The Republican-dominated Senate on Thursday sustained a veto by GOP Gov. Phil Batt, averting a major political setback for the new governor in an otherwise successful first legislative session.
Twenty of the 35 senators, including four Democrats, sided with the governor and voted to sustain his veto - eight more than the minimum number needed.
It gave Batt a decisive victory in what some saw as the first visible confrontation between the governor and Republican House Speaker Michael Simpson for control of the Statehouse.
Simpson, who is eyeing the governor’s office in 1998, and his GOP majority in the House voted 61-7 earlier in the day to enact the bill despite Batt’s objections after the governor seemed ambivalent about the need to sustain his veto. Every member of the GOP leadership and all but one committee chairman opposed Batt.
Democratic Floor Leader Jim Stoicheff of Sandpoint was probably the staunchest support of the GOP governor, who has refused to rule out a bid for a second term.
Batt tried to correct that impression before the Senate vote in the afternoon. He sent a personal message declaring his desire that the bill be killed to the Republican majority during its closed-door meeting on the issue that had left a number of GOP senators confused by the governor’s apparent lack of concern.”I disapproved of the bill,” he said. “That’s the reason I vetoed it.”The veto was one of the few remaining issues for lawmakers as their leaders pressed toward final adjournment sometime Friday if not Thursday evening.
The vetoed legislation allowed people who have sold their vehicles to notify the Transportation Department that they are no longer liable for tickets, accidents or any other adverse action.
Batt, seeming to show he is doing all he can to upgrade deteriorating highways before calling for higher fuel taxes or registration fees, agreed the proposal was worthwhile. But he objected to the requirement that the department divert $150,000 from road repairs and other priorities to process the paperwork.
Batt maintained the cash was the state’s portion of past fuel tax and vehicle registration fee collections that local governments had already received their fair share of.