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Texas Politics - The Executive Branch
Evan Smith on vetoes: a journalist's perspective Evan Smith on vetoes: a journalist's perspective
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Barry McBee discusses vetoes. Barry McBee discusses vetoes.
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lieutenant governor
veto override
5.2    The Limits of the Veto

While the veto is a valuable resource for a generally hamstrung executive, there are procedural and political limits placed upon the governors' latitude in wielding this tool.

Procedurally, vetoes are not absolute. The legislature may reverse a veto by a vote of two-thirds of each chamber, a process called an override. However, the veto override is relatively rare due to the way in which the rules regulating the exercise of the veto work in tandem with the rhythm of the legislature's traditional schedule.

The state Constitution gives the Governor ten days after receiving a bill to either sign it or veto it. Signing the bill passes it into law, vetoing it returns it to the Legislature with a veto message explaining the governor's reasons for rejecting the measure. If the Legislature is in session at the time of the veto, legislators may attempt to reverse the veto or perhaps pass modified legislation that responds to the governor's objections. If the legislative session ends within ten days of the governor's receipt of any legislation, however, the Governor has another twenty days from adjournment to act on any such pending bills. Because there is typically a last-minute rush to pass legislation, the Governor frequently receives most bills within the last ten days of the session. This provides governors not only with extra time to consider bills but also creates a powerful advantage. If the Legislature is out of session, it cannot meet to vote on overrides, so any vetoes the Governor casts after the end of the session will be final.

The political limitations upon the veto power are subtler and have in many cases shaped governors' political fortunes. While vetoes can seem like an authoritative exercise of power - a bid to demonstrate decisive leadership - they may also be viewed as a sign of a governor's difficulty or even failure to deal effectively with legislators. Thus, the veto needs to be used strategically. Legislators who work long and hard on legislation may feel blindsided and less likely to cooperate in the future when a governor vetoes their legislation - particularly if the governor has not effectively communicated his or her priorities on legislation. Legislators may feel set up and ambushed by a governor who remains aloof during the session then vetoes a large amount of legislation.

George W. Bush, for example, avoided such a situation by courting legislators and fostering a practical working relationship with Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock and House Speaker Pete Laney, both Democrats. He vetoed an average number of bills during his legislative sessions (24 in 1995, 36 in 1997, and 31 in 1999), which was comparable to the number of vetoes cast by his predecessor Ann Richards. On the other hand, a sign of Republican Bill Clements's stormy relationship with the Democratic legislature was his 184 vetoes - more than any other governor. Governor Rick Perry made headlines when he set a record for single session vetoes in 2001: 82. That was only nine fewer in one session than Bush had cast in three sessions, and twenty-two more than Richards cast in two sessions.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 115
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