Governor’s line-item veto

Tucked away in Section 73 of Mississippi’s 119-year-old state Constitution is a rarely-used “line-item” veto provision by which a governor can strike any money separately set out in an appropriation bill without disapproving the overall spending measure.

Now Atty. Gen. Jim Hood has taken Haley Barbour to court when on June 30 he used Section 73 to strike language written by the Legislature in the State Highway Patrol appropriation to allow patrol officers of the rank of lieutenant or above to receive extra compensation for overtime.

So far, the latest line-item brouhaha is yet to be aired in Hinds County Chancery Court where it now resides. But some preliminary skirmishing is underway over who Barbour will hire to represent him and how much he will be paid. State law gives the AG a say-so in the hiring of outside counsel for the governor. Ironically, Barbour wants to hire Mike Wallace, who several years ago got an unacceptable rating from the American Bar Association when he was mentioned for the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Barbour has already shrewdly co-opted the Legislature’s primacy in state government by controlling the Senate, even without a numerical Republican majority, and holding slavish loyalty of House Republicans. So his line veto gambit to stake out more executive power vis–vis the Legislature is virtually just flexing his muscle.

Bill Minor
The Neshoba Democrat