For more than 40 years California state legislators have failed to do their jobs. After legislators have written, deliberated and approved bills, the legislation goes to the California governor’s desk for his signature. If the governor decides the legislation is lacking, he vetoes the legislation. The California constitution provides the Legislature with the option of returning the vetoed bill to the Legislature for an override of the veto, a task requiring approval of two-thirds of both houses of the Legislature. The last time the Legislature overrode a veto was in 1978.
For more than 40 years the California governor, regardless of party affiliation, has exercised his veto power, confident the Legislature would not challenge his decision. You might think veto decisions are rare; in 2019 the governor vetoed more than 200 bills. And not one of his vetoes was challenged, continuing the pattern of the previous 40 years. Although you may not agree with every bill approved by the Legislature, is it possible some of the vetoed bills did not deserve to be killed by the governor? Why has a political power constitutionally assigned to the Legislature been allowed to wither and die? Did the veto override expire due to governor gamesmanship, delaying his vetoes until the legislative session was way over and scheduling override votes was highly unlikely? In California’s one-party system of government is it political suicide for a band of legislators to challenge the governor’s veto?
Taxpayers fund the Legislature. Many bills spend months being revised and resubmitted between the Assembly and Senate before the approved bill is sent to the governor. Not an inexpensive process. Some bills are approved by the Legislature with nary a nay vote, vetted by people representing every area of diverse California… urban, rural, North, Central, South, all ethnic groups, rich, poor, Democrat, Republican, independent and especially the California Teachers Association. And in 2019 more than 200 approved bills were killed by the governor, effectively choking off the voice of the California citizen.
Thanks to the pandemic, in 2020 the governor has assumed limitless power for an indefinite time. Call, write, message, email or visit your California legislator or their local office before the 2021 legislative session to encourage legislative challenges of the governor’s veto. Pressuring the Legislature to override the governor’s veto would be a small step toward corralling the imperial governor and restoring one aspect of constitutional government to California.