Curtailing the governor’s partial veto powers

    Gov. Tony Evers announces his call for a special legislative session on gun safety measures in Eau Claire on Oct. 21, 2019 (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Lt. Governor.)
    Gov. Tony Evers announces his call for a special legislative session on gun safety measures in Eau Claire on Oct. 21, 2019 (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Lt. Governor.)

    On Tuesday, an Assembly committee voted 6-3 along party lines to advance a constitutional amendment to limit the governor’s partial veto power.

    AJR 108 would keep any governor from using his or her partial veto to increase state spending over what the legislature had approved.

    The amendment grew out of Republicans’ frustrations with Gov. Tony Evers, who last year used his partial veto powers to increase funding for K-12 schools by $65 million over the amount approved by the legislature in its 2019-2021 budget

    To amend the state constitution, the process requires that the resolution pass the Assembly and the Senate in two consecutive sessions and then be approved by voters in a statewide referendum. The measure has already passed the state Senate during the current session, with all Republicans voting for it and all Democrats voting against it. It now moves to the full Assembly for a vote.

    According to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission’s Eye on Lobbying, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and Americans for Prosperity have registered in favor of the bill, while the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) is registered as opposed to it. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is registered as neither for or against but in a press release last summer objected to the fact that governors of both parties have used their veto power to change the intent of legislation, as well as the spending. 

    “The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has long maintained that the veto power in the hands of the Wisconsin governor is excessive and is contrary to how the legislative process should work in a democracy,” stated WDC. The group added that AJR 108 fails to fix the problem. 

    “The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign recognizes the hypocrisy of Republican officials who only now are aghast at the governor’s veto power when they had no problem with that power when the governor was from their own party,” the statement continued. “What’s more, the current proposal from Sen. Dave Craig and Rep. Mike Kuglitsch is only concerned with the governor using the veto power to increase expenditures rather than to alter the meaning of legislation. For this reason, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is neither endorsing nor opposing the Craig/Kuglitsch bill.”

    The Wisconsin governor has some of the broadest veto powers in the country, although they have been curtailed twice, in recent decades, since 1930 when the voters first gave the Wisconsin governor those sweeping powers.

    Previous governors from both parties have used what had been called the Vanna White veto (removing letters from words to create new words) and the Frankenstein veto (stringing together two or more sentence fragments to create a new sentence). Those practices were stopped with separate constitutional amendments passed by the voters.

    Melanie Conklin
    Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.