GOP VETO COMPLAINTS ARE PARTISAN AND SILLY
HARRISBURG, December 2, 2004 Ė Senator Vincent J. Fumo (D-Philadelphia) responds to the continued partisan attacks made by legislative republicans who seek to overturn Governor Rendellís veto of the significantly flawed SB 1209.
"The attempts by the republican leaders to argue that Governor Rendellís veto of Senate Bill 1209 is not valid because it mistakenly referenced the legislative printerís number of the final version of the bill as "1947" instead of the correct number "1997" is both silly and blatantly partisan," said Fumo. "It is breathtaking to witness the extent to which the republicans will go to preserve the ability of the family members of public officials to work for or have a financial stake in gaming operations."
In approving SB 1209, the Senate Republicans voted to strip from the state gaming law a limitation on most family members of public officials having a financial interest in a slots operation, and to strip an outright ban on them working for a gambling licensee.
"Unfortunate petty technical attacks on the Governorís veto messages have become routine as they [Senate and House Republicans] come to terms with the reality of a Democratic Governor," said Fumo noting that Commonwealth Court, in October, flatly rejected the last Republican challenge to a veto by Governor Rendell.
A memo from Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee legal counsel Christopher Craig to Senate Fumo responding in detail to this matter is attached.
December 2, 2004
Senator Vincent J. Fumo, Chairman Senate Democratic
Christopher B. Craig, Counsel Senate Democratic
Governor Rendellís veto of Senate Bill 1209 Ė
The purpose of this memo is to respond to the pedantic claim by Steven MacNett, Chief Counsel to the Senate Republican Caucus and Stephen Miskin, Press Secretary to the House Republican Leader, concerning the validity of Governor Rendellís veto of Senate Bill 1209 on November 30, 2004. In comments made to the media, MacNett and Miskin make the frivolous argument that the veto message signed by the Governor incorrectly identifies the final legislative printerís version of Senate Bill 1209 as "1947" instead of "1997", and therefore the veto is somehow invalid. Reduced to its most basic form, this silly objection is over a single number in a three page, eight paragraph veto message Ė the mistakenly typed "4" instead of "9" in identifying Senate Bill 1209, printerís number 1997.
This claim lacks merit and represents a blatant partisan attempt to overturn the Governorís veto without obtaining the state constitutionally required 2/3rds vote of each house of the General Assembly. The Pennsylvania Constitution is abundantly clear on this matter:
Contrary to the assertions of the Republican objectors, the Constitution does not dictate the form, substance or material elements of a veto message. In fact, the Constitution simply requires the conveyance of the Governorís "objections," and the attachment of the bill to be returned to the legislative House in which the bill originated. The Governor satisfied these requirements.
In this case, the Governorís veto message was attached to the version of Senate Bill 1209 that passed both Houses of the legislature and was returned to the Secretary of the Senate within the Constitutionally proscribed time period. No other version of Senate Bill 1209 was attached to his veto message for one simple reason Ė no other version of Senate Bill 1209 passed both Houses of the General Assembly and was subsequently presented to the Governor for his approval. That was the version of Senate Bill 1209 that was presented to the Governor, that was the version the Governorís veto message explicitly referenced, and that was the version attached to the veto message and returned to the Senate. The fact that the veto message mistakenly listed the wrong printerís number is of no legal or constitutional significance.
Overlooked in their rush to seek a partisan advantage, the Republican objectors fail to acknowledge that the contents of the Governorís veto message explicitly references the last Senate amended version of Senate Bill 1209. The first full paragraph on page 2 of the veto message states:
This "uniformity" concern cited by the Governor did not exist in Senate Bill 1209, printerís number 1947. This problem arose when the Senate Republican caucus voted to divide amendment number A5405, to include an expansive definition of "immediate family"(including parents, children, brothers and sisters), as applied to the financial interest limitation for members and employees of the Gaming Control Board and not apply the same definition to any other public officials. The amendment left intact a significantly narrow definition of "immediate family" (only including spouses and minor children) as applied to elected members of the legislature. The "uniformity" problem raised by the Governor never existed in printerís number 1947, it only exists in the final version of Senate 1209 presented to the Governor.
The Governorís veto message also objects to the Senate Republicansí removal of the Pennsylvania slot machine supplier system. See, Veto Message (November 30, 2004), page 2. Printerís number 1947, as passed by the House preserved the slot machine supplier system. Printerís number 1997 reflects the removal of this provision by the Senate Republican caucus.
It is worthwhile noting that this is not the first time the legislative republican leaders have sought to overturn a veto by Governor Rendell based on a petty technicality. In October, Commonwealth Court rejected a challenge they advanced in which they asserted that the Governorís veto was invalid and that the bill should be declared as law. See, Jubelirer v. Pennsylvania Department of State, 859 A.2d 874 (Pa. Cmwlth 2004). In this case, Senator Jubelirer attempted to argue that because Governor Rendellís veto message was transmitted after the offices of the House were closed, the veto was untimely and therefore without effect. Id, at 875. Commonwealth Court rejected this claim finding that the Governor had properly vetoed the bill. Id, at 878.
The attacks raised by the Republican objectors are simply another example of petty partisan behavior. In a substantive and detailed three page veto message, there exists one mistake Ė identifying the final version of Senate Bill 1209 as having printerís number "1947" instead of "1997." If the Senate Republican objectors wished to overturn the Governorís veto, the Constitution provides the exclusive remedy Ė a vote of 2/3rds of the members of each legislative house to over-turn the veto. Pa.Const., art. IV, ß15. Typographical errors in a veto message are not a substitute for the 2/3rds vote requirement.
This should conclude any question concerning the legal validity of the Governorís veto of Senate Bill 1209.