A May special legislative session may be a better alternative than a veto override session, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser told UtahPolicyon Wednesday.
Nothing has been decided yet, the president stressed.
Jon Cox, Gov. Gary Herbert’s spokesperson, said if any sort of compromise required a special session, Herbert would be open to that discussion.
“But there is also the possibility that some of these concerns could be resolved without a special session,” said Cox.
“Those discussions are ongoing,” said Cox, adding that a full reading of Herbert’s veto letters gives the governor’s reasoning.
An override of several education spending items will just put that spending back in place, said Niederhauser.
And if there are problems with that spending – and Niederhauser doesn’t say there are – then a special session would allow for spending changes and compromise; whereas an override would just continue any problems.
The GOP-controlled Legislature doesn’t like to override vetoes by their Republican governor – the titular head of the state Republican Party.
That’s especially true in an election year for Herbert, all of the 75-member House and half of the 29-member Senate.
On the other hand, some GOP lawmakers may want to show Republican voters that they are their own men (and women), and can take on the state’s most powerful politician, if need be.
Still, good education policy should prevail, says Niederhauser, beyond election-year politics.
Tuesday, Niederhauser met with the Legislature’s own budget staff and with Herbert’s budget staff in an effort to at least find common facts over the education programs vetoed by the governor.
“There has been some misinformation and misunderstanding,” said Niederhauser, hinting that such problems certainly wouldn’t come from the legislative side.
Compounding the vetoes is that – unlike his usual procedures – Herbert didn’t talk to GOP legislative leaders before issuing his budget line item vetoes, the final day he by law can do so – late last week.
“I didn’t know” about the education budget vetoes “beforehand,” said Niederhauser. So there wasn’t the opportunity to dispute Herbert’s veto-thinking, he added.
As the accompanying veto letter from Herbert explain, the governor cut $1.5 million from the current, ongoing UPSTART early education program.
He also wants $3 million taken away from the K-3 Early Intervention Program, among other education programs the governor says are in essence double-funding.
“There is no double funding,” said Niederhauser.
The Legislature did know what it was doing in SB2, the main education funding bill which includes the line items vetoed by Herbert.
But there certainly is some misunderstanding between the budget staffs of the Legislature and the governor – both defending their peoples’ work.
“Perhaps we can fix this,” in a special session, said Niederhauser.
Also, a special session would allow for Rep. LaVar Christensen’s HB377, a grandparents adoption rights bill, to be changed to meet Herbert’s veto objections.
Again, a veto override session could only re-instate HB377 as passed. A special session would allow the bill to be modified.
Niederhauser and House Speaker Greg Hughes have untilMay 9to finish an official poll of their memberships. If two-thirds (the number required for a veto override) agree in the House and Senate, then an override session will be called.
It would take two-thirds votes to override any vetoed budget line items and/or bills.
If a special session is called by Herbert, and he puts vetoed matters on the official call, then it would only take a majority vote in the House and Senate to adopt those fixes.
Historically, lawmakers meet on their interim study days for special sessions – completing the work in an afternoon or evening on their thirdWednesdayof the month.
There are no interim meetings in April. The thirdWednesdayin May is on the 18th, giving plenty of time, said Niederhauser, to work out any deals with Herbert.
The governor told KUTV Channel 2’s Rod Decker he is willing to look for a compromise on both the grandparent’s rights bill and education funding vetoes.
It’s not clear if Herbert is willing to put all of his contested vetoes on a special session call, still leaving a possibility that lawmakers could hold a veto override session (called by themselves) and a special session (called and agendaed by Herbert) on the same day.