So the veto override failed. What now?
Alaska lawmakers failed Wednesday to gather enough lawmakers in a Juneau session to override 182 line-item vetoes by Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced late last month, and with a five-day limit to override budget vetoes, the question becomes: What happens next?
Members of the Alaska House Majority said Wednesday that they will attempt to rescind Wednesday’s vote on Thursday, and try again if more lawmakers will join them in Juneau. To rescind the vote they already took, 45 votes – the same number required to override the governor’s vetoes – are required.
“The vote today essentially was step number 1,” said House Speaker Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham. “Step number 2 is to consider rescinding our action tomorrow to give those that aren’t in Juneau, both House and Senate members the opportunity to reconsider the wisdom of not being here to represent their constituents and their districts, and to represent Alaskans as a whole, so that will happen tomorrow.”
Lawmakers in Wasilla say they’re obligated to meet where the Governor has called them, since 39 – and not the required 40—lawmakers chose to meet in Juneau instead. The roughly 20 legislators who have been in Wasilla have been unable to conduct official business due to a lack of quorum.
“If they legally have the 40 votes to call back in, that’s the law. I would go to Juneau,” said House Minority leader Rep. Lance Pruitt in Wasilla Wednesday morning. “I’m not here just because I want to be obstinate or obstructionist. The law says I have to be here. And if following the law, two-thirds of the body called themselves back in, and decided Juneau is the location, then following the law, Juneau is where I would be.”
Wednesday’s vote was essentially a bulk action – a Yea or Nay vote to override or not in one fell swoop all 182 line-item vetoes made by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Some lawmakers expressed their desire to take an individual look at each veto, to decide whether it should be vetoed or not.
“We’ve been here for two hours, having a good discussion,” said Rep. Tammie Wilson, R – North Pole, who was the lone dissenter in Juneau on overriding the vetoes, during the floor discussion. “But we can’t override the vetoes without 45 votes,” she continued.
“But what we could do, with 21 on one side, and 11 on the other, is we could take these vetoes, and we could go one-by-one, through our finance committees, and we could talk about whether or not there’s a better step-down approach,” Wilson continued.
She suggested changing statutes regarding funding mechanisms, or making other compromises.
“There’s always other options,” Wilson said. “So today, we will vote, and it will fail, no matter what the numbers show up there. But I want to make sure Alaskans know that the conversation is not over… We’re not done, we have other avenues to continue the discussion.”
When asked about the possibility of looking at the vetoes individually, Speaker Edgmon didn’t rule it out – but didn’t see it as a feasible option.
“With over 100 items to consider, obviously it could be very complicated. It would be very laborious to pick or choose, and would be highly time-consuming,” Edgmon said. “We don’t think this process is over. We think that there’s further avenues that we can take, hopefully in a collaborative manner to hopefully address some of these vetoes.”
“I still think that going through with (the vote) right now is probably more for political reasons to get people on record, or to try to prove a point,” House Minority Leader Pruitt said earlier in the day in Wasilla, “as opposed to trying to work with people to see if there are ways the whole group could come together and agree on something.”
A spokesman for the Republican House minority said in an email to the Associated Press that they have no plans to go to Juneau and will be back in Wasilla on Thursday.
Edgmon said he didn’t have any information as to whether any of the Wasilla-based lawmakers would make the trek to Juneau for a vote to rescind.
Still, even if the vetoes don’t pass by Friday – the end of the five-day period of special session time allowed to override vetoes, the funding could still be addressed through the state’s capital budget or a supplemental budget.
A capital budget is not officially on the agenda for this second special session. However, Gov. Dunleavy has said he would add it to the official call to session once lawmakers resolve where they will conduct their session.