Veto May Force Legislature to Reconvene

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(Host) Governor Howard Dean has vetoed a bill that deals with abandoned vehicles. Legislative leaders say they don’t want to come back to the Statehouse to override the veto but they may have no choice.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) There’s a very unusual situation unfolding in Montpelier this week. Because lawmakers expanded their adjournment authority several years ago, they may have to return the Statehouse to consider overriding a gubernatorial veto, even though they don’t want to come back.

Here’s how the problem developed. Several years ago, Governor Howard Dean vetoed a number of bills several days after adjournment giving lawmakers no opportunity to override the veto because only the governor can call the General Assembly back into session. So now when the Legislature adjourns, it includes a provision in its adjournment resolution that allows the General Assembly to come back to the Statehouse at the end of the month in the event that the governor vetoes a bill that Legislative leaders want to fight for.

Governor Howard Dean has just announced his first veto of the 2002 session – it’s a bill that deals with the disposal of abandoned vehicles. Dean likes the concept of the bill but he feels the language of the legislation actually makes it harder to deal with these vehicles than current law. Susan Allen is the governor’s press secretary:

(Allen) "Accidentally, in defining what an abandoned vehicle was, they included a provision that it would have to lack a vehicle identification number and the reality is every car has the vehicle identification number. So no car would qualify as an abandoned vehicle under this law."

(Kinzel) Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin is one of the sponsors of the bill. Shumlin says the language problem can be easily solved next January and that it makes no sense to bring lawmakers back to Montpelier to deal with this issue. But Shumlin says the Vermont Constitution clearly states that the Legislature "shall meet to consider a gubernatorial veto" when they are in session and technically with the new adjournment language, they are in session until the end of the month:

(Shumlin) "My suggestion to the governor was that he veto it and that we get it fixed in January. However, the Constitution states that we shall bring someone back for a veto, so one of the chambers, which in this case would be the Senate. So I’m trying to find a way out of that right now."

(Kinzel) Senate Secretary David Gibson, who has a law practice in Brattleboro, is researching this issue to see of the word "shall" has a variety of legal interpretations.

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

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