Shumlin Will Call Senate Back into Session

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(Host) The 2002 Legislative session is not quite over. Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin said on Wednesday afternoon that he has no choice but to call the Senate back to the Statehouse next week in a special veto session.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Even though Legislative leaders don’t want to come back to Montpelier at the end this month, they’ve concluded that the Vermont Constitution requires them to return.

Here’s why. In the mid 1990s, Governor Howard Dean vetoed a number of bills after lawmakers had gone home for the year. Legislators were furious because they had no opportunity to override the governor’s veto. Since then, they’ve added a provision to their adjournment resolution that allows the Legislature to return to the Statehouse if the governor vetoes a bill.

Late last week Dean did veto a bill dealing with abandoned cars because the governor felt the language of the bill made it harder, not easier, for the state to deal with this issue.

The Vermont Constitution says lawmakers “shall meet” to consider a veto if the Legislature is in session and technically the General Assembly has not formally adjourned for the year. Shumlin says he’s been working with legal experts to see if the word ‘shall’ could have a more flexible legal meaning but he’s concluded that it doesn’t:

(Shumlin) “We’ve tried everything and you know ‘shall’ means ‘shall’ and I do believe that as leadership, it’s very important that we uphold the laws that we write. So we’re going to bring them back.”

(Kinzel) Shumlin says he was concerned that a bad legal precedent would be set if lawmakers ignored the legal advice:

(Shumlin) “I think the intent of the Legislature was to insure that there were checks and balances when the governor vetoed bills after we left town. And it’s a good precedent, it’s the right thing to do and it won’t take us long to come back and, in this case, sustain this veto.”

(Kinzel) Shumlin says there will be no need for the House to return to the Statehouse if leaders decide to try to fix the problems with the bill next January.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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