A quick, easy final day to session
Gov. Mike Rounds apparently found little to dislike about the product of the 2009 South Dakota Legislature. He issued just three vetoes. That's the least number of vetoes in his seven sessions as governor, and it is one reason the Legislature's f...
Gov. Mike Rounds apparently found little to dislike about the product of the 2009 South Dakota Legislature. He issued just three vetoes.
That's the least number of vetoes in his seven sessions as governor, and it is one reason the Legislature's final day Monday was measured in minutes, not hours. There were no vetoes to fight over, no bold, last-minute ideas to consider, just a requirement that enough House and Senate members show up just long enough to formally convene the final day and then adjourn for another year.
This was a storm-skittish bunch, and I had half a notion that they might postpone their return until after the Monday-Tuesday blizzard. Instead, they got in and got out ahead of the worst of the weather -- except for any lawmakers from the Black Hills area.
Rounds has vetoed as many as 15 bills during his seven years in office, according to Legislative Research Council records. That happened in 2003. Ten of those rejected bills were what are called style and form vetoes, meaning the governor sent a bill back with suggestions for changes that would make it acceptable to him. If legislators agree to the change, which they usually do, the bill becomes law.
The 15 vetoes were in Rounds' first year as governor. The next year he vetoed seven, including three for style and form. He issued seven vetoes in 2007 and 2008, too, along with nine in 2005 and five in 2006.
That style and form thing is a form of what students of government call an amendatory veto. South Dakota added the option to the constitution in 1972, but it really wasn't until 1977 that it became practical. That's the year the Legislature -- again according to LRC documents -- began the current practice of saving the final working day of each session until after the governor has acted on all bills.
Before that practice began, any bill that passed late in a session could be vetoed and lawmakers had little recourse but to wait until the next year to try to pass the thing again. The delayed last day gives legislators a final shot at overriding vetoes. It also gives them a last day to consider style and form changes. Without that option, a governor might be forced to simply veto a bill rather than return it with suggestions for the changes that would make it work.
The decision by lawmakers in 1977 to delay the last day resulted in large part from confrontations between Democrat Gov. Dick Kneip and the Republican majority in the Legislature. GOP leaders wanted a way to get a crack at the Democrat governor's vetoes, several of which seemed to come on major bills passed late in session and vetoed after adjournment.
Not so many years ago, an LRC memo on amendatory vetoes said South Dakota was the only state that employed the style and form strategy. Rounds used it once this past session, something about a comma that wasn't supposed to be there.
English majors around the globe surely cheered when legislators agreed with the grammatical catch.