (after the kid actually goes to bed) because it reminds me that parenting is the closest most of us will ever get to be a despot, enlightened or otherwise.  At the end of the day, unless the kid gives me a good reason why my initial command should be changed, my directive wins.  It’s pretty great.

It’s also very similar to the current rules about a Governor’s veto in Arkansas, only with the Governor playing the role of one of my kids.  Under Article 6, § 15 of the Arkansas Constitution, if the Governor vetoes a bill, he sends it back to the General Assembly along with a statement of why he vetoed it (“if he shall not approve it, he shall return it, with his objections, to the house in which it originated”).  The originating chamber then reconsiders the bill, where it proceeds as it did before, needing only a simple majority in each chamber.

Because a bill needs a simple majority of both chambers to even reach the Governor’s desk in the first place, the same group of legislators who originally sent the bill to the Governor can override his veto and make the bill a law.  It is the legislative equivalent of the “time for bed” conversation.

GA: It’s time to cut this tax.

Gov: I don’t wanna!

GA: It doesn’t matter if you want to, it’s time to cut it.

[/tax is cut]

Now, I don’t know about you1, but this balance of power strikes me as borderline absurd. After all, what is the point of a veto here? I guess the Governor could send it back with a list of reasons that persuaded some lawmakers to change their votes, but that hardly seems like the role a veto was meant to play. “Hey, fellas, did you consider X?” “Yeah, we did, thanks. We’re gonna pass this again now.”

Which, finally, brings me to Representative Duncan Baird (R-95/Lowell)2, who has sponsored House Joint Resolution 1006, entitled: To Amend Section 15 of Article 6 of the Constitution of Arkansas to Require that a Vote by Two-Thirds (2/3) Majority of the Members Elected to Each House of the General Assembly is Required to Override a Veto.

The title is self-explanatory, but the beauty of the resolution is in its simplicity. It merely inserts “two-thirds” before “majority” in two places in Art. 6, § 15. No massive rewrites. No carefully crafted exceptions. Just a simple change that makes the law as it should have been from day 1. (It still has to be chosen as one of the proposed Constitutional amendments and approved by the voters in 2012.)

Of all of the Amendments I’ve seen proposed thus far, none makes as much sense to me as this one. Throw in that this bill cedes some of the legislature’s power and makes the Governor more powerful comparatively, and this is a bold move, especially by a Republican who will have to live with a Democratic Governor for at least two years under this change.

Rep. Baird, I applaud you.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled progressive, liberal ranting, already in progress.

1 I suppose I do know about some of you. But not all of you. I’m rambling. Why are you even reading this footnote. Stop it. I said stop!

2 Upon further review, I think this is how I am going to do the whole “(D/R-___)” thing after names. Using only the district doesn’t tell you much, but using just the town doesn’t mean much when talking about any town with more than one Rep.

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