Monday, June 29, 2009

Why The Special Session Lingers? Blame Constitutional Convention of 1850 and Indiana's Extremely Weak Governor Veto

As the countdown for the end of the special session is now less than 48 hours, the complaining about our legislature has increased tenfold. It is suggested that we simply have a defective legislature made up of defective individuals. We are told that we have the "worst legislature" in the country.

Personally, I have never bought into the demeaning of the Indiana General Assembly as somehow being a legislative body fundamentally worse than any other legislative body in the country. I don't believe the people who occupy our legislature are any different in nature or quality than those individuals elected to the legislative body of the other 49 states.

Rather I look at whether there might be structural reasons for the logjam, instead of simply taking the easy way out and blaming individuals. Indeed such a structural reason stares one in the face when one examines the structure of Indiana's government.

In 1850, Indiana tossed its existing constitution, to create a new one. In the 1850 Constitution (ratified by the voters in 1851), we gave our governor a very, very weak veto. Indiana is one of the few states, where the governor's veto can be overridden by a simple majority vote, making it virtually useless as a bargaining tool with the legislature. Almost all states in the country have a 2/3 or 3/5 gubernatorial override of a veto. Indiana's constitution was undoubtedly modeled on Kentucky and Tennessee, which also had majority veto overrides in their constitution. But at least Kentucky and Tennessee provided their governor with a line item budget veto. Indiana is one of only seven states in the country where the governor does not have a line item veto.

In short, Indiana has the weakest governor veto in the country, with the exception of North Carolina which grants the governor no veto at all. People do not realize how little power Governor Mitch Daniels has when dealing with the Indiana General Assembly. In Indiana, our legislature reigns supreme and the governor is a bit player in the legislative session.

Without having real veto power in Indiana, a governor in the Hoosier state is hardly in a position to twist legislative arms and force a compromise. Add to the fact that Indiana is a highly divided, partisan state, where Democrats control the House and the Republicans control the Senate. Instead of being surprised that our legislators aren't getting together on a budget, we instead ought to be surprised when they do reach a compromise.

If you want to blame someone, blame those Hoosier leaders who put our current constitution together in 1850. A Governor with a real veto power (2/3 override, line item veto) could have exercised real power in relation to the Indiana General Assembly and forced a compromise.


Blog Admin said...

I only recently learned about how weak IN's governor's veto actually is, and it surprised me. And on top of that, no line item veto?

What were they thinking?

I know POTUS can do a pocket veto, essentially just letting the bill sit on his desk without signing it, and it becomes void once the legislature stops the session. Can Daneils do anything like that?

Even though Daniels has little official power, I think he has enough recognition among the Republican party nationally to twist a few arms, especially for those who have desires of higher office.

Paul K. Ogden said...

No pocket veto. Any vetos during the interim can be overridden when the legislative session resume

Downtown Indy said...

This is the worst bunch of whiney crybabies ever to sit in those chambers, that I can recall.

By the way, thanks for switching to a readable 'skin' for your blog. It's sooo much easier to read than was the old 'dark on darker.' (Hint to Melyssa and Gary. Hint. Hint)

Paul K. Ogden said...


I agree. I figured it was more natural for the eye to view dark print on a white background.

While the reverse looks good, if you read it for awhile it starts wearing on you after awhile.