Despite their supposed \”nonpartisan\” affiliation, the League of Women Voters has traditionally been a solid supporter of liberal causes. A trip to their own website reveals their positions supporting universal health care and gun control, opposing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge, and on and on.
This week, the Wisconsin State Senate held a hearing on the so-called \”Frankenstein Veto,\” which would prohibit governors from abusing their veto power by stitching together two or more sentences to make an entirely new law that the legislature never intended. In the previous budget, 750 individual words were vetoed out of the bill to come up with a single sentence that transferred $427 million out of the transportation fund and into the general fund – something the legislature never considered in their deliberation of the budget.
Supporters of the bill tend to be the good-government types. Testifying in opposition were groups like WEAC, the state teachers\’ union, who benefited the most from the aforementioned use of the Frankenstein Veto. (One wonders how they would have been testifying had the creative veto authority been used to cut their funding, rather than increasing it.)
The League of Women Voters testified \”for information only,\” in language that can best be described as confusing.
Their testimony said:
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is committed to representative government as established by the constitutions of the United States and the State of Wisconsin. For this reason, we register our concern with AJR1 and SJR5. While the proposed amendment purports to ban the partial veto of an appropriations bill, it fails to solve the basic problem of whether or not the Governor has the ability to change the intent of appropriations passed by the Legislature.
The current amendment continues to allow for deleting parts of a single sentence. Furthermore, it would permit governors to delete larger portions of an enrolled bill as long as they do not \”create a new sentence by combining parts of 2 or more sentences of the enrolled bill.\”
Our concern about the partial veto is not a partisan one. Governors of both parties have used the partial veto extensively. The laws that result from the exercise of the partial veto frequently contain new taxation or new programs that have not been considered or enacted by the Legislature. Whether or not we agree with the results of these vetoes, the fact remains that the people of the State of Wisconsin, represented in the Senate and Assembly, are denied participation in the process.This particular amendment attempts to address that failing. However, as written it would not eliminate the Governor\’s ability to create new taxation or programs through a partial veto in the final step of the budget process.
So they are for representative government, and think the governor\’s current veto authority violates that principle. But they oppose any action to rein it in, because it doesn\’t go far enough? They say that the proposed amendment would allow governors to veto large sections of the bill – is this something they oppose? This is similar to the item veto virtually every other state has. Do they think the governor should only be able to veto the whole budget?
The more likely scenario is that they wanted to oppose the bill to side with the governor, but they couldn\’t be on the wrong side of a good government issue. So they used the tactic of saying the bill doesn\’t go far enough – which puts them in the strange position of having to argue how Wisconsin is better off if the legislature doesn\’t pass an amendment that gets closer to their stated goal of \”representative government.\”