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Eye On Boise

Senate fails to override veto, but questions whether it was legally valid

Well, that was really weird. First, the Senate convened, well after 5 p.m., and three letters were distributed to all senators, one from Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, one from Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, and one from Jennifer Novak, secretary of the Senate, all affirming that the legal requirements for the veto of SB 1011 were NOT met. The vetoed bill was not returned to the Senate within five days, which would have been Saturday at 4:54 p.m.; it wasn’t returned to the Senate until this morning, two days later.

Then, the Senate proceeded to vote on overriding the veto, and the override failed to achieve the required two-thirds, getting just a majority 19-16 vote.

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said the letters were read into the Senate’s record “so that everyone recognized we knew there may be a problem there.” He added that in his view, the vote to not override “will probably be the deciding factor – the veto has been sustained.” But, he said, there could be a lawsuit. “We’ll let the attorneys and the courts handle that, if they need to.”

Hill also was asked if he was the one who asked Gov. Butch Otter to hold off on publicly announcing the veto on Friday afternoon, and instead keep it secret until Monday. “No, that was his request,” Hill said. “What I asked was when was he going to make it public.” Hill said he wanted to know, so he could inform his caucus before they read the news in the newspaper. “He informed me Friday afternoon, just gave me a phone call, which I much appreciated,” Hill said.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said, “He could have certainly given it to the lieutenant governor and complied with the statute. The governor’s got my cell number, we visited on Friday.” Asked why the Senate went ahead with the override vote if it believes the veto was legally invalid, Davis said, “The Senate just felt like it wanted to speak to the merits of the override.”

Hill said, “It’s a big step to override a veto, particularly by a governor of you own party.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said her caucus questioned “what we thought was not a lawful process.” She said, “I think at some point it could be litigated for its validity.” 

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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