NH Veto Override

Dan,

Thanks.  You're absolutely right.   I told you that the wording of the Constitiution seemed vague, but certainly precedent makes intent clear, something the Speaker should have known.   I'm reading a book on Madison and the struggle to ratify the Constitution and then the Bill of Rights.  Many of the founders didn't even want the executive to have veto power at all (so the two-thirds was a compromise of sorts), so they certainly did not intend for a two-thirds of the overall membership (which often would mean 100 percent would not be enough!!).  According to this book, it took ten days for the first House to get a quorum in 1789, even longer than that for the Senate, travel being especially tough in those days rather than the no show spirit of so many reps (especially Manchester Dems) these days.

Although Speaker Norelli has not yet authorized Clerk Wadsworth to send it out to all members, Karen has completed an analysis which she gave me today.  I can send it to all, but have chosen to email the Speaker hoping she will send it out.  (Hopefully there's no coverup here).  It's absolutely mind boggling as to how right Joel Winters and I were in challenging the Speaker.  It's always been two-thirds of members present in the past as in fact Norelli ruled for the medical marijuana override last year.

Two quick examples.   In 1977, the House overrode a bill by a 187-91 margin, with 397 members in the body, certainly far short of the 265 or 266 which would have been required had overall membership been the standard.  In 2003, the greyhound record keeping bill was overridden 251-101, shy of the 266.  The data Karen has put together is stunning in its scope.  If the Speaker refuses to release it, I will.  I have refrained thus far, not wanting to say I told you so.

It appears that former Speaker and outgoing Rep Doug Scamman is also guilty in this affair.  I've heard that he advised Norelli that it should be 2/3 of overall membership because that's the way it was when he was Speaker.  Wrong!!  How faulty our memories can be!! 

This is all sad but true.  What we experienced was the Speaker ruling one way at one time during the session, another way another time.  At the very least, we deserve consistency.  At the very least, we deserve a better explanation when the challenge is made on the House floor.  Look at it this way; the override only got 266 votes; just think if it had gotten 259 and the Speaker had ruled it failed despite 80 plus percent of those present.  One can only hope that the Speaker wasn't ruling that way because she wanted the veto overrides to fail whereas she wanted the med majijuana to succeed.  I'm not charging that because I always believe that simple incompetence rather than out and out malice is behind most errors. 

This is the final chapter of an administration rife with incompetence and questionable (mostly downright wrong) rulings.  Sad but true, but the good news is, it's coming to an end.  Ask Karen Wadsworth for the reasearch she's done, if you're intested.

It's good we have a few "extremists" dedicated to the cause of liberty and the Constitution.  I would contend that the real extremists are the ones who break the rules and the Consitution whether due to simple incompetence and out and out malice.

Thanks again.

Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, Hills 15


From: Daniel C. Itse
Sent: Thu 10/21/2010 5:14 PM
Subject: Veto Override

Colleagues,

Last week we had a controversy regarding the number of votes necessary to override a gubernatorial veto.  The Chair ruled that it was 2/3 of the whole body.  I whipped out my pocket Constitution and by my simple reading of the Constitution I agreed with her, and told her so.

However, not being one easily convinced, even by myself I continued the investigation.  I learned that this was not the first time the issue had come up.  The issue was challenged in 1993 and went to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court did excellent work and found a 1795 veto, that is 3 yrs after the ratification of our current Constitution.  The Governor and many of the Legislators were members of the Convention that produced the Constitution.  The veto was overridden by 2/3 of those present and voting, but less than 2/3 of either body.  The Governor did not object. 

In the opinion of those who wrote, ratified and practiced the Constitution, it is 2/3 of those present and voting provided there is a quorum.

Steve, you extremist, you should have followed your inclinations, you would have been right and I would have been wrong. 

The moral of the story is when in doubt go to the journals of the Legislature most immediate to the adoption of the provision of the Constitution.

Now it appears the veto was overridden?  Is it worth pursuing?  We would have to pursue it before November 30 and motivate the Senate to call a Special Session.

Dan