Skip to main content

Why Do Some States Even Have Governors?

Recently, the state of Arkansas made headlines across the nation when they overrode a governor's veto to enact the tightest abortion restrictions in the country (at that time). Most of the news, deservedly so, focused on the content of the new act. What caught my eye, however, was how easy it was for the Arkansas legislature to override a veto: a mere simple majority of both houses is required!

If that's all it takes, why even involve a governor in the process?!

But Arkansas isn't alone. Five other states do not require at least three-fifths of each house to override a veto: Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. All of these require simply a majority of those elected in each house to override a veto. To be fair, although most states require at least three-fifths of legislators elected to override a veto, several states require two-thirds or three-fifths of the members present to do so, which, when coupled with a quorum requirement of a majority of those elected, means that a veto theoretically could be overridden with the approval of as little as one-third (plus one) of the elected legislature. But these states that require a simple majority of those elected in each house to override a veto (with the exception of Kentucky), also require a simple majority of those elected in each house to pass a bill to begin with! (Kentucky requires a majority of those present, provided that that majority is at least two-fifths of the number elected, in order to pass a bill (see Ky. Const. sec. 46), so requiring a majority of those elected to override a veto theoretically can make a difference.)

Now to be exact, the Arkansas Constitution requires "a majority of the whole number elected" of each house to override a veto (see Ark. Const. art. 6, sec. 15). But section 22 of Article 5 of the Arkansas Constitution states that, before being sent to the governor for his consideration, "no bill shall [be passed] unless . . . a majority of each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor." The question becomes: Is the "majority" mentioned in Art. 5, sec. 22, a majority of those present or of those elected? According to the Supreme Court of Arkansas, this section requires a majority of those elected (see Smith v. Ridgeview Baptist Church, 514 S.W.2d 717, 718 (1974)). In other words, just like all of the other states that require a simple majority to override a veto (with the exception of Kentucky), that number needed to override is the exact same number required to pass a bill in the first place!

On paper, as the title of this post suggests, the presence of an executive in the legislative process seems superfluous in these states. One would think that, if 50% plus 1 of each house of a state's legislature is needed to pass a bill, and the same number is needed to override a veto, then a governor's veto should never be successful. But that is not the case. In Arkansas, Governor Mike Beebe, since taking office in 2007, has issued eleven vetoes (not counting one line item veto). Of those vetoes, only the two most recent ones involving extreme restrictions on abortion rights (HB 1037 and SB 134) were overridden by the legislature, and even then, both bills lost votes between the two stages!

I guess it's due to the fickle nature of politics that these states maintain an executive presence in the legislative process.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Spying and International Law

With increasing numbers of foreign governments officially objecting to now-widely publicized U.S. espionage activities, the topic of the legality of these activities has been raised both by the target governments and by the many news organizations reporting on the issue.For those interested in better understanding this controversy by learning more about international laws concerning espionage, here are some legal resources that may be useful.

The following is a list of multinational treaties relevant to spies and espionage:
Brussels Declaration concerning the Laws and Customs of War (1874).Although never ratified by the nations that drafted it, this declaration is one of the earliest modern examples of an international attempt to codify the laws of war.Articles 19-22 address the identification and treatment of spies during wartime.These articles served mainly to distinguish active spies from soldiers and former spies, and provided no protections for spies captured in the act.The Hagu…

Law School Exams: A Guide to Better Grades

It’s that time of year again. Law students across the country are poring over their class notes and supplements, putting the finishing touches on their outlines, and fueling their all-night study sessions with a combination of high-carb snacks and Java Monsters. This can mean only one thing: exam time is approaching.

If you’re looking for a brief but effective guide to improving your exam performance, the O’Quinn Law Library has the book for you. Alex Schimel’s Law School Exams: A Guide to Better Grades, now in its second edition, provides a clear and concise strategy for mastering the issue-spotting exams that determine the majority of your grade in most law school classes. Schimel finished second in his class at the University Of Miami School Of Law, where he taught a wildly popular exam workshop in his 2L and 3L years, and later returned to become Associate Director of the Academic Achievement Program. The first edition of his book was written shortly after he finished law school, …